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Western Press Review: Assessing Kosovo's Postwar Problems

  • Joel Blocker



Prague, 29 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The problems in postwar Kosovo once again evoke much commentary in the Western Press today. Commentators and analysts focus particularly on tomorrow's summit meeting in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo as well as on the results of yesterday's Brussels meeting of donor nations and international institutions undertaking to aid the battered province. They also assess the significance of the early retirement of U.S. General Wesley Clark as NATO supreme commander, a decision made by Washington. There is, as well, continuing comment on the Beijing Government's crackdown on a Buddhist sect that has attracted millions of followers in China.

WASHINGTON POST: This is a conflict between two concepts of citizenship

In a commentary in today's Washington Post, international financier and philanthropist George Soros discusses the Sarajevo summit that will inaugurate the West's Stability Pact for southeastern Europe. He says that the pact "was inspired by the recognition that, having intervened in Kosovo, the NATO countries now have a responsibility to ensure a lasting peace. ...But," he adds, the pact "is only an empty frame [which now] needs to be filled with content."

Soros writes further: "The problems of the region are best understood in terms of a conflict between two concepts of citizenship: an ethnic or tribal concept that gives rise to a closed society, and a civic concept that is the foundation of an open society. ...In Yugoslavia, the civic concept lost out and Yugoslavia disintegrated. In Western Europe, the civic concept prevailed: The integration of Europe stands in stark contrast to the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The European Union must now extend its protective umbrella over the region."

The commentary also says: "The region itself must be seen to be larger than the former Yugoslavia, because Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again. It must include Albania and Bulgaria and ought to be open to Romania and Moldova. ...This plan for building an open society in southeast Europe," Soros concludes, "would impose some costs on EU members, but the amounts are small because the whole region is smaller in economic terms than the Netherlands."

LIBERATION: Rugova's attitude increasingly perplexes the leaders of his own political group

In a brief comment in the France daily Liberation Marc Semo says that ethnic Albanian moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova is "the most noble absentee" at the various international meetings on Kosovo's future. Semo asks: "What's happened to Ibrahim Rugova? After spending several hours in Pristina two weeks ago (July 15) meeting with United Nations Civil Administrator Bernard Kouchner, Rugova returned to Rome saying he wanted to take his family with him before permanently installing himself in Kosovo."

But, Semo adds, "Rugova's attitude increasingly perplexes the leaders of his own political group as well as his close associates.... According to some reports," the commentator goes on, Rugova "has been deeply depressed ever since his number two man, Fehmi Agani, was killed in early May by Serb police in Kosovo."

Semo also says: "Some of Rugova's partisans want to believe that his continued absence from the province is part of an overall strategy, and that he is planning a 'grand return.' They see him as refusing to be just another representative among others of Albanian Kosovars, while he still enjoys much popularity in the province and great prestige abroad."

WASHINGTON POST: Gen. Clark wanted to use his authority to actually accomplish something

The Washington Post today carries both an editorial and a commentary by its foreign-affairs columnist Jim Hoagland on the U.S. government's decision this week to speed up NATO supreme commander General Wesley Clark's retirement.

The editorial, entitled "'Political' General," says that "Clark led the alliance to a victory in Kosovo that essentially saved its credibility and its future. He is now in the midst of what may be an even more challenging assignment: helping to build an enduring peace in the Balkans." Yet, the paper adds, "this is the moment Defense Secretary William Cohen and the [Clinton] Administration pick to inform Gen. Clark he will be relieved three months early in order to free his post."

The paper goes on to say: "It's often said, including within his Army, that Wes Clark is too 'political.' What does this really mean?" the WP asks. "What 'political' means in this case is that Gen. Clark wanted to use his authority to actually accomplish something. He understood early on, when most of his superiors were desperate to avoid any involvement in Kosovo, that empty threats would not impress [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic but would destroy NATO as an effective alliance. [And] once the fighting began, he battled Washington repeatedly for the tools needed to win the war: Apache helicopters, sufficient air power, ground troops should they become necessary."

The paper concludes: "The Pentagon defends its decision in his case as a normal rotation. But the abrupt announcement of his early removal can only undermine the Administration's ostensible commitment to bring peace to the Balkans."

WASHINGTON POST: Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston is the perfect candidate to cope with political pitfalls

Hoagland's commentary on Clark's early retirement makes some grand historical analogies. "Clark," he says, "... can take solace in reflecting on the fates of Winston Churchill at the end of World War II or George Bush after Desert Storm [in Iraq in 1991]. Their victories were also rewarded with eviction notices from electorates ready to move on to new subjects."

Hoagland continues: "The change at NATO occurs as Europe moves from the immediate problems of waging war in the Balkans -- a task for which Clark was ideally suited -- to the broader mission of managing a major overhaul in European and U.S. responsibilities within the alliance. Defense Secretary William Cohen is clearly living under auspicious signs: Clark's reported successor as NATO commander, Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, is the perfect candidate to cope with the political pitfalls presented by the vast and growing disparity between U.S. and European defense capabilities."

The columnist adds: "The Kosovo campaign underlined the relative military weakness of NATO's European members, even as they were pledging to take on more responsibility for defense within the alliance. European planes could not take on complicated missions that had to be carried out by U.S. aircraft." In conclusion, Hoagland says: "The war's outcome catches Europe in a double bind: It shows the continent will have to increase military spending to meet its declared ambitions, but it simultaneously makes that more difficult by saddling Europe with heavy reconstruction costs in the Balkans."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The Balkan people need rant-free radio broadcasting

The International Herald Tribune runs two commentaries today on the need for independent media throughout southeastern Europe and particularly in Kosovo.

Analyst Jeffrey Heyman says that what "the Balkan people need is rant-free radio broadcasting." He writes: "This decade's wars in the former Yugoslavia started in the media. Now," he adds, "... two-thirds of Serbs polled by a Belgrade magazine say they do not believe Western news accounts of [Serb] atrocities in Kosovo. NATO controls Kosovo, but Mr. Milosevic still rules Serbia's airwaves."

The commentary continues: "What is not needed [in Kosovo] is NATO propaganda efforts that have not worked in Bosnia and were laughed at in Serbia and Kosovo. The need is for a comprehensive, professionally run public service broadcasting system that would rely on editorial integrity to counter Mr. Milosevic's misinformation."

If they are not told the truth," concludes Heyman, "Serbs and Kosovars will not understand the international community's efforts to restore their shattered lives, will misinterpret many of its actions. Without ... balanced news, public service information and badly needed nationalism-free entertainment, the rebuilding process could well drag on for years longer than need be."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: It is indispensable to rehabilitate local media

The second IHT commentary is by Edward Girardet, a media analyst, who says that "rehabilitating local media" in Kosovo is indispensable to the province's reconstruction. He writes: "What is urgently needed is reliable news-that-you-can-use produced by independent journalists to help people better understand the mandates of the international organizations, particularly with regard to security and civil administration."

Girardet goes on: "There is growing pressure by the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) to have its own people control any information efforts, including Radio Pristina, currently held by the United Nations. This has resulted in open threats to those not willing to tow the line. Serbian journalists, many of them opponents of the Milosevic regime, have received death threats."

With UN support, the commentator notes, "At least six Albanian- and Serbian-language stations are already on the air." Rather than "establish its own station with a big team of journalist and technicians," he sums up, the UN "would do better to work with and support local media through the rehabilitation of existing radio stations and the creation of new ones as an investment in the future."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The emergence of the Falun Gong sect is the most interesting development in China since the death of Mao Zedong Commenting today on Beijing's suppression of the Buddhist Falun Gong sect for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, columnist William Pfaff says the Chinese "regime has [real] cause to worry" about the movement's popularity. He writes: "There are sects, and there are apocalyptic sects or millenarian sects. The difference is crucial," he says, and then asks: "Which is the Chinese spiritual movement called Falun Gong?"

His answer: "The sect's message has to do with salvation, either of its own members or of society, and sometimes it offers its members secret powers. According to his writings, [sect founder] Li Hongshi's teachings offer 'more than 10,000 supernatural powers.'" And, Pfaff adds, "Falun Gong's innovative use of the Internet to propagate and control the movement demonstrates the appeal of modern sects for young, technically educated but socially and morally isolated people."

The commentary goes on: "Falun Gong has announced the impending end of the world and promise salvation to its members. This in not a quietist movement." He sums up: "The movement's emergence is the most interesting development in China since the death of Mao Zedong."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The crackdown on Falun Gong demonstrates the fragility of the Chinese regime

Writing in the Los Angeles Times newspaper, correspondent Jim Mann asks some questions about the sect: "Who would have thought six months ago that the biggest political demonstrations in a restive China in 1999 would come not from unhappy workers, not from nationalistic students, not from political dissidents, but from an obscure quasi-religious sect devoted to the breathing exercises the Chinese call 'qigong.' [And] who would have believed, after this sect called Falun Gong surfaced with mammoth demonstrations in April outside the compound in Beijing where Chinese leaders live, that the Communist Party would feel threatened enough to mount a nationwide campaign of repression against its adherents?"

"Yet," Mann goes on, "all this has happened -- and more. Over the last few days, the Chinese security apparatus has been arresting, jailing and raiding the homes of Falun Gong members, many of them ordinary poor or middle-class Chinese, including little old ladies, retirees and laid-off factory hands. And China's state propaganda Wurlitzer [that is, machine] has been playing a symphony of denunciation of the sect."

Mann comments: "You might think the Chinese leadership would feel more secure. Here it is about to celebrate, on October 1, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China." He adds: "In the broadest sense, the crackdown on Falun Gong demonstrates how fragile is the Chinese regime's control over the disillusioned country it rules. What the Chinese Communist Party fears is ultimately quite simple: It is afraid of the Chinese people."





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