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Author: Striking Similarities Between Kosovo, Iraq Wars

(Washington, DC-- May 19, 2005) The 1999 war in Kosovo and the current war in Iraq are "twin sons from different fathers", according to John Norris, author of "Collision Course: NATO, Russia and Kosovo". Norris, who is also Chief of Staff of the International Crisis Group's Washington office, told a recent RFE/RL audience that, because final status talks are "looming on the horizon" for Kosovo, it is important to look back at the "striking similarities" between the Kosovo and Iraq wars. These similarities could produce important lessons learned from Kosovo that should be applied to Iraq in order to achieve success, Norris said.

According to Norris, the dynamics involved in both of the conflicts are very similar. First, Norris stated, "If you want to know why we went to war in Kosovo and if you want to know why we went to war in Iraq," one should look at the "intense antipathy" between the respective leaders in each conflict. Norris said that former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright were "fed up" with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic; "if you look at Iraq, you see a lot of that same dynamic between President Bush and Saddam Hussein."

Another important similarity noted by Norris was how international action was delayed in both Kosovo and Iraq. Norris said that "most people were shocked that it took so long" for the international community to get involved in Kosovo and that "there was some of that [same feeling] in Iraq." Further, according to Norris, "there was some very bad diplomacy that led up" to both wars and that "the diplomatic process was malnourished."

Also, Norris said, both the Kosovo and Iraq conflicts involved "corrosive politics" on the part of all parties. During the Kosovo conflict, Milosevic's failure to anticipate a reaction to his ethnic cleansing efforts were but one example. In addition, Norris said, Russia's involvement in the conflict was "a knee jerk reaction" of the type that has "served Moscow very poorly" in recent situations in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. Norris also stated that the "Cold War mindset was very hard to get past" in Moscow. As relates to Iraq, Norris said that President Bush's declaration of "mission accomplished" from the deck of an aircraft carrier "when it was anything but... really hurt the effort to educate the American public about the fact that war is a hard, messy business" and that "if we are going to commit American forces to something as serious as the projects in Iraq or Kosovo, that we need to be honest to the American people... about what is involved."

Norris also discussed the important lessons that should be taken away from the Kosovo conflict. Norris stated that that the Russians should be heard on important issues and that the United States "should be seen listening to the Russians". Norris also said that the Russians need to be "responsible in their political decisions," because this would ease relations between the U.S. and Russia. Finally, Norris said that, because issues relating to final status and future of Kosovo are now being taken seriously, confidence will rise in the value of future NATO involvement in such conflicts.