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Kosovo - A Diplomatic Mistake? Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky
March 31, 2008

Paraphrasing Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, the legendary prince of diplomats, Michael Radu of Philadelphia's Foreign Policy Research Institute castigated the U.S. and the European Union for recognizing Kossovo's unilateral declaration of independence and separation from neighboring Serbia.

He contends that the Bush Administration's policy was worse than "gross ignorance."
In a scholarly analysis of the issues, circumstances and ramifications, he terms it "a
mistake."

Talleyrand (1754-1838) dominated French foreign relations throughout the turbulent
transition from republic, empire and restoration of the discredited monarchy.  His diplomatic acumen throughout was brilliant.  Radu invoked Talleyrand's political realism in this excerpt for an article he wrote for the FPRI: "Every Western political delusion since the end of the Cold War was at the root of this disaster, and, to make matters worse, these delusions have been shared by otherwise unlikely partners: the Clinton Administration and George Bush, the usually anti-American Europeans, the 'human rights' establishment and 'progressive' media here and in Europe."

One of the most sensitive aspects of the Kossovo problem was bypassed in typically
cavalier fashion by the claques in Washington, London and Brussels.  It is the highly-emotional feelings harbored by the congenitally nationalistic Serbs with regard to
Kossovo because of its having been the arena in which their ancestors fought a heroic, but losing battle with the then-invincible Ottoman Turks in the 14th century.

Kossovo was a quasi-autonomous region during the latter years of Yugoslavia's existence as a multi-national and multi-religious Balkan federation.  Its population had a sizable if not preponderant Albanian component, but the Serb presence was substantial as well.  The American intervention under President Clinton ostensibly to stop anti-Albanian ethnic cleansing resulted in a large-scale exodus of Kossovo's Serbs and set the stage for Albanian domination.

This scenario has a dubious parallel in the Holy Land where the Bush Administration,
with the unequivocal support of the EU, has been working to detach the cradle of ancient Hebrew history and culture from the contemporary State of Israel by transforming it into a sovereign Palestinian state that is likely to be totally bereft of Jewish Israelis or Jews of any kind.

Or could it be that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has an ulterior motive in
exerting more and more pressure on her obliging Israeli hosts -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Zippy Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak?  Acting under the guidance of President Bush and in consort with her State Department staff, she may be trying to nurture an embryonic Palestinian state that would be part of a pro-American array of Middle Eastern governments stretching from Morocco to Iraq.  (One of the main reasons for this tactic could be that Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq are geographically contiguous.  With pro-U.S.

Saudi Arabia bordering on Jordan and pro-U.S. Egypt next door to Israel, the American grip on this part would be unprecedented.)  By acting as the Palestinian nationalists'
midwife, Secretary of State Rice may hope that her efforts will wean the Palestinians away from the Islamic extremist coalition headed by Iran and keep the proverbial Russian bear at bay.

This diplomatic strategy appears to be as unwise as that applied to the Kossovo
dispute.  It will no more assure the economic and political viability of the projected
Palestinian state than will the U.S.-European embrace of the Kossovo separatists' guarantee their entity's ability to govern themselves and pay their financial bills from their own resources. 

The Palestinian Authority, which has a tenuous and uncertain grip on the West Bank
has an even bigger problem: Hamas, which not only has turned the Gaza Strip into a breakaway province, but also aspires to extend its sway to the West bank as well.

It may not be too late for Secretary of State Rice and her compliant Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Livni, to study Talleyrand's astute diplomacy and draw the realistic conclusions drawn by Radu.  Otherwise, their delusions may be a recipe for a new
and possibly unprecedented catastrophe in the inherently violent Middle East.

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