Untangling Kosovo

March 31, 1999

The fundamental principle on which all responses to Kosovo must be erected is the self-determination of peoples. This is ultimately derived from the dignity of man owing to his creation by God with free will, in order that he might fulfill his Creator’s purposes to love his Creator, exercise dominion and stewardship, and love his neighbor as himself. From the free will of the individual we conclude that no man has authority to rule over another in the civil arena except by mutual covenant. The U.S. Declaration of Independence presents this political theory of government concisely.

The Kosovo situation is not easily resolved even with this foundation. Its history involves conquest as much as self-determination. Untangling and resolving past wrongs would be terribly difficult. Although the Old Testament indicates that God expects judgment for misdeeds left unresolved for hundreds of years, both scholastics and modern practitioners hold that conquests should be left standing, unless aggression is clear, and egregious wrong is overwhelmingly on one side of a conflict.

Complicating the Kosovo situation is differential religio-ethnic population growth, which changes the internal mix of peoples and introduces stresses above those that may have existed earlier. No state need self-destruct over this problem, however, if civil rule avoids establishment of state religion and protects ethnic diversity.

Kosovo displays these problems in full, which might be a sufficient basis for all outsiders to remain uninvolved. What is critically different, however, is that the Serbs under Milosevic have embarked on final destruction of the non-Serbian Kosovars. This agenda immediately renders the Serbian government of Kosovo invalid. In terms of just war theory, the Serbs have lost competence to rule.

In their plight, the Kosovars have justifiably appealed for outside help to restore rightful rule. Even Scripture says that we are to rescue those being led away to slaughter. Serbians pressing the genocide may be resisted by force, by Kosovars or any who come to their aid. Neighboring European nations have legitimate interests in suppressing the Serbian onslaught, particularly those nations now being engorged and potentially destabilized internally by the flood of refugees.

NATO's response is therefore understandable, particularly given European history over the past century. With or without NATO action, a domino effect spiraling beyond Kosovo is possible, not one intentioned by international aggressors, but one triggered by refugees and ethnic ties across political boundaries. NATO hopes to succeed at containment, and prevent an ultimate Kosovar holocaust.

The U.S. forward role in the NATO action is well beyond our security interests; the European members of NATO are the most affected. Their reticence in leadership is aimed at defusing the local triggers that would split the alliance and polarize Europe for the third time this century. But for the United States to have totally refused entry would have raised the probability of that outcome. Thus some U.S. involvement is, with all its difficulties, a justifiable course.

Even if NATO intervention proves moderately successful in suppressing Serbian extremism over the long term, Kosovo's political future will be problematical. Those Kosovars who are terrorists, neutralizing moderate Kosovars and guilty of atrocities like the Serbs, are as unfit to rule as the Serbians. Can enlightened rule emerge from the situation? This must be left to Kosovo's inhabitants, including the refugees after they find it safe to return.

NATO and U.S. goals must not be too ambitious. Construction of peace in Kosovo is not achievable by outsiders. While they can assist in establishing a framework for positive developments, true peace and right governance in Kosovo is ultimately up to the Kosovars. All should join in prayers for their success.  

Dr. John C. Munday
1204 Murray Drive
Chesapeake, VA 23322