June 4th, 2006

Why You Should Care about Kosovo

            As an American, I have long believed that in our heart of hearts we are well-intentioned people.  When we are aware of wrong, we are pretty decent about raising hell to make it right.  If we have an Achilles heal as a people, however, itís that we are not too sure about what the heck the true realities are of the world we live in.  We are clear on whom Britney Spearsí husband is, but weíre a little fuzzy on why we bombed the bejesus out of country X.  Itís an ignorance that lets people at the top get us into messes like Vietnam and Iraq, and itís the goodness of us slowly educated bottom dwellers that eventually gets us back on the right track.  However, sometimes the guys at the top get things right for all the right reasons.  Kosovo is one such story, and it would be a shame if you knew nothing about it. 

            Itís ok if you donít know anything about Kosovo.  One month ago I didnít either.  Let me give you the basics.  Before 1999, Kosovo was a province within Serbia.  For simplicityís sake, letís say that it was inhabited by just two peoples: ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians.  The Serbs, who are Christian and speak Serbian, made up approximately 10% of the population.  The Albanians, who are predominately Moslem and speak Albanian, made up the other 90% of the population.  Serbs, who felt superior to the Albanians, ďrepressedĒ them.  If you think/imagine how American blacks where treated before and during the civil rights era, thatís the kind of repression Iím talking about.  Unlike America during the civil rights era, however, Serbians were a long way off from growing a conscience and deciding to give Albanians equal rights. 

            Through mainly guerilla warfare, Albanians started to fight violently for their independence in 1998-1999.  Slobodan Milosevic, the then president of Serbia (or YugoslaviaÖwhatever), was pretty harsh in his response.  Two words: ethnic cleansing.  I think you get the idea.  After getting wind of all this we Americans, through NATO, decided to drop bombs on Serbiaís troops in Kosovo, as well as Serbia proper.  Now Kosovo is on its way to being its own country probably by the end of this year. 

            So, why should you care?  Because, quite frankly, itís a story we can be proud of.  Iím pretty tired of having to whip out the WW2 card on those who back me into an ďAmerica is evilĒ corner.  It shows the world, or should show it anyway, that oneís religion doesnít have a thing to do with how a typical American regards you.  We bombed Christians to save Moslems and we can feel damn proud of it because it was the right thing to do.  Kosovo has no oil; it is of virtually no strategic importance to the United States.  Again, we went in because it was the right thing to do.

            We Americans often get a very conflicting message from the world: donít allow atrocities to occur in other countries, but donít you dare meddle in the affairs of other countries either.  Giving people what they want and then being hated for it later is not a very rewarding endeavor.  Again, Kosovo is special in that regard.  They love Americans.  Ask any Kosovar Albanian his feelings about America and heíll tell you how grateful he is for our countryís help.  This is seven years after the war and they are still grateful!  Kosovo should be a favorite American tourist destination based upon that alone. 

            Never in all my travels have another people reminded me so much of my own countrymen.  Kosovar Albanians are passionate, entrepreneurial, and industrious.  They have a corrupt government and a less than perfect but altogether good free press, kind of like us.  They are tolerant of other religions in the same way we are as well.  In short, we have much in common in the way of virtues and imperfections.  To learn all of this about Kosovo makes it an endearing place.  It makes me care about Kosovo, and hopefully it has the same effect on you, too.

Jeff