Milosevic and Kosovo

Joseph Miano (
Tue, 7 Jul 1998 08:17:24 -0400

July 7, 1998

Dear Nasa Borba:

As we decry Slobodan Milosevic's performance as the leader of what remains
of Yugoslavia, no one speaks up for what Milosevic has done that has been
positive. It is ironic that we fail to realize that he is probably more
unpopular in Serbia and Montenegro than he is in the United States. In the
U.S. most people don't have a clue as to who Slobo is, let alone an informed
opinion about his performance as the leader of Serbia and now Yugoslavia.

I would suggest however that Milosevic has done the best job he could with
what he had to work with. Lest we forget, Milosevic shared power with
Tudjman, and the rulers of Montenegro, Slovenia, and Macedonia. Only
Bosnia's Alia Izobegovic was an outsider to the clique that sat shoulder to
shoulder in the joint presidency that succeeded Tito. In 1989, when
Milosevic abrogated Kosovo's autonomy, what other choices did he have?
Milosevic could have allowed Kosovo to maintain its autonomy in which case
the Albanian leadership would have quickly gone the way of their fellows in
the republics and declared independence. However a Kosovar declaration of
independence in 1989 would have had disastrous consequences for all

Had Kosovo proclaimed its succession from Serbia, the fires of their own
nation would have burned bright in the hearts of Macedonian Albanians as
well. Likewise, surrounded by their Bosnian coreligionists to the west and
the Albanians Moslems to the south, the Serb Moslem population of the Sanjak
would have been forced to cast their lot with the Bosnians. Had Milosevic
not taken the action he did, Serbia itself would have been ripped apart by
civil war as different factions of each group strove to maximize their

That Milosevic was able to keep Serbia and Montenegro proper out of war is a
testament to the efficacy of his decisions. For had Serbia been consumed in
war then the consequences would have been far worse than what actually
transpired. Nothing can mitigate human suffering such as was seen in
Bosnia, yet had war expanded to involve all the concerned parties, the
Balkans could have burned from Belgrade to Bulgaria, from Croatia to Cyprus,
throughout Anatolia.

We ought not condemn Milosevic until we understand what faced him. When I
was in Belgrade in 1994 and 1995, it was not uncommon for Milosevic to drop
out of sight for several days at a time after he made decisions that were
not viewed as being 100% in support of the Republika Srpska regime.
Milosevic went away to preclude assassination attempts which were being
plotted by Serbs who were critical of him for not going far enough in his
support of the Serb effort in Bosnia. Milosevic knew that if he were
deposed, his replacement would either be far worse or the country would sink
into anarchy.

Current history is unkind to those charged with the peaceful dismantling of
systems that do not work. Yet I hope that it will remember people like
Slobodan Milosevic, Gorbachov, de Klerk and others as men who did the best
they could faced with trying times. Surely Milosevic could have done better
but he could have also done far far worse.