Kosovo Seen Through the Eyes Essay

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The international community, while supporting greater autonomy, opposed the Kosovar Albanians' demand for independence" (History file: Yugoslavia and the Balkans, 2003, BBC News).

Yet Milosevic reacted with disproportionate levels of aggression. Structural realism makes no allowance for the level of violence with which Serbia carried out its expansionist program, engaging in efforts of ethnic cleansing. Serbia's efforts make even less rationalistic sense, given the international community's previous hostile reaction to Serbia's brutal, genocidal actions in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Serb attacks increased after NATO began its bombing campaign, and summary and arbitrary killing spread throughout Kosovo.... Among the worst incidents...were reports of the deliberate killing of children, and of elderly and disabled people being shot or burned alive....children decapitated in front of their parents" (Horrors of Kosovo revealed, 1999, BBC).

The conflict in Kosovo was only stemmed when the United Nations intervened, NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia in March 1999, the first attack on a sovereign European country in the alliance's history, were the only way to make Serb (and Albanian retaliatory) atrocities cease. Since then, conflicts between Serbs and ethnic Albanians have only been eased when other nations intervened. When hostilities threatened to erupt in late 2000, mediated dialogue between Albanian guerrillas and the new democratic authorities in Belgrade caused tensions to evaporate. An outbreak of ethnic conflict in Macedonia in 2001 involving the Albanian minority was contained by NATO peacekeepers and ultimately resolved through negotiation (History file: Yugoslavia and the Balkans, BBC News, 2003).

The important role of non-state organizations such as the United Nations and NATO in stemming the irrational levels of violence in the Balkans is testimony to the fact that the power dynamic of the world community does not need to be based upon pure power politics, nor only viewed in terms of state actors. While according to structural realists, states exist in a state of anarchy, governed by power needs, "constructivist theory rejects the basic assumption of neo-realist theory that the state of anarchy (lack of a higher authority or government) is a structural condition inherent in the system of states" and instead suggests that this must be rigorously questioned, along with the presumed supremacy of the nation-state (Constructivism, 2009, IR Theory). "The condition of the system of states today as self-helpers in the midst of anarchy is a result of the process by which states and the system of states was constructed. It is not an inherent fact of state-to-state relations. Thus, constructivist theory holds that it is possible to change the anarchic nature of the system of states (Constructivism, 2009, IR Theory).

For constructivists, a theorist cannot define power in absolute, ahistorical terms -- how power is defined is inherently subjective, and dependant upon the international context of the moment and region, and how power is defined with a community. For the post-Cold War Balkans, power and national identity was in a particular state of flux, and seeking self-definition, nations resorted to old, tribal identities and actions. Only by creating a new community where nationhood and power was re-defined through the efforts of the UN was peace possible. Constructivism encourages such as view, rather than regards violence as inevitable, as structural realist theory suggests. Such a suggestion can be a self-fulfilling prophesy but by thinking outside of the 'black box' of realism, constructivist approaches by the UN and NATO have made the Balkans, if not peaceable, then less of the 'tinderbox' of Europe that they were in the past.

Works Cited

Constructivism. (2009). IR Theory. Retrieved March 7, 2009 at http://www.irtheory.com/know.htm

History, bloody history. (1999, 24 March). BBC News. Retrieved March 7, 2009 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/special_report/1998/kosovo2/110492.stm

History file: Yugoslavia and the Balkans. (2003). BBC News. Retrieved March 7, 2009 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/map/yugoslavia/

Horrors of Kosovo revealed. (1999, December 6).BBC News. Retrieved March 7, 2009 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/551875.stm

Mearsheimer, John J. (2006). Chapter 4: Structural Realism. In Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki, and Steve Smith, eds., International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 71-88. Retrieved March 7, 2009 at http://www.oup.com/uk/orc/bin/9780199298334/dunne_chap04.pdf

NATO's role in relation to the conflict in Kosovo (1999, 15 July). NATO. Retrieved March 7, 2009 at http://www.nato.int/kosovo/history.htm[continue]

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