Fundamentalto this dissertation has been discussion of the use of, or rather the reluctanceto use the term ‘genocide’ to describe particular atrocities. Whilst Bosnia and Rwanda both illustrate theextent to which the US went in order to avoid labelling the crimes genocide,the case of Kosovo proves the opposite. Prior to the bombing campaign, the Clinton administration hadpre-determined that they wished to intervene in Kosovo. The US thus framed their arguments forintervention as pre-emptive action to avoid an imminent genocide inKosovo.
What this dissertation hasalready proven is the universal consensus that a determination of genocidecalls for intervention. Why the US waseager to intervene will be discussed in the following section; this sectionwill instead discuss how the US usedgenocide rhetoric to justify intervention. Scholars SamanthaPower and Frank Chalk both acknowledge theproactive use of the label “genocide” in order to mobilize support for theintervention in Kosovo.
In starkcontrast to the reluctance to use the term in both Bosnia and Rwanda, it isobvious to see that in the case of Kosovo the Clinton administration used theterm in advance of the bombing as a means of garnering international public,media, and allied support.1Power continues on to suggest that a finding of genocide would not shame theUS, but instead enhance its moral authority; something the US was undoubtedlytrying to restore given their inaction in the face of mass atrocities at thebeginning of the decade.2 In March 1998 Secretary of StateMadeline Albright claimed that the international community stood by and watchedethnic cleansing occur in Bosnia.
She continued by stating: “We don’t want thatto happen again.”3There areeven claims that the US exaggerated the number of deaths on the side of theKosovar Albanians in order to justify the NATO mission, however it is arguable that this argument was made bysome who did not a full understanding of what the UNGC requires re: numbers.4 During theNATO bombing itself, the US and Clinton administration stepped up, and madesure to discuss the atrocities as genocide in order to ensure perpetual supportfor the intervention. In a statementfrom his speech at the American Federation of State, County and MunicipalEmployees (AFSCME) Convention on 24 March 1999, Clinton, echoing Albright’s1998 statement, argued that the world had stood aside as genocide was committedin the heart of Europe against the Bosnian Muslims, and stated that this couldnot be allowed to happen again in Kosovo.5 Pairing genocide rhetoric with a reference tothe tragedy of 1995 in Bosnia was not merely because the US cared about thefate of the Kosovar Albanians, it was a tactic that aimed to arouse peoples’emotions and guarantee support for Clinton’s intervention. Furthermore, it should be acknowledged thatAmerican media reports on the situation in Kosovo were largely informed by thegovernment communiqués.6 Having this power and control meant thatthe US government could essentially tell media outlets how to frame and portraythe conflict in Kosovo. The media thustransformed, arguably at the request of the US government, as Seth Ackerman andJim Naureckas claim, “Kosovo’s war into a one-sided ethnic holocaust.
“7 Furthermore, the US State Department approvedthe use of the term “genocide” to describe the campaign against KosovarAlbanians once the NATO mission had begun.8 There is absolutely no doubt that somemembers of the US government, and US Congress supporters of a NATO interventioninvoked the genocide label. To reiterateand conclude, the US framed the atrocities in Kosovo, rightly or wrongly, asgenocide, in order to justify their desired intervention. But why did the USwant to intervene? Regional Stability, Restoration and Redemption?:Why the US wanted to intervene – 1300 Ultimately,it was the interest of the US to have a stable and secure Europe, to restorethe image and credibility of both America and the Clinton administration, andfinally, to act to prevent another mass atrocity from transpiring.
These interests were outlined on 26 March 1999by the Department of State in an official statement they called “US and NATOobjectives and interests in Kosovo.”9 This convergence of interests meant thatfor the first time, the US considered inaction more costly than action. The Clintonadministration, realizing the potential destabilising effect of the Kosovocrisis, decided it was in their best interest to intervene. First and foremost, the US was concerned withthe mass exodus of Kosovar Albanians to neighbouring countries.
Intended to completely cleanse Kosovo of allof its 1.8 million Albanian inhabitants, Serbia’s Operation Horseshoe almostdid just that, with 90 percent of the Kosovo populace having been forciblydisplaced from their homes by …10The destination for the majority of these refugees were Albania and Macedonia,with Macedonia being of particular concern to the US given its inability toendure the arrival of more displaced Kosovar Albanians and its large ethnicAlbanian population.11 Furthermore, Secretary of State Warren Christopherdistinguished Kosovo from Bosnia on the grounds that deterioration in Kosovowould likely “bring into the fray other countries in the region – Albania,Greece, Turkey.”12 He argued that Kosovo was different fromBosnia because of its potential to unleash violence through the rest of theBalkans, which suggests that the US acted out of a fear that the conflictwould, or at least could, broaden into a world war.13 Also of concern was the fragile peace inBosnia, which the US had spent more than US$10 billion supporting.14 The US thus intervened in order to halt therefugee crisis and prevent neighbouring countries from collapsing, which wouldhave cost not only the lives of many more innocent people, but also the time,money and resources of the US.
Ultimately,the US had a vested interest in avoiding an even crueller and costlier war.15 Wider Europe/NATO Existence & CredibilityThe US alsohad interests related to the wider context of European security and theinternational system. With the fall ofthe Berlin Wall in November 1989, and inevitably the end of the Cold War in 1991,the structure of the international system changed from one of bipolar rivalrybetween the US and USSR, to a situation where the US secured the position asthe unipolar hegemon and could essentially reign unchallenged.
Despite their newfound political status, theUS was eager to keep a watchful eye on post-Communist Russia, seeing as their politicaltrajectory remained in question.16 The US also realized that their nationalinterests would be jeopardized if they failed to act in defence of Europeansecurity, and figured that intervening in Kosovo to maintain regional stabilitywould be a good way to prove their allegiance to European partners.17 Reciprocity – Europe would have US’s back if US helped them now? Intervening in Kosovo was thus theperfect opportunity to demonstrate to Russia that the US was now in charge of shaping the world order,and would also show that America still supported their European allies eventhough the Cold War was over.
However,it would be unlikely that all European nations, especially those formallyallied to the USSR, would tolerate the continued military presence of the US. Luckily for the US, Clinton understood, likehis predecessor George H. W. Bush, that NATO was the only plausiblejustification for the American military presence in Europe.18 Furthermore, NATO needed to act in Kosovo toensure their credibility as a collective security organisation. NATO’s prestige was also on the line, becauseas former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Klaus Naumann noted,”We threatened too often and hadn’t done anything.”19 NATO had been warning Miloševi? since1997 that action would be taken if he refused to stop his ethnic cleansingpolicies, however, no action had been taken.
20 By using NATO to spearhead the bombingcampaign against Miloševi?, the US simultaneously justified US presence inEurope, while restoring the credibility of, and proving the necessity for NATO. US Image & Clinton’s Image Although not outlined in the Department of Statestatement, it is undeniable that restoring and preserving the image of both theUS and the Clinton administration itself created an incentive to intervene inKosovo. After his impotence in bothBosnia and Rwanda, President Clinton was more than eager to restore hisimage. The argument was rightly madethat if he avoiding taking the necessary action to expel the genocidal Serbforces from Kosovo, he would be remembered as the President on whose watchthree genocides unfolded – undeniably not a title anyone would want to hold.21 Although he could not seek re-election,having already served two terms in the White House, Clinton was concerned withhis legacy and therefore intervenedin Kosovo to redeem his image. Similarly,the lack of action in Bosnia and Rwanda posed a threat to America’scredibility.
The US, as the sole superpower in the post-Cold Warera, had