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Just War Theory: NATO Action Against Serbia

Years of aggressive European empires have left the area known as the Balkans in an almost constant flux. The nation of Yugoslavia, originated in 1918, first became stable under the leadership of Dictator Josip Broz Tito who turned the nation to communism in 1945. However, with Titos death in 1980, the country dissolved into several smaller countries. Presently the former state of Yugoslavia is comprised of the nations Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Within Serbia lies a region called Kosovo, an area where over ninety percent of the citizens are ethnic Albanians.

Kosovos opposition to Serbian control of their region climaxed in January 1998, when a group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) manifested its plans to unify Kosovo with the neighboring nation Albania. In response, the present Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, ordered Serbian forces to police the area. Within a short time, the Serbian forces also began to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of all non-Serbs. The civil war escalated into an international conflict in March 1999 when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervened by bombing Serbian targets.

According to the most basic tenets of just war doctrine, NATOs ilitaristic intervention with Serbia in the NATO Yugoslav War seems to be appropriate. NATOs actions appear to follow the principles of jus ad bellum as well as jus in bella. Their goal also seems in accordance with other documents of sustaining peace, such as the Charter of the United Nations. However, a more detailed analysis might suggest otherwise: NATOs intervention was not justifiable in account that the war was more for Western interests than ending the ethical genocide of the non-Serbs in Kosovo.

In the extreme realistic view of war, or alls fair view, any action s justifiable if it protects or advances the interests of the state acting. This ideology strives on two tenets: (1) that any act in war is justifiable if it seems to serve the national interest, and (2) that rightness depends solely on the ends sought rather than on methods used to obtain those ends. The realistic view also follows utilitarian reasoning, which states behavior is ethical if it brings the greatest good to the greatest number. In this perspective, NATOs interaction was most certainly just.

Contrastingly, another view of war is the extreme pacifist view, that is voiding conflict or any violent action in every situation. No action is ethical if an individual is harmed. In this case, NATOs intervention would certainly have not been ethical. However, the current just war doctrine is neither of these extremes. Contemporary politics attempt to follow something in the middle. [T]here are sets of ethical principles to consider when judging the morality of war which are justice of war or jus ad bellum and justice in war or jus in bella.

Together they are embodied as just war tradition. Several of these modern just war theory tenets are expressed in the UN Charter. Article 33 states that any war must have a just cause : The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.

Article 39 exemplifies the necessity of nation-states to make all attempts at restoring peace and security: The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the eace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security. The UN Charter stresses that war is a last resort. In fact, the document goes on to describe war as an act of self-defense.

The principle of last resort suggests that states should exhaust all peaceful means of resolving disputes before resorting to military force, a condition that is easily met when a state has been attacked and is merely engaging in self-defense. These ideas are xpressed in Article 51: Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.

Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore nternational peace and security.

Just war tradition also includes other agreements, such as discrimination, which is the requirement that combatants respect the immunity of noncombatants, and proportionality, which is met when the legitimate aims sought by a state resorting to war outweigh the harm that will result from prosecution of the war. In retrospective, NATOs actions led to an end of the ethnic-cleansing of the non-Serbs in Kosovo as well as doing so with minimal causalities.

In fact, with Milosevic having been dethroned in recent election, the possible nstallation of Serbian democratic government seems to be exciting the region of Kosovo. Reporters of the KFOR, the liberating army of Kosovo, document enthusiasm. For example, the KFOR treatment of elections in October 28, 2000 demonstrate this situation: After intense and thorough preparations, KFOR soldiers are ready to protect and secure the first free, democratic political elections in Kosovo, which will be held today, October 28.

KFOR’s operational reserve has been brought in and is on alert after conducting Air Insertion Exercises in the province. To underline the seriousness of KFOR’s treatment of this matter, a big strength emonstration took place near Camp Monteith in the Multi National Brigade (MNB) East prior to the election day. With the participation of KFOR British, Greek, Ukrainian and U. S. elements, an Air Insertion Exercise was carried out in a professional way.

In that perspective, NATOs intervention, the resort to arms and the prosecution, meeting the above criteria, seems to both conform to the principles of just war. According to British Prime Minister Tony Blair on April 22, 1999: This is a just war, based not on any territorial ambitions but on values…. No longer is our existence as states under threat. Now our actions are guided by a more subtle blend of mutual self interest and moral purpose in defending the values we cherish.

In the end values and interests merge. If we can establish and spread the values of liberty, the rule of law, human rights and an open society then that is in our national interests too. The spread of our values makes us safer. As John Kennedy put it “Freedom is indivisible and when one man is enslaved who is free? ” Blair states that the war is of mutual interest. The values of the NATO nation-states are further established in the international world, and there is a strong effort towards peace in Serbia.

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