The United States and other NATO members loudly proclaim that the alliance achieved a great victory in the war against Yugoslavia. According to the conventional wisdom, NATO waged a successful campaign to prevent genocide; enhanced its credibility as an effective institution for preserving peace, stability, and justice in post-Cold War Europe; and intimidated would-be aggressors around the world.
Such claims already ring hollow. NATO may have thwarted the Belgrade government's goal of cleansing Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian inhabitants, but the Kosovo Liberation Army now pursues an equally systematic strategy to cleanse the province of Serbs, Gypsies, and all other non-Albanians. It is increasingly apparent that the alliance's ostensible goal of a tolerant, democratic, and multiethnic Kosovo is a fantasy. Another interminable and futile nation-building mission looms for the United States.
Thus, even in the narrowest sense, the result of NATO's bombing offensive can scarcely be termed a victory. Viewed in a broader context, the war verged on being a policy fiasco. As the contributors to this volume show, the alliance's "victory" against Yugoslavia came at enormous cost. The war killed many innocent civilians—Serbs and Albanian Kosovars alike. It exacerbated economic, social, and political tensions throughout the Balkans, making new rounds of ethnic conflict and other manifestations of instability more likely. NATO's decision to bypass the United Nations Security Council, and President Clinton's arrogant disregard of the congressional war power, undermined respect for the rule of law. Worst of all, the Balkan war damaged America's relations with two major powers, Russia and China, and lent credence to allegations throughout much of the world that the democratic West had embarked on a new imperialism behind a facade of humanitarian intervention. NATO's Empty Victory is a searing indictment of the policies pursued by the United States and its allies. It also warns of the likely consequences -- including prospects for more Kosovo-style interventions — if those policies are not repudiated.