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UA professors, students split over bombings

By Michael Lafleur
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 25, 1999
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As NATO forces barraged Yugoslavian targets yesterday, UA professors and students urged the U.S. to act carefully while considering all sides of the conflict.

"I think that it might be necessary at this moment, but I hope that Washington knows how to get out of the situation," said Keijo Korhonen, adjunct political science professor. "I'm not aware of any war that has been decided by bombing (alone)."

As NATO bombs dropped on multiple targets yesterday evening, Korhonen cautioned about implications surrounding retaliation against Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic's agenda of ethnic cleansing.

The war-torn province of Kosovo is the hotbed of conflict between ethnic-Albanian separatists and Yugoslavian forces. The fighting has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Albanians and left about 400,000 homeless.

UA business sophomore David Carios said despite the ongoing killings, more violence is not the answer.

"The bombing is not a proper way to control that problem," he said. "It seems like every time there is a problem, they (U.S. government officials) try to solve it with bombing."

The failure of a last-ditch effort Monday by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke to persuade Milosevic to sign a peace accord resulted in the NATO strikes to end the crackdown on the Albanian separatists.

Korhonen, who served as Finish ambassador to the United Nations from 1983 to 1988, said the air strikes could draw U.S. forces into becoming a long-term presence in the region.

"You must be logical and think what will happen after the bombing is over," Korhonen said. "My guess is, you are committed to be present, to take that (Kosovo) as a protectorate."

Fred Kellogg, a UA associate history professor, warned that the Yugoslavian president may refuse to back down because of the bombings.

"The reason the Serbs won't back down is their whole national identity lies in that area," he said. "To ignore that is a huge mistake on the part of our government, our military and the reporters who talk about recent developments in that area."

Kellogg said the Serbs trace the origin of their nationalistic identity to a 1386 battle in Kosovo when they united to fight Turks from the Ottoman Empire. Although the Serbs lost, many reflect on the incident as the origin of the group's collective heritage.

"To give it over to the newcomers is treason toward their nationalistic ideal," Kellogg said. "The decision-making in Belgrade (Yugoslavia's capital) is affected in large part by that knowledge. From Milosevic's point of view as a Serb nationalist, he can't very well back down."

But Grace Fielder, UA professor of Russian and Slavic languages, said the Albanians, who account for 90 percent of the province's 2 million people, also stake a nationalistic claim on the region.

"This is a place these people have been living in for hundreds of years," Fielder said. "The Serbs did not have exclusive rights to the area. The Albanians also claim Kosovo for their own and one of the arguments is the Albanians were there before the Serbs."

Fielder said in addition to symbolizing ethnic identity, the region has had a history of human rights abuses against Albanians, which escalated after 1989.

"Over the last 10 years it has been steady, systematic repression of Albanians," she said.

Peter Alter, a history graduate student, said he was unsure if the air strikes would force Milosevic to withdraw his troops and return to the peace negotiations.

"It's obviously a very complex situation in which the United States, using NATO, is trying to insert itself," Alter said. "I don't see it being effective in changing Milosevic's mind. I don't see what would force him to concede short of maybe bombing Belgrade."