Libya Not Quite The Same As Serbia

Vesna Peric Zimonjic

HAVANA TIMES, March 28 (IPS) — The month of March, named after the Roman god of war, Mars, appears to be the favorite among war planners in modern times.

Allied planes began the air campaign against Libya on Mar 19, while Mar 24 marked the 12th anniversary of the start of 11 weeks of NATO raids against Serbia.

To many Serbs, the action against Libya brought back the traumatic memories of bombing that left some 2,500 dead and profoundly devastated the country’s infrastructure.

Small rallies in solidarity with the Libyan people were organized in Belgrade and a Facebook support group got more than 50,000 sympathizers in a matter of days. Serbian government called for full respect of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 so that the civilians would be “spared from suffering”.

Like the campaign in Libya, the one against Serbia began in the name of humanitarian cause. In the latter’s case, it was protection of some two million ethnic Albanians in southern province of Kosovo. In Libya, it is the opponents of the regime of Muammar Gadaffi.

But although the air campaign against Libya bears many resemblances to NATO action against Serbia and at the beginning looked almost the same, analysts say that there are profound differences between the two.

“Similarities amount to technical ones,” security and military analyst Zoran Dragisic told IPS. “The targets are Libyan military installations, anti-aircraft artillery positions, troops that move on the ground and the proclaimed assistance to those who are against a leader,” he added.

In Serbia, Kosovo Albanians were suffering under the repression of former leader Slobodan Milosevic. Belgrade’s army and police were engaged in crashing the armed rebellion of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), dubbed as guerrilla and terrorist movement by central authorities since 1998. The KLA fought for independence of Kosovo from Serbia, Albanians and Serbs being no next of kin in ethnic and religious sense.

But dissimilarities outweigh the similarities of two campaigns, Dragisic explains, mostly in legal and political sense.

“In Serbia, it was NATO that led the action, and there was no coverage for it in the sense of international law,” Dragisic said. “In case of Libya, there are ‘allies’ with some important states abstaining, and we have the UN Security Council Resolution 1973”.

Politically, he adds, the goal of Libyan action is unclear, unlike the goal designed for Serbia — relief from Belgrade rule over Kosovo Albanians.

Kosovars have long sought independence and the road was open when Serbian police and military completely withdrew from Kosovo after the end of NATO campaign. The territory went under the UN administration and built democratic institutions of its own, which led to unilateral declaration of independence in 2008. Kosovo has been recognized by some 76 states so far.

“Politically, in case of Libya, things are less clear. There is a rebellion inside one nation, and the goal of intervention is not clear — is it toppling of Gadaffi, control of oil, occupation of Libya? But how? International forces could enter only from neighboring countries, which are no part of major military alliances,” Dragisic adds.

For ordinary Serbs, things are much more complicated than “simple action-solution,” as a Belgradian teacher Stojan Pavlovic (45) puts it.

“It’s not the same when one nation is fighting within itself (like Libya), and when separatists (ethnic Albanians) cut away what used to be Serbia since times immemorial”, he added in a reference to the fact that Serbia is still waging a diplomatic battle saying that Kosovo is an “inseparable part” of it.

Many Serbs also point out that Kosovo leaders, former prominent KLA guerrillas, are under international scrutiny for alleged involvement into organized crime. It includes drugs and arms smuggling and accusations of trafficking of human organs taken from captured civilians or prisoners of war, at the times of power vacuum and turmoil following the end of NATO bombing in 1999.

“We know nothing about the leaders of Libyan rebellion,” analyst Aleksandar Radic told IPS. “It is unclear who they are, what are the forces gathered behind them at home who support them, and what are their political motives,” he adds.

In case of Kosovo it was clear, Radic explains, but it was also clear in the times that followed, as Slobodan Milosevic fell from power in Oct 2000. He refused to recognize the elections he lost for presidency, but stepped down only after the peaceful popular uprising that took hundreds of thousands of protesters into streets of Belgrade.

If Gadaffi is the target, it has not been revealed yet by parties engaged in conflict, Radic says.

“Serbia had the unified opposition at the time (in 2000), but we see tribal division in Libya. Besides, in Libya there are no social issues that united Serbs impoverished by wars and NATO bombing in 2000,” Radic said.

For both Dragisic and Radic, the outcome of operation against Libya is yet to be seen and is hardly predictable.

“There are no wars that end with a draw,” Dragisic said. “But so far, we see no clear goal.”

“If there will be partition of Libya, as mentioned, it will again only look like Serbia, but will not be the same, due to the nature of Kosovo issue,” Radic said.