Sergei Medvedev
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Kosovo and the outlines of Europe’s new order

This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores how experiences in Kosovo have changed the discourse of European security. It provides new and stimulating perspectives on how 'Kosovo' has shaped European post-post-Cold War reality. The book aims to contribute to the insecurity of the field of security studies by sidelining the theoretical worldview that underlies mainstream strategic thinking on the Kosovo events. It investigates how 'Kosovo' has developed into this principal paradigmatic sign in the complex text of European security. The book also investigates how its very marginality has emphasised the unravelling fringes and limits of the sovereign presence of what 'Europe' thinks it stands for, and how it affects the discourse on European security.

Sergei Medvedev and Peter van Ham

Preface: Kosovo and the outlines of Europe’s new order

Introduction: ‘Brother, can you spare a paradigm?’

Twelve years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, talk about the end of the Cold War continues to haunt the professional discourse on European security. The seemingly innocent reference to the post-Cold War era has turned into an almost standard opening line of most writings in the field. A remarkable uniformity of approach among different authors testifies not so much to the intellectual impotence of the trade as to a lack of reference-points in reconceptualising European security, compelling us to look back and attach our narratives to the Cold War as the last-known paradigm and a foolproof marker of Western identity.

Old mental maps are still very much in use for charting the new waters: bipolarity, systemic thinking and the mindset of inclusion–exclusion continue to cast their shadows beyond the Berlin Wall. The vacuum of Europe’s nameless 1990s has attracted many new visions, and offers to fill the conceptual void left by the end of communism. Rosy scenarios along the lines of Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ were soon followed by the suggestion of the ‘new pessimists’ that we are instead entering a period of a ‘coming anarchy’ (Robert Kaplan), asking ‘Must it be the West against the rest?’ (Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy), or predicting a ‘clash of civilisations’ (Samuel Huntington).1 When the United States proposed, in the early 1990s, to establish a new world order, it became clear that this new vision of the West’s undisputed global leadership was too ambitious; this new world order was interpreted by many as just the new world’s newest scheme by which to give orders. Understanding that its dream of a world society based on liberal values, democracy and a free-market spirit would be unattainable, the West soon succumbed to a defeatist notion of a new world disorder, ‘accepting’ that the ‘other’ does not think like ‘us’ – has not reached levels of civilisation and civil society similar to ‘ours’.

In this story of post-Cold War conceptual confusion, the war in and over Kosovo stands out as a particularly interesting episode. ‘Kosovo’ obviously is more than a conflict, fight, clash or war over territory: it has been a battle over ideas, identities and interests. ‘Kosovo’ has been marketed as a turning-point in the development towards a new kind of Western mentality, as well as the culmination of a liberal sense of humanitarian solidarity confined to Europe’s political space. Clearly, these events can also be read in a less positive manner, as testifying to Western arrogance, an over-reliance on the efficacy of high-technology and a lack of long-term visions and policies of peaceful engagement. But, however one wants to interpret ‘Kosovo’, it is certainly clear that political spin-doctors have been highly successful in selling this war/conflict, and that Western public opinion has been happy to buy the product/story.

What ‘Kosovo’ also offers is a template for academics, by which to test and taste a smorgasbord of new, often critical, ideas about European politics and security. Whereas some would label ‘Kosovo’ as politics-cum-war as usual, the vast majority (and certainly not a silent one, this time) seems to share the view that this event stands for ‘something different’. NATO’s war over Kosovo has called in question the orthodox understanding of what European security is all about. Perhaps appropriately, coming as it does at the beginning of a new millennium, ‘Kosovo’ testifies not only to the opening of a post-Westphalian era where aged notions such as sovereignty and territoriality have become uncertain, but to a potential post-Clausewitzian era in which ‘hard’ military power as the straightforward ‘continuation of politics by other means’ has proven to be ineffective, if not ultimately counterproductive. ‘Kosovo’ can therefore be called ‘the first European war of the twenty-first century’ (with the twentieth century ending in 1989), and seen as an example of how the West has been fumbling towards a new model of liberal order in Europe. ‘Kosovo’ symbolises and exemplifies the relevance of many ‘end’-debates and ‘post’-debates within the academic literature (i.e. the end of sovereignty, territoriality, geopolitics, modernity). The time perhaps is now right to provide an initial outline of the fuzzy borders of Europe’s new political order which ‘Kosovo’ has helped to shape.

This book emerged from a desire to contribute to the debate on how ‘Kosovo’ (as well as the discourse on ‘Kosovo’ itself) has affected our understanding of a number of key concepts in European and global politics. It is not our intention to provide the reader with an ‘unbiased’ and detailed, let alone definitive, account of what preceded the Kosovo war, how it has been conducted and why, and how the aftermath should be evaluated (with all the comfortable benefits that accompany hindsight). There are quite a number of published works that try to do just that. The Kosovo saga is an ongoing story with its own ups and downs, ranging from ethnic cleansing and alleged genocide in the spring of 1999, to a quasi-successful popular revolution in October 2000, and the election of a democratic government in Belgrade in December of that year. These events form, of course, the background of the papers collected here. But rather than to rehearse or take sides on the debate on ‘what really happened’, the essays in this volume take a different route through the theoretical minefield of ‘Kosovo’, carefully watching out for the scholarly detonators and the metaphysical boobytraps. They are all interested in questions that go beyond practical, policy-oriented, concerns which may help decision-makers in avoiding (or preparing for) the next security crisis in Europe.

Mapping European security starts by asking how experiences in Kosovo have changed the discourse of European security. All chapters are based on the assumption that the conventional political paradigm needs to be challenged through a series of critical variants, although they do not follow a single agreed-upon theoretical approach to which they could all subscribe. But instead of mainstream notions like anarchy, balance of power and statal interpretations of European politics, this book calls for a reconceptualisation of security and the inside–outside dyad through the introduction of new sets of puzzles that concentrate on issues of identity, culture, language and the normative notions of global politics. There are now numerous critical approaches to (European) politics and the study of international relations in which this book is conceptually embedded. Constructivism, critical theory, postmodernism and many a feminist approach have unveiled the hegemony of mainstream social sciences and offered different readings of current events, recent history and their theoretical implications.2

This book makes an attempt to provide new and stimulating perspectives on how ‘Kosovo’ has shaped European post-post-Cold War reality (and a possible new European order-of-sorts). It will, of course, be impossible to press all these critical voices within the covers of one volume, and we therefore have no intention of offering a complete overview. It is our aim to contribute to the insecurity of the field of security studies by sidelining the theoretical worldview that underlies mainstream strategic thinking on the Kosovo events. Most of the book’s contributions challenge the epistemological definition of the Kosovo game, arguing that we should be concerned both with the ‘Kosovo out there’ (i.e. far away in the exotic Balkans) and with the debate about what counts as security and how our definitions of security are shaped by various power/knowledge interests.3 Our concern with ‘Kosovo’ is not rooted in a desire to offer ‘problem-solving theory’. Rather, we are (as Ken Booth argued a decade earlier) interested in moving ‘thinking about security in world affairs . . . out of the almost exclusively realist framework into the critical philosophical camp’.4 Most contributors to this book have adopted such a critical approach by re-essentialising and deconstructing orthodox assumptions about the nature of European (and global) security without, however, necessarily offering their own redefinitions.

The political and intellectual insecurity brought about by ‘Kosovo’ has much to do with a rising culture of virtuality to which most authors in this volume pay tribute. The Gulf war, which, according to Baudrillard’s provocative statement, ‘never took place’, may still have been too far away in space and relevance.5 But, in Kosovo, Europe found itself for the first time in the midst of a virtual war, based on aggressive strategies of simulation which were more typical of the new world than of the old continent. The war, originating in the United States-led revolution in military affairs and automated warfare, has made unprecedented use of airpower, thus largely disregarding and bypassing territorial (read: ‘European’) space.6 On the ‘home front’, manipulation techniques of the media have alienated the audience from the ‘felt presence’ of war to the extent of turning ‘Kosovo’ into a media spectacle and a PR event. This has resulted in (what Walter Benjamin has called) the ‘aestheticisation of war’.7

In ‘Kosovo’, Europe has for the first time faced the increased independent agency – some would say the dominant role – of technology and the media in security matters, turning the war into a form of symbolic exchange and ‘European security’ into a simulacrum. A remarkable disregard by policy-makers and military planners of the ‘situation on the ground’ has made the entire territory of Kosovo and Serbia redundant for war fought out on computer monitors and TV screens, in the realm of high-technology and high politics. The missing referents of war have highlighted a more general problem, namely the missing referents of European security and the constructed, simulated nature of the new project of producing a more robust European identity.

Although it is frequently claimed that ‘Kosovo’ heralds a new era of humanitarian and ethical politics within Europe, most of the contributors to this volume are far from assured that a system is emerging that can serve as a new grounding for Europe’s political order. It is this quest for order and the mechanisms that are used by the West’s political and military elites that attract most attention here. The cult(ure) of security rests on accepted claims about the nature and limits of the established political order, and the role of politics in shaping and changing this order. ‘Kosovo’ has again illustrated these power mechanisms, although the swirl of European integration, globalisation and fragmentation has altered the character of some more familiar procedures.

Indeed, ‘Kosovo’ has illustrated how security has been used to secure European sovereignty and its institutions. After the single European currency, ‘security’ has become Europe’s next big ‘new idea’, although few have any clear understanding of how this new enterprise can/should be interpreted and realised. Perhaps by default, ‘security’ has become one of the keys tools for constructing Europe, a tool for claiming Europe’s essential foundations through fixing the boundaries between inside and outside and the claim to organise, occupy and administer Europe’s space. Mapping European security aims to investigate how ‘Kosovo’ has developed into this principal paradigmatic sign in the complex text of European security and asks how its very marginality has emphasised the unravelling fringes and limits of the sovereign presence of what ‘Europe’ thinks it stands for, and how it affects the discourse on European security.


The first two chapters of this volume offer a conceptual overview of the Kosovo debate, placing these events in the context of globalisation, European integration and the discourse of modernity and its aftermath. As its title suggests, the opening essay, by Sergei Medvedev, examines the latter aspect of ‘Kosovo’, interpreting it as a typical instance of late-modern decadence, a game of narcissism and simulation, resembling cultural paradigms of fin de siècle and the Untergang des Abendlandes. ‘Kosovo’ is an elusive phenomenon, evading the categorising discourses of modernity and postmodernity, sovereignty and integration, nationalism and transnationalism, realpolitik and idealpolitik, and other dichotomies. ‘Kosovo’ might have been advertised as heralding everything ‘new’, from ‘humanitarian intervention’ to the revolution in military affairs. Medvedev’s deconstruction aims to ruin the binary opposition of ‘old’ and ‘new’ in relation to Kosovo, and to interpret it as an omen of uncertainty and indecision, a symptom of decay and of the protracted crisis of modernity.

Medvedev displays the failure of the old–new paradigm to analyse the actors of the Kosovo story and their respective discourses. On the one hand, ‘Kosovo’ has introduced the new element of agency into European security, whereby the main actors and driving forces of the West’s war were not states, elites, bureaucracies or politicians, but means of communication – weapons and the media. He argues that Kosovo has ultimately blurred the distinction between weapons and the mass media. As ‘smart’ weapons started carrying on-board cameras, their purpose is transformed from destruction to entertainment. It was the media, in its military and journalistic guises, that produced and simulated the Kosovo war, which amounted to nothing more than a video-sequence, a computer game, a PR campaign, or at the very least a military parade, to be consumed by a (mainly) Western audience.

On the other hand, the ‘new’ discourse of European security that reveals itself through numerous media representations is in fact a traditional discourse of power akin to the Christian white man’s discourse that has guided Western colonisation for the last 500 years under the banner of morality. The popular rendering of ‘Kosovo’ as the ‘new’ NATO versus the ‘traditional nationalist’ Milosevic is therefore a simulated binarity, luring the Western audiences into a false choice, and into accepting NATO bombings as a ‘necessary evil’.

Peter van Ham has a different point of departure, arguing that the notion of ‘European security’ no longer follows the logic of representation (by which ‘security’ posits the state within legitimate boundaries), but now abides by a logic of simulation. Building upon the work of Cynthia Weber and Ole Wæver, he suggests that to tell stories about European security is to imply the very existence of ‘Europe’ as an object of reference. This is the alibi function of all discourses of European security, since to assume that ‘something’ is (possibly) threatened is to insist upon its very existence. ‘Kosovo’ and the European security discourse have discursively framed the diverse meanings of ‘Europe’, fixing its geopolitical boundaries by locating its practices and by speaking as if a stable European polity already exists. The ‘enemy’ of Europe’s volatile identity has been defined as the ‘unknown’, the ‘unpredictable’ and the ‘unstable’. The challenge for the EU has been to prevent a slow drift from a postmodern politics of diversity to a succumbing to the modern fear of fluidity and ambiguity.

‘Kosovo’ has been the ultimate marker of the strange-and-alien threatening contemporary European security by its ethnic and sectarian essentialism, its barbarian methods of ‘ethnic cleansing’, and its altogether premodern values, attitudes and practices. Van Ham suggests that by not accepting the rationales of European integration and European security, Milosevic’s Serbia posed itself as the main challenge to the emerging new European order (NEO), and, by ignoring the logic of NEO realism, raised the key question which European policy makers and theorists have tried to ignore: on what stable foundations can European security be constructed? He claims that the Kosovo experience illustrates that the discourse on ‘European security’ has changed, once and for all, and that the ‘signified’ of statal security no longer dominates. Van Ham therefore concludes that ‘Kosovo’ has been both the pretext and the ultimate context in which the contemporary reading of ‘European security’ is taking place.

These introductory chapters are followed by three chapters that examine Kosovo’s impact on the idea of war. War is not merely armed conflict; nor is it merely politics by other means. War is one of the key events that shape and legitimise states in their quest for sovereignty and power (both inside and outside their boundaries). Pertti Joenniemi asks whether NATO’s involvement in Kosovo was merely an ‘air operation’, a military intervention, or perhaps even an all-out war? He suggests that ‘Kosovo’ has played an instrumental role in changing the discourse on conflict within Europe, and that it signals a profound ontological clash by turning ‘war’ into an openly contested concept.

Joenniemi claims that ‘Kosovo’ has undermined one of modernity’s central referents and that war now has to be envisaged without its traditional conceptual baggage (e.g. sovereignty and statehood). His essay suggests that the events in Kosovo have offered us war in a new guise: it does not stand out as a normal state of affairs, but occurs as an exception and a stranger. War represents a form of discontinuity of politics-as-usual and is something unexpected and unique within a broader political setting characterised by the general absence of securitisation. Cooperation within an imagined ‘international community’ has now become the norm, whereas local conflicts are depicted as exceptions, conducted by ‘outlaws’, which are automatically subject to Western-mediated remedies and ‘normalisation’. Joenniemi claims that ‘Kosovo’ has been instrumental to the construction of a new doctrine of humanitarian intervention that is no longer ‘modern’ in the sense that it is not predicated on notions of sovereignty and a clear divide between inside/outside and friend/foe. Rather, he argues, it is premissed on ambivalence and ambiguity, caused by the blurring and transcendence of numerous political and conceptual boundaries, including the ones that are essential for the modern understanding of war.

Iver Neumann further investigates the claim of the West to have become the norm – and the only legitimate representative of ‘humanity’, thereby casting Serbia as the enemy not just of human rights but of ‘humanity’ as such. In exploring this claim, he goes to the origins of the notion of ‘securitisation’, citing the work of Carl Schmitt and several authors of the Copenhagen School (Barry Buzan, Ole Wæver). To their criteria of politicisation and securitisation, Neumann adds a category of ‘violisation’. In Kosovo, certain national identities were violised, but at the same time for the West, war became a legitimate violisation of politics.

The central point of Neumann’s chapter is the question of legitimacy: who can legitimately wage war, over which issues, and by what means? The answer to the first question in Kosovo was given in a legitimising speech act whereby the alliance of states appointed themselves as the representatives of humanity. As regards issues legitimising war, Neumann observes the late modern trend of replacing the left–right axis and the conflict of the classes by a national–post-national axis and the struggle between the local and the global. Liberal globalisation is left as the only political programme with a global appeal, and that is why ‘NATO could so easily . . . pose as the representative of humanity as such. There simply was no force around to issue a counter-claim.’

The identity-driven violisation of politics has added an ontological dimension to war, eliminating the Hegelian understanding of war (‘right against right’), and re-introducing the Catholic tradition of a ‘just war’. Neumann’s conclusions are unflattering for Western politicians, as he questions the morality of a no-own-losses war, which yields to the temptation of letting other people die instead. ‘Humanity’ was invoked in Kosovo as a political notion, a legal concept and, ultimately, as a speech act legitimising war and thereby replacing the legitimate warring state – but it has spectacularly failed, morally as well as politically, to legitimise the violence and death which followed its invocation. Neumann’s quest for a ‘political entity which may legitimately speak in the name of humanity’ has so far proved futile.

In fact, many, including Russia, China and most Third World countries, would see such a political entity to be embodied in the United Nations – and the UN Charter as the only source of legitimacy for the possible use of inter-state violence. For them, ‘Kosovo’ may have seemed an unfortunate occurrence in which the UN was sidelined by NATO. However, as Heikki Patomäki argues in his chapter, ‘Kosovo’ was not an exception but rather the rule, an episode in the longer-term process of the domestication and marginalisation of the UN by the United States, underpinned by Manichean myths of good and evil and rituals of enemy construction. His analysis contributes to the discussion of the implications of US hegemony, originating in the debates of the late 1970s and the 1980s on hegemonic stability.

Patomäki starts by reconstructing the US–UN conflict in the 1990s, analysing the deep structures of US foreign policy discourse, and formulating its four guiding principles: unchallenged global leadership; the moralising production of myths and construction of enemies; maximising the support of public opinion; and supporting the global expansion of corporate capitalism. His analysis is particularly incisive in describing the crude ethics communicated by the globalising media, which follows the logic of selective sensations and a hierarchical valuation of human lives. The Americans and the Europeans are the most valuable, and get the most coverage; however, ‘even poor and less valuable people can be covered if they die in large numbers in one spot at one time’. A particularly low value is attributed to ‘evil-doers’ in remote and unfamiliar places, whether presumed terrorists, fundamentalists or ethnic cleansers, who can be legitimately killed – indeed, they have to be killed in Western performative rituals of ‘realism’.

Patomäki arrives at rather pessimistic conclusions, with respect both to the United States and to the role of the UN. For characterising the US, he uses Karl Deutsch’s definition of ‘hard will’, which implies the ability to act ‘in character’, talking instead of listening. An ever-harder will on the part of the US and its increasingly ‘narrow power’ bring to mind the ‘torpedo run by a pre-destined and a potentially destructive programme’. The UN after Kosovo holds out equally little promise to the world, as the moral basis of its pluralism and its basic legal procedures have been undermined. There are few signs indicating that the US would allow for a rejuvenation, empowering, or democratising of the UN system. Patomäki’s radical proposal is to begin building a parallel and more efficient and more democratic global system than the UN, ‘at first perhaps in spite of the will of the US and its closest ally, the UK’.

Whereas the chapters by Joenniemi, Neumann and Patomäki explore ‘Kosovo’ as a product of the decay of modern institutions and discourses like sovereignty, statehood, the warring state or the UN system, the subsequent three contributions explore the symbolic economy of ‘Kosovo’, treating it as a mere representation, a sign in the contrived text of ‘Europe’. Informed by poststructuralist discourses, the contributions by Maja Zehfuss, Andreas Behnke and Mika Aaltola analyse the political implications of the crisis of representation, the virtualisation and visualisation of politics, and language games involved in enemy creation and identity construction.

First in this semiotic/linguistic cluster comes the chapter by Maja Zehfuss, looking into the political linguistics of Kosovo in a framework shaped by the texts of Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacques Derrida. She starts by observing a characteristic struggle over the name of Kosovo in the Western discourse: it could be the Serbian spelling of Kosovo, the Albanian spelling of Kosova, or the orthographic oddity ‘Kosov@’, a spelling suggested by the German Green Party in an attempt to avoid political partisanship inherent in the act of naming. This story attests to the fact that naming is a productive practice, an act of objectification, and eventually an act of assigning power positions: naming is empowering, and is therefore a political practice.

Moving on to poststructuralist ground, Zehfuss deconstructs the produced ‘reality’ of Kosovo, using Derrida’s critique of Western logocentrism. For Derrida, any ‘reality’ is signified, and signs which were supposed to merely supplement ‘reality’ came to replace it. Attributing any positive value to ‘facts of real life’, and placing them at the heart of our normative discourses, are therefore political moves. Following this logic, Zehfuss shows how the ‘reality of Kosovo’ was constructed in the Western discourses. The ‘real facts’ like the ‘genocide’, the ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ which served as a reason for Operation Allied Force, were supplemented by goals like upholding the credibility of NATO, ensuring the cohesion of the Alliance, and, more generally, the construction of a Western (‘European’) identity. However, in accordance with Derrida’s logic, ‘supplements’ came to replace what were pictured as the ‘real reasons’ for the operation. This was exemplified by the practice of high-altitude bombing, which aimed to preserve NATO’s cohesion, but ultimately exacerbated the plight of the refugees whom these bombs were supposed to protect in the first place.

In this sense, the claims of Western politicians – including former peace champions like the German Greens – that bombing was ‘demanded by reality’ were problematic since they posited ‘reality’ as something external to language. Zehfuss, instead, argues that ‘Kosovo’ was produced by the Western power discourse in the very act of naming, and in its numerous representations. In portraying Kosovo as an ‘inescapable reality’ and a no-other-choice situation, the West has in fact relieved itself of all responsibility for fellow humans.

Following Zehfuss’s critique of the politics of the sign, Andreas Behnke proceeds to deconstruct the politics of the image. ‘Kosovo’ has been NATO’s first virtual war using high-tech military equipment and computers to visualise the bombing raids (in the familiar ‘before-and-after’ pictures used during NATO’s daily press briefing). Behnke asks how this ‘virtual Kosovo’ has affected NATO’s policies as well as the public reaction to the war in general. He concerns himself with the ‘virtualised’ nature of the conflict and its representation in a virtual system of signifiers. Operation Allied Force has been part of a wider campaign in which the crucial battleground is the delocalised world of information networks, TV-screens, newspaper-articles and internet sites. It is on these grounds that the battles over legitimacy, effectiveness and consequences have been fought.

Behnke maintains that NATO’s claim to represent a superior ‘community of values’ has been used to authorise the Alliance’s exercise of military force against other, ‘lesser’, states. NATO has presented itself as an agent with a humanitarian purpose and almost untouchable moral values, untainted by politics, power and persuasion, attributes which have now been replaced by concepts such as morality, authority and force. In this sense, Behnke claims, NATO has conducted an epistemic war to secure its privileged moral status, fighting against the systemic anarchy of the international system and the inherent ambivalence and undecidability that necessitates (and even demands) the political designation of identity. By analysing the presentation of the Kosovo war on NATO’s website, using images, narratives and videos, Behnke opens a new theoretical perspective on the visual/virtual side of the conflict.

In the last of three contributions on semiology, Mika Aaltola sees the events of ‘Kosovo’ as part of a long history of language games in relation to war, belonging and identity. He argues that the West has looked at the atrocities which have taken place in Kosovo as something fascinating and horrifying, events that by their exceptionality were testing and defying the moral order to be found ‘at home’. Aaltola claims that it is at the periphery of the known world that the realm of marvels and wonders seems to begin. It is this world of ‘magic’ – the radically strange and bizarre – that is of interest to him in understanding what ‘Kosovo’ is all about. He argues that the periphery of (international) reality always has an inherently ‘magical flavour’ to it, mainly because it offers a template for understanding that element of global politics which deals with the art of producing and maintaining marvellous, striking and at times also surprising phenomena by ritualistic/performative methods.

For Aaltola, ‘magic’ implies a strong sense of forcefulness behind explicit words. In the case of ‘Kosovo’, the violence that was used was therefore not only the exercise of military force, but the (mainly rhetorical) sources of power themselves. During the Kosovo war, the spectrum of these ‘divine’ words (used by both sides) included ‘freedom’, ‘liberty’, ‘hope’, ‘peace’ and ‘unity’. He argues that by their incessant repetition (with only marginal variation), these concepts have been sublimated and have acquired a powerful character reminiscent to the ‘spirits’ of medieval times. By drawing upon classical texts by Plato, Aristotle and Giordano Bruno, as well as by Wittgenstein, Aaltola makes it clear that ‘Kosovo’ has invoked a language game that has been essential to the creation of a legitimate political order in Europe.

This is the theme which Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen takes as the starting-point of his chapter, namely how the Kosovo war has informed us on the relevance of modish concepts such as identity and civilisation, and how the use of force can be instrumental in the construction of government in terms of civil society. Rasmussen links the public discourse on NATO’s actions in Kosovo with philosophical traditions such as the Scottish Enlightenment (and the writings of Adam Ferguson in particular), the work of Kant (and his conception of the pacific federation of liberal governments as the cosmopolitan purpose of history) and the recent debate on the role of civilisation introduced by Huntington. European politicians have frequently argued that NATO was using force against Belgrade to secure Western civilisation. But, using Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’, Rasmussen suggests that we can better understand the notion of civilisation as the manifestation, rather than the explanation, of the West’s construction of appropriate government in post-Cold War Europe. Therefore, NATO’s war over Kosovo has illustrated the dominant belief in the West that the bombing campaign was de facto enforcing Kant’s idea of a ‘cosmopolitan system of general political security’.

As several other contributors to this book have argued, Rasmussen suggests that ‘Kosovo’ has helped to construct the nascent ‘European identity’, mainly in reference to the notion of cosmopolitan integration. Quoting the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he suggests that the emerging definition of Western governmentality is captured under the heading of globalisation. This is illustrated by the fact that, during the war, the West could no longer define itself as a community of nation states, but that the very governmentality of the Western states had acquired a cosmopolitan nature. ‘Kosovo’ can therefore be considered in terms of the globalisation of domestic politics, an ongoing process that replaces the old rules of power politics with the novel convention of cosmopolitan community. To the West, both ‘Kosovo’ and the deepening of globalisation may be considered as proof that history is coming to an end and that a cosmopolitan system is emerging.

Globalisation is also a leitmotif for the final chapter in the volume, by Christoph Zürcher. He likens ‘Kosovo’ to Russia’s war in Chechnya as two archetypal conflicts in a globalising world, involving three types of interdependent actors: nation states; identity groups; and international regimes. He explores the claims, rights and capacities of each of these actors. The similarities between the two conflicts range from their background – the institutional legacy of the socialist ethno-federations – to the new type of violence that likens Kosovo and Chechnya to many of the conflicts in Africa and Latin America in the 1990s. Zürcher quotes Mary Kaldor in calling this phenomenon ‘new war’, a type of organised violence that blurs the distinction between war, organised crime and large-scale violation of human rights. According to Zürcher, such conflicts share at least four common features: they involve identity groups and the state; the states involved are weak or virtually absent; the conflicts lead to the emergence of ‘markets of violence’ on which a few ‘entrepreneurs of violence’ engage in an economy of war, blurring the border between legal economy, organised crime and warfare; finally, these conflicts, and the actors, are embedded in transnational networks of images, resources and politics, linking the local wars with the globalising world.

Analysing the interventions by NATO in Kosovo and by Russia in Chechnya, Zürcher observes a remarkable lack of traditional Realist interests. Neither NATO nor the Russian federation went to war because its survival was actually threatened, or because of the relative gains to be made. Rather, both wars were supposed to cater to the expectations of domestic audiences, propping up the respective identity projects of ‘European security’ and ‘Russian revival’ under Putin, while at the same time ‘sending the right message’ to the opponent and to the world at large. As Zürcher succinctly puts it, ‘winning these wars not only meant to outgun the enemy – it meant above all “selling” the conflict to the consumer, i.e. having the monopoly of interpretation’. This has been made all the easier by the blurred chain of command, and by what Zürcher describes as a lack of democratic control mechanisms in Russia as well as in NATO.

Into the unknown

Probably the most unfortunate similarity between Kosovo and Chechnya is that, although the high-intensity military phase is over, both conflicts are a long way from a lasting solution. In Kosovo, the tremendous war effort – at almost $1 billion a day, not to mention the $40 billion worth of damage to the Yugoslav economy – stands in stark contrast to the paltry results on the ground. Serb security forces have evacuated the province but remain essentially undefeated. Pictures on TV showed an orderly retreat of armed men, displaying Serb flags and V-signs. This army still has a potential use in oppressing dissent within Serbia or in waging an assault against Montenegro. Inside the province, the ending of the conflict has left Kosovo with what promises to be an indefinite and significant garrison of NATO-led troops, the KFOR; while the UN civil administration (UNMIK) is under-resourced. Though diplomats do not like to openly admit it, the ‘international community’ has established a strange kind of power-sharing arrangement in Kosovo between the UN and NATO, on the one hand, and the heirs of the KLA, including illegal guerrilla groups, on the other.8

Against the background of an expeditious return of over 800,000 Kosovar refugees – which should be rightly considered a major success of KFOR and UNMIK – the province has been cleansed of 230,000 Kosovo Serbs, Roma and other minorities (a UN estimate). Hundreds of Serbs are reported to have been killed or to be missing, while revenge attacks, ethnically motivated murders, bombings and arson have driven the vast majority of the remaining Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo into enclaves guarded by KFOR.

Of course, things have dramatically changed in Yugoslavia in the last months of the year 2000. Milosevic was defeated in the Yugoslav federal presidential elections in September; his refusal to accept the result led to the popular uprising on 5 October that brought to power the election winner Vojislav Kostunica. This was again followed by a landslide victory for Kostunica’s Democratic Opposition of Serbia in the parliamentary elections on 24 December 2000, and the appointment of veteran opposition leader Zoran Djindjic as new prime minister. Milosevic has now left the political scene, and thus one of the NATO’s main objectives (‘We stay until Milosevic goes’), has been met. However, the irony of the situation is that finding a solution for Kosovo has become an even more complicated task, much more so than at the times of the straightforward ‘the world v. Milosevic’ stand-off. With a new and more legitimate government in Belgrade, Kosovo’s hope for independence is weaker than in 1999–2000. No one seems to have a clear idea about Kosovo’s future, and, like Bosnia, it is bound to remain a Western protectorate for many years to come. As Tim Judah has warned, in the long run, frustration over this contradiction could lead Kosovo Albanians into conflict with UNMIK and KFOR, if they come to be seen as occupiers.9

The insecurity in Kosovo is merely an episode in the wider security crisis faced by the West, the crisis of security referents, institutions and discourses. As happened so often in the 1990s, the invocation of the spirits of security, along with traditional mechanisms of power and Realist thinking, has proved ineffective. ‘Kosovo’ resists a solution purely in terms of security by a Foucauldian ‘discipline and punish’. The question remains whether Europe will be able to learn from this failure and start to doubt the relevance of traditional thinking about security for the European project. ‘Kosovo’ has introduced new overtones into the European Weltanschauung and the ways in which ‘Europe’ asserts itself as an independent power discourse in a globalising world: increasingly diffident, looking for firm foundations in the conceptual void of the turn of the century.

Europe’s security is back by popular demand, although it may just be an attempt to conceal the growing security gap and the increasing uncertainty of Europe in a world of late modernity. It is precisely the insecurity brought about by ‘Kosovo’ that makes military planners long for the strategic clarity of East–West confrontation; makes politicians yearn for the simplicity of Cold War zero-sum games; and makes academics repeat ‘magic incantations’ of security, relapsing into talk about the end of the Cold War twelve years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Peter van Ham and Sergei Medvedev

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Hague


The editors would like to acknowledge the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies for the opportunity to put this book together. The opinions expressed in this book are those of the individual authors, and all the usual caveats apply.
1 Robert Kaplan, ‘The Coming Anarchy’, The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 273, no. 2 (February 1994); Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy, ‘Must it Be the West Against the Rest?’, The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 274, no. 6 (December 1994); and Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1996).
2 Ronnie Lipschutz (ed.), On Security (New York, Columbia University Press, 1995); Richard Wyn Jones, ‘ “Travel Without Maps”: Thinking About Security After the Cold War’, in M. Jane Davis (ed.), Security Issues in the Post-Cold War World (Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 1996); Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams (eds), Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1997).
3 Ronnie D. Lipschutz, ‘The Insecurity Dilemma’, in Lipschutz (ed.), After Authority: War, Peace, and Global Politics in the 21st Century (Albany, NY, State University of New York Press, 2000); Steve Smith, ‘The Increasing Insecurity of Security Studies: Conceptualizing Security in the Last Twenty Years’, Contemporary Security Studies, vol. 20, no. 3 (December 1999); and Bill McSweeney, ‘The Meaning of Security’, in McSweeney (ed.), Security, Identity and Interests: A Sociology of International Relations (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999).
4 Ken Booth, ‘Security and Emancipation’, Review of International Studies, vol. 17, no. 4 (October 1991), p. 321.
5 Jean Baudrillard, La guerre du golfe n’a eu pas lieu (Paris, Galilée, 1991).
6 CTHEORY interview with Paul Virilio, ‘The Kosovo War Took Place in Orbital Space’: Paul Virilio in conversation with John Armitage, available: (accessed 28 December 2000).
7 Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Benjamin, Illuminations. Essays and Reflections, Edited and with an Introduction by Hannah Arendt (New York, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968).
8 Jonathan Marcus, ‘NATO’s Incomplete Victory’, BBC World News, 14 March 2000, available: (accessed 3 January 2001).
9 Tim Judah, ‘Kosovo One Year On’, BBC World News, 16 March 2000, available: (accessed 3 January 2001).
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