Morgenthau Lectures (1981–2006): Kosovo: An Assessment in the Context of International Law

May 12, 2000

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Summary

"Dayton was a watershed event for Kosovo, because Kosovo wasn't even mentioned." In the Carnegie Council's 19th Morgenthau Memorial Lecture on Ethics and Foreign Policy, South African jurist Richard J. Goldstone, co-chairman of the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo, traced the troubled history of the Albanian province of Kosovo after it was incorporated into the new Yugoslavia in 1945. Asserting that President Slobodan Milosevic would not have been at Dayton if Kosovo had been on the agenda, Goldstone reviewed the events that led to failed diplomacy at Rambouillet, 78 days of NATO airstrikes against Milosevic's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the compromise that left Kosovo still a province of Yugoslavia but one with considerable autonomy under the protection of the United Nations.

Addressing the legality of the military intervention, Goldstone stated that while it clearly constituted a breach of the UN Charter, the charter may need revision. When it was created, the UN had fewer than 50 members; now, with almost 200 member states, there are still only five permanent members of the Security Council. This lopsided power structure raises the danger that groups will try to bypass the Security Council, as NATO did in Kosovo. The NATO intervention set too important a precedent for it to be regarded as an aberration, said Goldstone. Rather, it represents the redefinition of state sovereignty as a result of globalization and newly powerful notions of human rights.

As an example of the diffusion of sovereignty, Goldstone made particular mention of the International Criminal Court (ICC): "The irony, and perhaps the greatness, of the United States is that, notwithstanding the attitude of Senator Jesse Helms and the administration, there are enough people in this country who respect the rights of individuals and who stand by the morality of the United States and are pushing for the establishment of the ICC. My prophecy is that it will come into being in two to four years."

In conclusion, Goldstone stressed the importance of objective analyses of human rights abuses. The international community should pay more attention to early warnings. Problems such as those of the Kosovo Albanians should be addressed before military intervention, always a last resort, becomes necessary.

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