Courtesy Reuters

Kosovo Seething

ORDINARY PEOPLE

During February's ethnic killings in Mitrovica, a divided town in northern Kosovo, the local NATO commander blamed militants on both sides for fomenting the violence that left 11 civilians dead. A handful of radicals, he warned, were poisoning relations between average Serbs and Albanians.

"There are extremists who want the peace to fail," French General Pierre de Saqui de Sannes told The New York Times. "I am worried that we may be in the process of an escalation of intolerance."

But the events that the general went on to describe suggest that widespread support for the attacks exists among ordinary Albanians and Serbs -- not just extremists. An elderly Albanian woman had been caught concealing a Kalashnikov rifle under her skirts, and an Albanian ambulance had tried to smuggle 180 grenades and antitank rockets into the divided city. Earlier, after rocket and grenade attacks on a Serb bus and a cafe, hundreds of Serbs rampaged through the city, killing eight Albanians. A stone-hurling Serb mob then forced American soldiers searching for weapons to beat a hasty and embarrassing retreat.

The general's comments cut to the heart of the troubled NATO and U.N. mission in Kosovo. Can the current policy -- quelling extremists on both sides, a quick infusion of resources, and municipal elections -- calm the province? Or are Kosovo's problems and hatreds so endemic that the international mission should either end immediately or shift to a large-scale, long-term effort?

Whether or not one agreed with NATO's bombing last spring, it is clear that the Clinton administration and its European allies must now bolster their efforts in Kosovo. One year on, NATO's largest-ever military intervention appears to be creating a "new Kosovo" that is the polar opposite of the alliance's stated goals. The province remains widely corrupt, lawless, intolerant of both ethnic and political minorities, and a source of instability. The mission in Kosovo is proving even more daunting than the one in nearby Bosnia.

Although extremists on both sides

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