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 clearly exacerbate tensions, dozens of interviews with average Serbs and Albanians suggest that the problems run far deeper. After ten years of political repression and conflict in Kosovo, there is scant evidence of, or experience with, the rule of law, political moderation, ethnic tolerance, or civil society.

The current middling policies -- which involve U.N. rule by consensus, an understaffed criminal justice system, and inconsistent economic aid -- are a recipe for quagmire. Western capitals must not minimize the province's deep-rooted problems. The key to stabilizing Kosovo does not lie in political gestures, rushed elections, or short-term steps that keep the province out of the headlines.

The solution will be much more difficult. It requires a firm commitment to a politically aggressive, properly funded, long-term mission that uses the rule of law and economic reform to affect the lives, livelihoods, safety, and, to the extent possible, views of average Albanians and Serbs. Changing the destructive aspects of ordinary people's attitudes is both the most pivotal and the most daunting task the NATO and U.N. missions face in Kosovo.

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH

Just how the conflict has transformed the lives and attitudes of average people in Kosovo is illustrated by the village of Slovinje and the story of Hysen Krasniqi.

On April 15th, 1999, the 74-year-old farmer and his 34-year-old son, Gafur (an unemployed miner), loaded up their tractor with food and clothing. Until that morning, their bucolic village of 500 Albanian and 60 Serb families in eastern Kosovo had stood as an island of relative ethnic tolerance. There had been no fighting in the area between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serb police or soldiers. Local Serbs spoke fluent Albanian -- an unusual trait among Serbs -- and generally got along cordially with their Albanian neighbors.

On the night of April 14, local Serb leaders had informed Albanians that six tanks would be brought into the village the following morning to hide from NATO jets. The tanks entered the village as planned but were accompanied by Serb soldiers, police, and paramilitaries. At 1:30 p.m., shots rang out, and smoke and flames appeared in the northern section of the village. Hearing the shooting, the elder Krasniqi and his son hurriedly loaded their family onto the tractor. According to Krasniqi, as they drove out of the village they met two uniformed Serbs toting Kalashnikov rifles. One wore a ski mask. Krasniqi said his son told him, "Father, I know him: they're from Slovinje."

The Serb without the mask ordered them to halt, checked the son's identification papers, and handed them back. But before they could continue, the masked Serb barked, "Take him off the tractor and kill him." Without uttering a sound, Gafur climbed down and was led into an adjacent garage. A burst of gunfire erupted. In shock, his father slid behind the wheel of the tractor and drove what remained of his family out of the village.

All told, Serbs in Slovinje reportedly killed at least 35 Albanian men and women in the two-day frenzy. Two months later, with NATO forces streaming into Kosovo, 30 British soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment arrived in the village. Backed by helicopter gunships, experience in Northern Ireland, and Western rhetoric about the rule of law, the unit and its boyish 26-year-old commander, Lieutenant Graham Shannon, would try to hold Slovinje together as hundreds of embittered Albanians returned to confront the destruction -- and their Serb neighbors.

Incensed Albanians soon produced lists with the names of nine local Serbs they said were involved in the killings. Although some of these Serbs had been masked, victims insisted that they could identify them by their voices and mannerisms. The 30 Serb families still in Slovinje, however, insisted that they were innocent.

A day after the arrival of the British, Zoran Stanisic, a 20-year-old Serb, was kidnapped while driving a tractor home. His father, Milenko, a soft-spoken 54-year-old man who grew up in Slovinje and spoke fluent Albanian, stormed into the yard of his Albanian neighbors of 20 years, accused them of complicity, and threatened to kill the entire family. Sherife Bytiqi, 48, who had just returned from a refugee camp in Macedonia and denied involvement, broke into tears and begged the NATO troops for protection. Shannon told her he had too few soldiers to provide individual guards and ordered the longtime neighbors to stay away from each other.

Stanisic insisted that he had been good to local Albanians, bringing them tea after they fled to the woods. For their part, Slovinje's Albanians admitted that they had no information linking the Serb family to local atrocities. But they speculated that the Stanisic may have committed crimes in a different village, and that Albanians from that place had now taken revenge.

Five days later, with Albanian threats and looting continuing despite British foot patrols, the Stanisics became the last Serb family to flee the village. With a tractor loaded with food, clothes, and furniture, their flight mirrored that of their Albanian neighbors months earlier.

By winter the number of NATO troops in Slovinje had more than doubled -- but there was no peace for them to keep. The Serb quarter of the village, which includes the Stanisic home, is a charred and gutted ruin. The town's fourteenth-century Serbian Orthodox church has been dynamited. Slovinje's Serbs now live nearby in all-Serb enclaves where youths stone Albanian cars that drive past. Other than a lone Serb detained by Shannon's troops, no one has been arrested for the killings.

Stanisic 's Albanian neighbors said that his kidnapped son remains missing. When asked, they said that the burning of his house troubled them -- not because they felt it was wrong, but because they feared that flying sparks might ignite their own home. Their biggest concern, however, was the lack of jobs in Kosovo.

Krasniqi, the Albanian whose son was pulled from the tractor and executed, says the two groups could never live together again. "How could I want them to stay here when they killed my son?" he asked, puzzled by the thought. He added that local Serbs are worse than those from Serbia proper. Instead of protecting their Albanian neighbors, Serbs from Kosovo facilitated their deaths. "They had a choice," he said, voicing a criticism both sides level at each other. "But they wanted to do it and they did it."

Even if the two men who killed his son were punished for their crimes, Krasniqi said, their relatives should not be allowed to return. "The people who did that have family. They are responsible too," he explained, hinting at the lingering influence of traditional Albanian blood feuds. This outlawed practice, which was gradually reduced under longtime Yugoslav President Tito and halted by Albanians during their struggle against President Slobodan Milosevc, holds all male members of a family responsible for one member's actions and typically requires the killing of a family member to be avenged. Later, Krasniqi added, "It's not only these two people and their families who are responsible. It is all the Serbs from Slovijne."

Such views echo those expressed by Albanians and Serbs in other villages and towns. The concept of individualized guilt remains alien in Kosovo. Most Serbs and Albanians whom I interviewed roundly denounced all members of the opposing ethnic group, making little distinction between how individuals acted during the conflict. The lack of arrests on both sides only complicated efforts to assign individual blame.

Krasniqi and other Albanians did add one caveat that showed a potential for change, however. Illustrating the strength of clan or community ties over individual concerns in rural Albanian culture, they said that if all of their fellow villagers agreed that Serbs could return to Slovinje, they would consent -- no matter what their own feelings.

REVENGE UNBOUND

One of the most visible shortcomings of the international mission has been its inability to halt the reverse ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. Estimates vary widely, but as many as 125,000 of the roughly 200,000 Serbs who lived in Kosovo before the NATO bombing have fled or been driven out. Gypsies, Turks, and Muslim Slavs (known as Goranis), some of whom collaborated with Serb forces, have also been the subject of widespread and indiscriminate attacks. But the Albanian revenge killings, while deplorable, are not equivalent to the preceding Serb campaign. The number of Albanians killed during the NATO bombing is now estimated at 7,000, which vastly outnumbers the 400-500 Serbs NATO calculates have been slain by Albanians in turn. (Serbs themselves put the total at 1,000 Serbs dead or missing.)

But the attacks remain appalling. Albanian leaders -- particularly Hashim Thaçi, the former leader of the KLA -- appeared at first to condone the bloodshed. According to international monitors, some units of the KLA appear to have carried out killings designed to terrorize Serbs into fleeing. And average Albanians have generally refused to aid U.N. police investigations into Serb deaths, suggesting either complicity, support, or fear of retaliation from nationalists.

The worst unsolved attacks include the killing of a Bulgarian U.N. worker who had dared speak Serbian on the streets of Priystina last September. In December, a mob celebrating Albanian independence beat and shot dead a Serb professor -- a Fulbright scholar who once taught at the University of California at Berkeley. The professor's 50-year-old wife and 83-year-old mother were so severely beaten in the attack that they suffered broken ribs, arms, and noses, punctured lungs, and concussions, among other injuries. And in February, a Serb doctor and leading political moderate who worked with the U.N. was murdered on the streets of Gnjilane, the second-largest town in American-patrolled southeastern Kosovo.

Despite the international presence, Albanian nationalists today seem emboldened while moderates appear cowed. An unreleased public-opinion survey of Kosovar Albanians conducted last October by the U.S. State Department illustrated the depth of the animosity. Of those surveyed, 91 percent said there had been too much damage in Kosovo for ethnic Albanians and Serbs to live together peacefully. Two-thirds said that Serbs who had left Kosovo should never be allowed to return. Questioned about revenge attacks, 71 percent of Albanians blamed the killings on Serb security forces or civilians. Only 9 percent felt that Albanians were responsible. More than half of Kosovar Albanians said they believed that violence against Serbs was justified, and only 38 percent disagreed.

Serb participation and attitudes, for their part, appear no better. Ilija Trajkovic, a 48-year-old Serb bus driver whose home in Priÿstina is guarded 24 hours a day by British troops, blamed paramilitaries from Serbia for the worst anti-Albanian violence during the NATO bombing. But he was blunt about the sentiment among his Serb neighbors. "When this all started, there was no will among our people to stop it," he said. When asked which Serbs looted their Albanian neighbors' homes, he answered, "Whoever could."

But Trajkovic, like others, blamed leaders for the violence, particularly Slobodan Milosevic and Bill Clinton -- not individuals. Voicing a fatalism and passivity expressed by many in Kosovo, he said that the province's future rests in the hands of a few politicians, not its people. "For a simple worker, it's not important who is in the government," Trajkovic said. "It's important to work and do his job."

SHADES OF GRAY

Amid the seemingly monolithic hostility in Kosovo, nuance does exist. There are examples, albeit few, of the potential for change and restraint. In the town of Stimlje, for example, where 12 Albanians were killed during the NATO bombing and a half-dozen Serbs died in revenge attacks, a moderate Serb and an Albanian have protected each other from nationalists. And the Serb's 13-year-old son saved the life of an Albanian boy nearly killed by a drunken Serb paramilitary.

Meanwhile, the industriousness of many Kosovar Albanians has turned out to be one of the strongest assets in the struggle to reconstruct the province. The work of middle-class Albanians and the vast amount of capital pouring in from the Albanian diaspora are rebuilding parts of Kosovo faster than are some of the international programs. Many middle-class Albanian professionals, particularly in Pristina, exhibit a strong desire for change. They said that intolerance and violence have had broader social repercussions and hurt Kosovo's political development and international reputation. They complained that mass expulsions last spring and the subsequent lawlessness have also left traditionally conservative Kosovar social structures and mores in tatters.

Many Kosovars are disgusted with the lawlessness that has spread in the province, which some blame on the arrival of criminals and gangs from northern Albania. Murder, car theft, and other crimes are common. This winter, young Albanian women in Pristina feared venturing out at night, due to rumors that gangsters were kidnapping girls, shipping them to Italy, and forcing them into prostitution.

The desire for order among Albanians is growing. But donor nations have so far provided only half of a requested 4,700-member U.N. police force. And with a critical shortage of international prosecutors and judges, there is no effective court or prison system in Kosovo. According to frustrated NATO officials, suspects arrested for crimes, including the murder of Serbs, have been released after a night or less in jail. The cycle of impunity continues.

On the political level, the cause that once unified Albanians -- their struggle against Belgrade -- has largely disappeared. The Democratic League of Kosovo, the group headed by Ibrahim Rugova that ran the shadow government during the Serb crackdown, remains popular but disorganized. And the KLA itself has splintered into various groups -- some criminal, others not. Moderates complain that the threat of violence is distorting Kosovo's political scene. Last November, a local leader of the Democratic League was kidnapped in broad daylight and later found dead in the Drenica region, a KLA stronghold.

Despite efforts at self-policing, several Albanian media outlets continue to fuel political extremism and anti-Serb sentiment. In August, Kosova Press, a news agency with ties to the KLA, issued a veiled death threat to Veton Surroi and Baton Haxhiu, the founder and editor, respectively, of Koha Ditore, the province's leading independent newspaper, after they criticized Albanian revenge attacks. U.N. administrators enacted a new hate-speech law on February 1, but it addresses only attacks on groups, not individuals. Since the law passed, several Albanian newspapers have published the names, home addresses, and workplaces of Serbs they purport to be war criminals -- incendiary accusations in an atmosphere of reprisal.

Moderate Albanian journalists say that the culture of violence that arose during the conflict has warped Kosovar society. "The level of intolerance is now not only against the Serbs and other ethnic minorities," said Blerim Shala, editor of the weekly magazine Zeri and an Albanian representative at the Rambouillet peace talks. "It is now against minority political views."

Surroi and Shala argue that a series of policy reforms from the top -- far more aggressive police enforcement, a functioning court system, an interim national-unity government, war crimes trials, an independent media, a new education system, and other measures -- could create an ethnically tolerant Kosovo with a Serb minority. Time, political independence, Western aid, and a long-term NATO presence will stabilize the province, they argue.

Father Sava, a 33-year-old moderate Serbian Orthodox priest who lives in a monastery under NATO protection in the town of Gracanica, echoes their statements. Sava, who protected Albanians in his church during the NATO bombing, was the first Serb official to admit widespread Serb participation in the attacks and to partially apologize.

Average Albanians, he says, are now doing what Serbs have done. "Unfortunately, the majority are like a herd," he said. "They follow what the leader says." Sava says that four decades of communism and a decade of conflict have left many people with a mentality that combines fatalism, corruption, and a sense of entitlement. Average people angrily complain when they do not receive aid, Sava says, yet they have no faith in their own ability to affect the larger political system. Corruption is rife. "Everyone is trying to steal something from the state, not help it," he complained.

Sava blames the ferocity of the Serb attacks on inat, a Serbo-Croatian word roughly translated as "extreme spite." "It's just Balkan spite -- the destruction of the old town in Djakovica and the market in Pec," he said, citing two of the worst examples of the Serb rampage. "It's, 'I'm going to destroy whatever means the most to them.'"

The moderates, whose views clearly are not shared by the majority, said that centuries of strong-arm rule by the Ottoman Turks and Tito led people in the Balkans to instinctively respect authority and to follow strong leaders. If Western officials would take a firmer tack, they argue, Kosovo might be transformed more quickly.

"The U.N. is not administering Kosovo," Surroi said. "Now, no one is running it."

CAN DO

The effort by American soldiers to calm the small, ethnically mixed village of Pones in southeastern Kosovo illustrates the complex realities of such an approach. Located in a part of Kosovo where violence against Albanians was relatively modest (two Albanians were killed during the NATO bombing and no homes were burnt), the village appears ripe for change.

After American troops arrived in the area in June, five Serbs were murdered in revenge attacks, including two elderly men shot while tending their fields. But once American soldiers posted a 24-hour guard in the village -- escorting Serbs to their fields or on shopping trips -- the murders ceased.

Serbs and Albanians were pressured into repairing and reopening the local schoolhouse -- one of the few places where the two sides mixed. Under the watchful eyes of U.S. soldiers, the schoolhouse has returned to the status quo before the 1989 Serbian crackdown. Serb and Albanian children now go to the same building, but attend separate classes in their own languages.

Some villagers who fled to Serbia proper last summer have quietly come back, part of a trickle of refugees returning to American-patrolled southeastern Kosovo. But progress is slow in coming. Witness a weekly meeting conducted in the cramped schoolhouse by Texas-born First Sergeant William Burns, a 35-year-old American soldier trying to hold Pones together. Burns, who conducts himself like a sheriff, diplomat, and aid worker rolled into one, personifies the get-tough, take-responsibility approach favored by moderates.

Burns opened the meeting with a series of rapid-fire questions to Alexander Ristic, a 37-year-old leader of the village's Serbs. Local Albanian leaders had refused to attend, saying they would not meet with Serb "war criminals." An Albanian teacher who did not live in Pones served as their representative.

Burns asked Ristic, "Did you get the seed and store it?"

"Four men from your town applied for jobs in Glama," he continued.

"There are more? How many more?"

Glama is a local quarry where American soldiers tried to enforce a crude form of affirmative action. U.N. administrators, who technically control the quarry and all other formerly state-run enterprises in Kosovo, reserved 30 percent of the jobs at Glama for local Serbs. American soldiers provided security during the tense job interviews that followed.

Ristic complained that the U.N. was still not providing the Serbs with enough jobs in the quarry, which was run by a former KLA commander. Burns cut him off. "There is no way it's going to be back to the way it was. You're not going to have Serbs with 80 percent of the jobs," he bluntly said. "You are the minority here" -- a reference to Kosovo's over 90 percent Albanian majority.

After warning the Serbs that Albanians might try to kill them on the job, Burns announced that an Albanian suspected of carrying out revenge attacks had been arrested. "He confessed to the whole thing after about four hours of interrogation," he said, quickly adding, "When I say interrogation, we're just talking, not beating people."

The Serbs said they were thankful but complained that the arrest had taken too long. Burns changed the subject again, announcing that American soldiers had shot dead a gunman who had fired on one of their posts the previous night. He urged Ristic to try to calm local Serb radicals. Ignoring the comment, Ristic complained again about the slow delivery of humanitarian aid.

Seemingly unfazed, the dogged sergeant then shifted into management-consultant mode, telling Ristic to have three "agenda items" ready before each meeting with U.N., NATO, or aid officials. "When you get those people here you have to ask them direct questions," he said. "Hold their feet to the fire!"

After hearing more complaints, Burns, whose unit would soon rotate out of Kosovo, gave a final pep talk. "We've come a long way in five months. I remember a time when there were killings every day. I remember a time when my soldiers were under fire," he said. "But now we're talking to each other. There are Albanians standing in this room talking. It ain't where we want it to be, but it's a whole lot better."

After the meeting, Burns admitted that although U.S. troops had fired at a gunman the previous night, they had not hit anyone. And he was philosophical about the long-term success of his mission. The sergeant, who has one white parent and one black one, said that the hatred he saw in Kosovo reminded him of "racism in its most basic form" in the United States. Decades of communism and conflict, he said, had left some Albanians and many Serbs ill prepared for a rapid shift to Western norms. "They don't understand democracy. They just look at you like you're crazy," he said. "They're like, 'When are you going to come rebuild our country?' I'm like, 'When are you going to roll up your sleeves?'"

GETTING AGGRESSIVE

For the last decade, the primary goal of Western policy in the Balkans has been to contain violence and instability. Limited diplomatic, economic, and political efforts have been made in the former Yugoslav republics to pressure and remove nationalist leaders -- at least where this could be done without endangering NATO troops.

Clinton administration officials tend to publicly minimize the problems in Kosovo and argue that the pacification of extremists, additional European troops and resources, and municipal elections will stabilize the province. But some skeptical members of Congress want U.S. forces out. Others talk of granting Kosovo full independence or negotiating an ethnic partition.

But all these policies, as well as the status quo, are recipes for continued instability. Whereas congressional Republicans may overstate the province's troubles, administration officials, intentionally or unintentionally, underplay them.

Kosovo is not ready for independence. Pernicious influences from northern Albania -- organized crime, political intimidation, and lawlessness -- are threatening to take root. Albanians continue to attack Serbs at will. And in a particularly alarming move, a small group of Albanian guerrillas is now vowing to "liberate" a portion of southern Serbia, while Mitrovica continues to simmer.

Even if independence were agreed to, the mechanics would be daunting. An independent Kosovo would require either large shipments of heavy weapons or NATO troops for protection. Given the potential domestic political fallout, as well as probable opposition from Russia and China, NATO capitals, particularly Washington, would likely resist either measure. Without these powerful deterrents, Serbia could invade at least resource-rich northern Kosovo, sparking a bloody conflict and calls for a second NATO intervention.

If a partition were somehow agreed to by both sides -- an unlikely prospect given current tensions -- it would be unlikely to last. Worse, it could set a precedent, unleashing similar secessionist claims in Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and other regions. Partition would only encourage the growing territorial ambitions of Albanian nationalists and other radicals across southeastern Europe.

The opposite extreme is also unrealistic. Quickly creating a multiethnic, harmonious Kosovo to which all Serbs can return and where Albanians agree to remain part of Serbia is wildly improbable.

The best short-term policy, therefore, is to establish effective police, court, and prison systems that create accountability. The West must also temper Albanian nationalism, defer the return of Serb civilians, delay full elections and a final decision on independence, and encourage political moderates. The long-term goal should be the creation of conditions and institutions that allow moderate Albanians to create an ethnically tolerant Kosovo on their own.

If Milosevic can be toppled, the permanent status of Kosovo and Montenegro, another breakaway region, could be resolved within a loose confederation of Serbia, Kosovo, and Montenegro. The two smaller provinces would have de facto, but not full, independence. With time, increased prosperity, and the departure of Milosevic, Albanians could come to accept such a compromise. If Milosevic remains in office, however, U.S. and NATO troops will have to remain.

The key to any policy is full financial support for current missions and a consistent long-term Western message. U.N. administrators and NATO commanders must make it clear that Kosovo will be denied nominal independence or admission to Western groups if it fails to respect human rights. The largest such lever the West has with Kosovar Albanians, aside from NATO withdrawal, is entrance into the European Union. The young Albanians who grew up under the Serb repression of the 1990s love to wear jeans, listen to American music, and talk of doing business in the West. At the same time, many openly support vicious revenge attacks on Serb civilians. It must be made emphatically clear to these Kosovars that those two things -- membership in the West and lawless retribution -- are not compatible. Negative influences from northern Albania, as well as traditions like blood feuds and inat, should be openly condemned. Many Kosovars, after 50 years as part of Yugoslavia, already see troubled Albania proper not as a national homeland but as something they do not want Kosovo to become. U.N. and NATO officials must capitalize on that sentiment, as well as on older Albanians' memories of ethnic coexistence under Tito's rule.

Meanwhile, moderate Albanians must continue to be brought into interim government structures, particularly the police and the judiciary. Municipal elections can be a step forward, but must be conducted under proper conditions. Adequate security must be provided to prevent political intimidation and vote fraud, and Serb representation must be guaranteed. As the West's experience in Bosnia shows, corrupt, authoritarian, and nationalist local leaders can be massive impediments to international goals. Legitimizing local hardliners to calm the situation now will only lead to worse problems in the future.

U.N. Special Representative Bernard Kouchner should be applauded for his efforts to gain adequate funding and to involve Albanians in governance. But he should more vigorously pressure the nationalists among them and not hesitate to govern in their stead. He has been too concerned with seeming overly colonial and was not forceful enough in drawn-out negotiations regarding the creation of an interim government and a court system. U.N. administrators caution that moderate Albanians, if pushed, could withdraw and form another shadow government. But a shadow system, believed to involve criminal elements of the former KLA, already exists. And the U.N. remains the sole route for Kosovar politicians to gain legitimacy in the West -- powerful leverage that should not be forgotten.

The U.N. administration must do what it can to become less bureaucratic. Most of the delays to date have been due to inadequate funding, a cumbersome structure, and a lack of unified support from the Security Council, but the U.N. mission itself has been lumbering and inefficient at times. If the perception takes hold that the world body is unable to handle peacekeeping and nation-building, twin tasks viewed by many as two of the U.N.'s primary roles in the post-Cold War era, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recent reforms will be overshadowed. At the same time, Washington must fully commit to the mission and stop alienating its allies by refusing to endanger U.S. troops.

Last, and most important, all NATO countries -- particularly in Europe -- must follow up their military effort with far larger economic commitments. As of mid-March, the U.N. mission had received only $190 million of the $415 million it requires. It has nearly run out of money twice.

In the end, the former Yugoslavia remains an economic unit, and its various parts -- particularly tiny Kosovo -- will thrive only by trading with one another. Economic growth and trade will be the key to stabilizing the region over the long term. Economic incentives, as shown by recent elections in Croatia, are the best way to convince voters to reject political extremism. Any attempt to stabilize Kosovo will fail if average people cannot see the benefits of accepting Western norms. At this point, they see few.

The United States and its allies must accept that only a long-term commitment in Kosovo -- one that empowers moderates and establishes the rule of law while bettering the lives and altering views of average Albanians and Serbs -- will steady the province. Focusing solely on leaders, ignoring the pitfalls of local culture, and implementing ethnic partitions will lead only to further instability -- and another intervention.

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  • David Rohde has covered the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia for The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times and was awarded the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for foreign reporting. He is the author of Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica. Copyright (c) 2000 by David Rohde.
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