In This Review

Kosova Liberation Army
Kosova Liberation Army
By James Pettifer
C Hurst & Co, 2012, 320 pp

In considering the bloody and stupifyingly complicated last chapter of the Yugoslav wars, most outsiders view the Kosovo Liberation Army with only slightly less distaste than they do the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Pettifer sees matters differently. For him, the KLA represents the culmination of the long-simmering Albanian struggle against Serbian dominion, which stretches back to pre–World War I royalist Yugoslavia and was reignited during the reign of Marshal Tito. In the tangle of contesting factions in the conflict over Kosovo, Pettifer’s heart is with the KLA and the Albanian nationalists who allied with it. In fine detail, Pettifer describes the group’s halting formation, the role played by Albanian exiles in Geneva and Zurich, the support from the government of Albania, the first guerrilla operations in Kosovo, the violent retaliation by the Yugoslav military, the confused and vacillating entry of the United States and the United Kingdom into the conflict, and the 1999 war. It is a quintessentially Balkan story of unassuaged nationalist grievances, strategic blunders all around (none greater than Milosevic’s), and great powers in pursuit of agendas only loosely related to the problem at hand.