I can't say I'm surprised that Kosovo declared their independence from Serbia. Countries have been declaring their independence from Serbia for the last 10-15 years, Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia in 91, Bosnia in 92, Montenegro (finally) in 06, and now Kosovo. Considering the hostilities of the late 90s and the difficulties of the UN's post-regnum mission, it seemed inevitable.
But I am still conflicted about it.
Unlike Croatia, Bosnia, and the others, Kosovo was never an official republic of the former Yugoslavia. It was one of two autonomous provinces (the other being Vojvodina) carved out of Serbia to reduce its domination among Yugoslavia's six republics. But, still, Kosovo remained part of Serbia.
To complicate matters, Kosovo is the closest thing the Serbs have to sacred ground (to see why, click here) but at the same time, only 1 in 10 Kosovars are ethnic Serbs. The other 90%? Mostly Albanians and other non-Slavic ethnicities.
So on the one hand, I can understand why Serbia wouldn't want to lose some of her territory (after all, Kosovo has been part of Serbia since medieval times), but on the other hand, I can also understand why the Albanian Kosovars don't want to be subject to Serbian rule, whose idea of how to treat ethnic minorities starts with "ethnic cleansing" and ends with genocide.
But I'm still not sure who is right and who is wrong...or even if these terms apply.
Does a country deserve to lose territory because it can't treat its minority with respect?
And does a minority get to declare their independence, erasing hundreds of years of territorial integrity?
At first glance, it seems easy. The Kosovars were at the sharp end of an attempted genocide, so it's only natural to have sympathy for their situation. But what if a similar situation was playing out in the United States?
Could I support, say, California's declaration of independence? *
I don't know.
* (I acknowledge that California's relationship to the United States is not an apt comparison to the Kosovo/Serbia issue. In fact, it's apples to oranges. Our multi-ethnic democracy bears little resemblance to Serbia's homogeneous socialist nightmare. However, if one is going to grant a minority the right to redraw national borders, one must recognize that it at least theoretically possible that it might happen here.)
Updated: Reading through this again, I realize that I might have been unintentionally confusing. First I say that 90% of Kosovars are ethnic Albanians, then I start referring to them as a "minority." Any idiot knows that 90% isn't a minority, James!
Ah, yes, but remember that Ethnic Albanians are simultaneously the majority in Kosovo and the minority in Serbia as a whole, which until recently included Kosovo. (I wanted to use the term "Greater Serbia" instead of "Serbia as a whole," but that has the same connotations as the German word Lebensraum. The ethnic cleansing of the 90s was just a means to that end.)