When and if NATO proves that bombing can force a sovereign nation to bow to the wishes of a militant ethnic minority that wants to break away and establish an independent state, NATO will not lack for new clients. They are waiting in the wings to see if NATO will simply utter the words that will put the fear of God in governments that are relying on force to keep restless minorities from seceding and setting up independent states.
Having punished Yugoslavia for using military force to deny the ethnic Albanian minority the right of de facto secession, NATO will have its hands full in dealing with other minorities chafing under the domination of governments that have long refused to recognize that right. Tony Blair, a vociferous champion of the rights of the Albanians in Kosovo, may be willing to lead the way by announcing that his government will immediately grant self-government to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland or any portions of those regions that don’t want to be part of the United Kingdom.
Javier Solana, the Spanish socialist secretary general of NATO, may lean on Madrid to accept the demands of the ETA, for independence for the Basques. Spain has been fighting the ETA for many years, but a stern letter from Se?or Solana, threatening to unleash NATO’s air power unless Spain agrees to give the Basques complete autonomy guaranteed by a heavily armed NATO peacekeeping force might change Spain’s mind.
As the air war against Yugoslavia was raging, France arrested several Corsicans who were using terrorist tactics to press for independence for their island, the birthplace of Napoleon. To be consistent with its policy of using air power to force Serbia to submit to the demands of the Kosovo Liberation Army, NATO could order France to release the Corsican terrorists and bow to their demands or risk seeing its government office buildings, television studios, hospitals, factories, power plants, water pumping stations and bridges destroyed.
But NATO will have to set priorities. It cannot possibly conduct air wars simultaneously on all the countries that are resisting terrorist insurgencies. If it were to give top priority to those cases that are most like Kosovo, it would have to focus on Turkey, where 250,000 Turkish soldiers and police are battling Kurdish separatists. The Turks have emptied thousands of Kurdish villages, displacing more than 500,000 Kurds. About 2,000 people a year have been killed in the fighting since 1984. That compares to 2,000 deaths and several thousand displaced persons linked to fighting in Kosovo last year.
Six million Kurds live in southeast Turkey, where Turkish is the only language of instruction. Kurdish has been banned in broadcasts, lectures and official meetings. The Kurds say their ethnic identity is being destroyed. Kurdish terrorists are being hunted down by soldiers backed by helicopter gun ships. Their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is on trial as we record this commentary. He may be hanged. In comparison to Turkey’s Kurds, Kosovo’s Albanians had it good prior to NATO’s bombing, but there is no sign that Turkey thinks it will be NATO’s next target.