International Papers

Winners and Losers

The world’s newspapers filled their front pages this weekend with what now appear to be premature post-mortems on the Kosovo conflict.

Britain’s Independent on Sunday compiled a list of the war’s winners and losers. The winners: British Prime Minister Tony Blair (“[His] reputation as a strong leader on the international stage will be enhanced. And his commitment to the morality of the conflict will win him several saintly points.”); Jamie Shea (“Each week the Nato press spokesman with a Cockney accent has been forced to explain away an array of Nato mistakes–in English and French. While his rhetorical denunciations of Milosevic got more extreme, … he rarely lost his temper.”); Albania ("The West owes it a debt of gratitude and it stands to gain economically from long-term international commitment to the area.”); and construction companies. The losers: Slobodan Milosevic ("Some suspect Slobo and his wife may emulate his parents, who both committed suicide.”); Apache helicopters; Ibrahim Rugova ("How can the bookish head of Kosovo’s independence movement live down the shame of being shown on Serbian TV with Milosevic? … [H]e could be bumped off as a traitor.”); Macedonia ("It has suffered from loss of trade with Serbia, and most of the refugees are unlikely to leave for some time.”); and the Treasury ("The costs of putting peacekeepers on the ground will be a major drain on resources. Then there is the cost of reconstruction: like the troops, most of the money will have to come from the European Union. Ultimately, that means from our pockets.”). No mention was made of the estimated 5,000 Yugoslav troops killed in the conflict nor of the more than 1,200 civilian fatalities.

Others given victor’s laurels included NATO, described by the London Observer as having “saved its reputation and credibility, gaining time to improve its effectiveness as a guarantor of peace”; and the new world order celebrated in Andrew Marr’s column in the Observer, “What has happened is a decisive and perhaps terminal defeat for an older Europe, a place of tribal hatreds, double-headed eagles, flaming swords and obscure martyrs. A better world order survives, symbolised by those Asian, African and Chinese faces looking after Europeans in the UN camps.”

An op-ed column in the Jerusalem Post drew parallels between the plight of Kosovar Albanians and “the Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the Jewish displaced persons … in Germany after the Holocaust.” The lessons learned from these groups are that “[t]he allies must begin reconstructing Kosovar society now, without delay, even before they make or find their way into Kosovo itself and face the immense task of rebuilding the province’s decimated infrastructure and housing stock. … The most important goals are to encourage self-help and to heal shattered identities. Both are crucial for preventing dependency and building self-confidence.” (See Slate’s earlier take on how the Kosovar/Palestinian parallel disturbs Israel.)

Meanwhile, Asahi Shimbun of Tokyo expressed disappointment at Japan’s failure to play a significant role in international diplomacy. The paper said, “[T]he development has served as a sobering reminder of Japan’s inability to play a meaningful political role in the ethnic dispute.” A foreign ministry official attempted to save face by claiming, “There is no reason to feel belittled because I don’t think, for example, France has played a major role, either.”

Today’s voting in Indonesia, the first free elections in that country since 1955, got an optimistic boost from the Sydney Morning Herald’s correspondent in Jakarta. “Despite predictions of chaos, the campaign period has been festive and relatively free of violence. And the mass media, remarkably free to report on shortcomings in election administration, have been reasonably effective in their role as watchdogs. The bureaucracy … is not obviously trying to manipulate the electoral results, and the military appears to be acting in a neutral manner. … Hundreds of social groups are actively involved in voter education and election monitoring, an unprecedented mobilisation of civil society.”

The multiculti redesign of British Airways’$2 300-plane fleet has been scrapped. Two years ago, the airline commissioned artists from around the world to provide abstract “world images” for the rudders to replace the British flag. The designs (click here for samples), which included images based on Delft pottery, Chinese calligraphy, Japanese waves, and a Polish cockerel (but not British fish and chips–a design glorifying the national dish was rejected by BA), were popular with everybody except the people at home, according to London’s Sunday Times. “[D]esign changes need to be introduced sensitively. Most travellers have a keen instinct for survival when it comes to flying and BA’s traditional image helped to underline its reputation for reliability,” said a Sunday Times editorial. “The flag signalled that Britain’s reputation was on the line, that the wings would stay attached to the fuselage and there would be enough fuel to complete the journey. The ethnic tails suggested an altogether trendier image.” The rebranding campaign, which cost BA more than $95 million, will be scrapped and the tail fins repainted with a design based on the original “Union Jack” flag used by Adm. Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.