Serbian voters have approved a new constitution that, among other things, reaffirms Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo, which, since the NATO bombing of 1999, has been administered by the United Nations with the help of NATO troops.  The referendum’s passage will further complicate the efforts of Western policy-makers to grant independence to Kosovo since to do so without Serbia’s consent would violate the U.N. Charter’s protection of territorial integrity and the inviolability of borders.  Nevertheless, there have been indications that U.N. Special Envoy Marrti Ahtisaari will recommend before the year is out that Kosovo be separated from Serbia and become an independent country.  This would be a mistake.

For the past seven years, Kosovo, under U.N. administration, has become one of the most dangerous places on earth.  It is the center of heroin, weapons, and human trafficking into Western Europe.  Murder and abduction of non–Albanians occur daily.  Civil society is nonexistent, and living standards are equivalent to those of Haiti.  More alarmingly, there is evidence that Islamic extremists with Al Qaeda connections are a growing presence there.  Kosovo has all of the characteristics of a failed state, and, of all the people in the world striving for independent status, the Albanians in Kosovo must rank among the least deserving.

Under the watchful eyes of U.N. and NATO authorities, over 200,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and other non-Albanians have been expelled from Kosovo.  Those who remain are in constant danger.  Some of those encouraged by the United Nations to return have been murdered.  Kosovo’s prime minister, Agim Çeku, is an indicted war criminal.  Though ethnically Albanian, he led the Croatian forces in 1993 who overran Serbian villages protected by Canadian peacekeepers.  When his troops were driven out, the Canadians found all of the civilians and their animals had been slaughtered.  Later, Çeku inflicted widespread carnage by ordering his artillery to fire on Serb civilians fleeing from their ancestral lands in Croatia.

One of the most shocking crimes committed by the Albanian majority in Kosovo has been the deliberate destruction of over 150 Christian churches and monasteries.  The ruin of these ancient churches, many of them dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, has been part of a calculated effort to remove all semblance of Christian heritage in Kosovo.  Meanwhile, 400 new mosques—financed openly by Wahabi money from Saudi Arabia—have been constructed.

There has been no outrage by the “international community” at the destruction of these Christian holy places, no serious attempt to apprehend the perpetrators, and no expression of alarm or protest on the part of Christian churches in the West.  It is another striking example of the double standard applied when Muslim outrages against nonbelievers are tolerated without complaint, while cartoons or imagined insults to Islam cause widespread rioting and demands for apologies.

U.N. Resolution 1244, which ended the bombing campaign against Serbia, guaranteed that Kosovo would have a functioning civil society, democratic institutions, security for all citizens, and respect for the rule of law.  It called for the disarming of the Kosovo Liberation Army and other militias.  It provided for the return to Kosovo of limited numbers of Serbian security forces to guard the Christian holy places.  And it reasserted Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo.

Sadly, it seems the United Nations and NATO had no intention of honoring these commitments.  These are hard facts, and they stand as a testimony of failure.  The performance of these two international institutions has been marked by duplicity, double standards, and cowardice.

Granting Kosovo independence would establish a dangerous precedent, with far-reaching implications for all those around the globe who are striving for their own statehood.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has already warned that such a decision would be applicable to post-Soviet territory.  Currently, the most volatile regions are the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke away from Georgia in 1992 and have been seeking independent status.  Recognition of Kosovo independence would provide Abkhazia and South Ossetia with the precedent needed to demand equal treatment.  This could result in violence and bloodshed, with serious implications for world security.

Otto von Bismarck once remarked that the Balkans were not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.  Yet he also predicted that, if there was to be another war in Europe, it would be because of some “damned silly thing” in the Balkans.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, sparking off World War I, proved him right.  Ominously, there is a strong possibility that another “damned silly thing” is taking place in the Balkans: the seeming determination of Western policymakers to grant the Serbian province of Kosovo independence.  In foreign policy as in other human endeavors, you can’t get good results if you do dumb things.