About me

In 2010 I made the decision to follow a career path dedicated to peace building and conflict resolution, resulting in enlistment at the Royal Netherlands Navy in 2012. Currently, I am specializing into conflict resolution at Radboud University's Center for International Conflict -  Analyses and Managment. Since July 2015 I have been working part time at Radboud University as faculty advisor for the course United Nations and Multilateral Diplomacy and currently as a research assistant at the Center for International Conflict -  Analyses and Managment. In February 2016 I started my own consultancy and training bureau "Pantheon". Focussing on teaching skills needed to act within the international setting (Public Speaking, Negotiation, Etiquette, Protocol) as well as offering consultation on maritime and defense issues.

The Kosovo Just War Problem

By G.L.J. Jacobs on 2016-06-23 in Papers,

Based on CMHER's "A Just War? President Clinton’s Response to Kosovo". The Conflict Management in Higher Education Report (CMHER) is a project of Campus Conflict Resolution Resources with support from a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education and initial seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo project. See also: http://www.campus-adr.org/CMHER/ReportResources/Edition3_3/HumanRights.html

The Kosovo War (February 1998 - June 1999) was, and one may argue still is, a complex and problematic development of Ius ad Bellum theory. Unquestionably the 1990s were the theater of many atrocities of war following the end of the bipolar world that had kept aggresion in check between the end of World War II and the fall of the Soviet union.  In this short essay, I seek to analyze the immoral 'wrongs' and the moral 'rights' of the decision by the Clinton administration to incite war.

The intentions of intervening in Kosovo, assuming that they indeed were based on the indications of repetition of '94 are morally unquestionably right. I assume that this intention is the case, as the following quote suggests: "We will not allow another Bosnia to happen in Kosovo."[1] We test the morality of war to the principles of the Christian tradition of Ius ad Bellum: There should be a just cause; Attempts at peaceful resolution should have been exhausted; The war should be decided on by an appropriate authority, and it needs to be clear which that authority is; War will not make the situation even worse than it is already; There should be reasonable prospect of achieving the aims of the war.[2]  The decision to act meets the first two principles, is questionable at the third, and unsuccessful in meeting the last two principles.

While the Kantian intentions of the administration's decision are unquestionably morally right, the actions that executed the intentions, and the outcomes that followed are nearly, if not all morally wrong. Firstly and foremost immorally is the Commander in Chief's distraction caused by private matters outside of political sphere, and at the same time those who seek to influence Clinton by politicizing the matter for political gain. War, seen as the Clausewitzian extension of politics has as its goal the controlled and purposeful great destructive (kinetic) force to support a government's decision. As such the application of force is an immaculate coercion, yet it demands the appliers (in this case the Commander in Chief) full attention. The immorality of the decision makers involved can also be derived from the "credit claiming" and "blame avoiding"[3] strategy that was crucial in the two-level game taking place in Washington. Some members of Congress wanted to have it both ways: to avoid responsibility for a bad outcome in Bosnia but to share in the political fruits of a good outcome . . . they said the mission was not worth fighting for, and then they off handily accepted that American soldiers should be sent to fight for it.[4]

The immorality is followed trough in the decisions on how to apply force, by using advanced, low-risk technology. While such technology may be very well used for Ius ad Vim, the justified use of force, its immaculate character depends on the reason why such tools are used. In the Kosovo case it was to prevent U.S. deaths, making sure the pilots would return from their missions alive. On the other side of the scale, however, we see the indiscriminate power of cluster munitions. The use of cluster projectile lead to the unnecessary death of many non-combatants. The use of advanced technology can be justified if it is used to protect the innocent, not to protect the soldier at the cost of the innocent.    

While writing this essay celebrations are held at home, commemorating the sacrifices of the soldiers in the liberation of The Netherlands, as well as celebrating our freedom (4th & 5th May). How different approach to intervention from the technological racism[5] that the administration was accused of.

I conclude that the decision to act was heavily influenced by immorality taking place Washington, both in Clinton's private sphere as well in the political two-level game. The intentions were corrupted as it was no longer about intervening and a responsibility to protect the innocent, but rather about political gain in Washington.  Three of the five principles of Ius Ad Bellum are not met, and consequently, immoral actions were taken to solve the Kosovo crisis. Judging on my visit to Kosovo in February 2016 and would openly question whether the Kosovo crisis has been solved at all.


[1] Special envoy Robert Gelbard and Muslim leader Ibrahim Rugova. Elaine Sciolino and Ethan Bronner, "How a President, Distracted by Scandal, Entered Balkan War," New York Times Apr 18, 1999, p. 1.

[2] R. Sorabji, Just War from Ancient Origins to the Conquistadors Debate and its Modern Relevance, in: R. Sorabji and Do. Rodin (eds), The Ethics of War: Shared Problems in Different Traditions, Ashgate, 2009, p.14.

[3] Congress and Bosnia," Washington Post, December 15, 1995, p. 24.

[4] J.H. Ely, War and Responsibility, Princeton University Press, 1993 p. 54 as quoted in Glennon.

[5] R.W. Apple, "A Domestic Sort With Global Worries," New York Times, August 25, 1999, p. 1 quoting an op ed column from The Wall Street Journal. Apple bases the accusation on the premise that the life of "one American serviceman was not worth risking in order to save the lives of thousands of Kosovars".