People often react to a hostile act by a member of some other group with hostility to the entire group. If a black man attacks a white women, whites will often react with hostility to all blacks. If a white man burns down a black church there will be a tendency of blacks to become hostile to all whites. This can lead to an escalating vicious cycle. There are historical examples of feuds between families that happened in the United States which were partly as a result of this kind of thinking. If a person from family A killed a person from family B the person from family B would go kill someone else from family A and a cycle of revenge was created. It's important to strike out at the specific people responsible to minimize the chances of escalation.
Escalation can occur even if one side specifically strikes only at perpetrators of attacks against them. When the U.S. embassy in Nairobi was blown up by terrorists in August 1998 and the United States struck back with cruise missiles, much of the Moslem world cried out for revenge forgetting that the Moslem terrorists had instigated the whole thing. Those who conveniently forget want to perceive themselves in a just struggle against the non-Islamic West and so ignore truths that interfere with that interpretation of events. The result of such wishful believing is likely to be more terrorism and more retaliation and an escalation of the conflict.
On April 27, 1999 the Serbs were taking revenge on the Albanians living in Kosovo. Don Feder wrote an article called Bubba and Maddy Lit Kosovo's fire in which he writes about what the Albanians living in Kosovo had done to the Serbs. He writes:
Prior to Milosevic's major deployment in Kosovo, the Kosovo Liberation Army "encouraged" Serbs in the province to relocate.
Serbian police and government officials were assassinated (this was also intended to provoke Belgrade), villagers were kidnapped and murdered -- about what you'd expect from a cutthroat gang tied to both terrorist kingpin Osama bin Laden and Albanian crime syndicates.
A March 4 article in The New York Times mentions the village of Velika Hoca, where five Serbian women said their homes were invaded one night last July and 16 men marched away at gunpoint never to return.
The Albanians persecuted the Serbs in Kosovo and attempted to declare an independent state. Then the Serbs got revenge. According to reports of refugees, Albanian men were shot in the street, and Albanian women were raped. NATO planes have seen the fires of burning villages. Serbs soldiers told Albanians to leave or be killed. There was a massive exodus of Albanians fleeing to neighboring countries.
Did the atrocities committed by the Albanians against the Serbs justify this level of reprisal? According to the concept of selective justice the answer is no. According to this principle only those guilty of persecuting of the Serbs should be punished.
There were other reasons that the Serbs chased out the Albanian population. According to Don Feder:
Albright told the Serbs she would have their signature on the peace accord or their brains. The deal they were told to accept, or else, involved immediate autonomy for Kosovo and a three-year transition toward unspecified goals, supervised by NATO troops.
It didn't take a genius to see that the transition would be to independence. That's fine for ethnic Albanians, 90 percent of the population, but tough luck for Serbs, who consider the land the cradle of Serbian nationalism and their Orthodox faith (it contains over 500 monasteries and other monuments) -- a combination of Philadelphia and Canterbury.
Part of the reason the Serbs acted the way they did may have been disproportionate revenge against NATO bombing. Another was clearly to hold on to Kosovo.
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