In a surprisingly sober Boston Globe editorial today titled “First Kosovo, and then what?” — in which Globe editors understand that a unilateral declaration of independence “could set off instability across the Balkans and beyond” — the following paragraph is included:

While 20 of the EU’s 27 members favor independence for Kosovo, nearly all dread a unilateral declaration. That prospect conjures up memories of Europe’s careless acceptance of declarations of independence from Yugoslavia by Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia in the early 1990s. Those acts ushered in horrific wars and crimes against humanity.

Let the record show November 21, 2007 as the date that, for perhaps the first time in history since the 1990s Balkan wars, the mainstream American media has acknowledged that illegal acts of secession, hastily recognized by European nations, are what set off the Balkan wars. This is the first time I am seeing something other than, and in contradiction to, “Slobodan Milosevic set off the Balkan wars.”

While the piece starts off with the usual mythology about Milosevic’s “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovo villages, some worthy paragraphs finish it off:

A unilateral lunge for independence by Kosovo could spur Serbs in Bosnia and Herzogovina — half that country’s population — to follow suit. And Kremlin warnings against the imposition of any Kosovo formula not acceptable to Serbia raises the specter of Russian backing for independence movements in Georgia, Moldova, and even Ukraine. This would be a prescription for armed conflict around the periphery of Europe.

Some European diplomats also worry about the United Nations carving new countries out of older countries’ provinces. They recognize that separatist reflexes persist in regions such as Catalonia and the Basque country. Even the Flemish and Walloon populations of tiny Belgium may want a nationalist divorce.

…[T]he European, American, and Russian mediators should keep Serbia and the Kosovars at the negotiating table as long as it takes to hammer out a resolution to which both sides agree. This may mean incorporating the Serbian-populated area of Kosovo into Serbia proper, along with Serbian monasteries and holy sites. It may entail minor population transfers. But whatever the eventual solution, it should be accepted by the two peoples and not imposed by outsiders.