In fact, only 10 years ago, Eastern-bloc Yugoslavia was the darling of the west, although it tried not to alienate its powerful Soviet ally.
Marshal Josip Tito held Yugoslavia together for many years by repressing violent nationalism to make a stable country.
With Tito's death in 1980 and the collapse of communism that followed, Slobodan Milosevic used Serbian nationalism as his power-base and the Yugoslav army as his enforcers.
Jim Hooper, the U.S. State Department's former deputy director of Bosnia policy, is an expert on the Balkans and the Baltics Action Council. He gave a brief history of the region to CBS This Morning Senior Correspondent Hattie Kauffman.
In 1989, Milosevic began to push for Serbian domination of the multiethnic state. At the time, it was ruled by a collective presidency with eight members, each representing a major ethnic group.
Milosevic took away the autonomy of Kosovo, which was an autonomous province. He also took away the seat on the presidency of Vojodinja, the ethnic Hungarian province.
According to Hooper, Milosevic established "a brutal repressive regime in Kosovo that took the Kosovo Albanians out of the state bureaucracy, closed the parliament. They were expelled from the educational system, from the medical system, so they had to create their own parallel society, living under a repressive Serbian regime."
The repression of Kosovo led to the secession of other republics such as Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia.
"Once Milosevic dipped his hand in Kosovo," explains Hooper, "the other groups began heading for the exits. They were not going to live in a state dominated by the Serbs."
In the summer of 1991, Slovenia declared its independence, sparking a 10-day war. Serbia sent a small military force, there were almost no casualties, and Slovenia gained its autonomy.
But truly brutal war ensued immediately thereafter, when Croatia declared its independence. Then, in 1992, Bosnia declared its independence and that also led to very severe fighting.
Word started to reach Westerners about the atrocities being committed by Milosevic's forces. During one siege in Kosovo, a couple of hundred of people were taken out of a hospital, marched into a field, and killed.
In 1995, there was a massacre of several thousand Bosnian Muslims who had surrendered to the Serbs under the protection of the United Nations, thinking they were in a safe area. When they were slaughtered, explains Hooper, the U.S. and NATO decided that was enough. After three years of war and "ethnic cleansing," they moved to end the war. They brought the parties together at Dayton and reached a peace accord.
But promises to Kosovo were not fulfilled, which led to the formation of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA didn't really become active until 1998, when members began to kill repressive Serb policemen. Milosevic got tired o it, says Hooper, and wanted to teach the Kosovar Albanians a lesson. So he sent in Serb police and pulverized several villages.
Since then, Milosevic has been testing the resolve of the U.S. and NATO while escalating assaults in Kosovo.
Hooper does not see Milosevic ever being forced to the negotiating table. "As far as Kosovo goes," he says, "the Serbs would prefer what they see as an honorable defeat. That is preferable to surrender or compromise. Defeat is more honorable."