Empire’s Endgame

Finishing the Balkans Interventions

Just days after the anniversary of Serbia’s misnamed "revolution," three things came to pass that suggest a next stage of Balkans tragedy is getting underway. First, the Bosnian Serbs caved in and approved the European Union’s ultimatum for centralization of the police, erasing perhaps the last vestige of their autonomy and effectively burying the Dayton peace agreement just short of its 10th anniversary. Second, the UN envoy for assessing the situation in Kosovo, Kai Eide, recommended that the talks on the occupied province’s "future status" could begin, even though the standards of government previously set by the UN have definitely not been met. And third, the EU opened negotiations with Serbia-Montenegro on possible membership.

Even though they are reported as separate occurrences, these three events are closely connected – part of a drive by Washington and Brussels to "finish the job" in the Balkans, after over 15 years of intervention. Yet this will hardly mean the end of conflict, injustice, and suffering in the scarred remains of what used to be Yugoslavia; quite the contrary, the Empire’s "endgame" seeks to cement the imposed reality of its interventionist policies at the expense of the local population.

Suicide Kings

Having already knuckled under the onslaught of "reforms" designed to "adjust" the Dayton constitution to the desires of state supremacists at home and abroad, the Bosnian Serbs should have anticipated the inevitable failure of their attempt to resist the latest assault on their constitutional rights.

Brussels has demanded that all police be put under a central authority, and that police districts be independent of existing municipal and entity boundaries, justifying the demand by claiming that only in this way could Bosnia-Herzegovina function as a "normal" state. So does that mean the United States is "abnormal," with its county, township, city, state, and federal police jurisdictions? Such an argument never arose, and it would have been dismissed anyway; the EU rejected anything short of unconditional acceptance of their "reform." So the Serb parliament caved in, as they have so many times before, abjuring yet another constitutional right so as not to be perceived as an obstacle to Bosnia’s entry into the EU.

It will not do them any good. Soon, the Imperial viceroy will claim that the very existence of entities is an obstacle to the proper integration of Bosnia into "Euro-Atlantic structures." Will the Bosnian Serbs then abolish the Serb Republic and meekly accept the de facto reversion to the political system that existed in 1991, the same one they rebelled against? That, apparently, is the vision of Reconstruction the "international community" is intent on accomplishing, and has been all along.

Another Great Whitewash

In March 2004, some 50,000 Albanians went on an organized rampage across occupied Kosovo, killing Serbs, burning their homes and churches, and attacking UN and NATO personnel that attempted to stop the pogrom. In the aftermath, the UN sent a special envoy, Kai Eide, to assess the situation in the province and recommend the future course of action. His report, in August 2004, echoed the claims of pro-Albanian propagandists: the pogrom was a result of Albanian frustrations with the undecided status of Kosovo, necessitating a review of the status and the opening of talks by the end of 2005. The Serbian media missed this point entirely, choosing to focus on Eide’s condemnation of the "violence."

Eide’s report paved the way for rewarding the pogrom’s perpetrators. Ostensibly, the Albanian "provisional government" was supposed to satisfy a set of standards – determined by the UNMIK occupation authorities – of democratic behavior before the status talks could begin. The Albanians had only to create the impression that they were trying – yet they failed to do even that much. But Eide’s second review, sent to the UN last week, green-lighted the status talks anyway. In the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "Mr. Eide has concluded that while standards implemented [sic] in Kosovo have been uneven, the time has come to move to the next phase of the political process." (BBC)

Some Serbians still believe the "international community" won’t simply roll over and appease the Albanians. And they are right – after a fashion. Without a doubt, the Empire is determined to create a separate, Albanian-dominated Kosovo, though preferably with at least some "minorities" still around to preserve the illusion of multi-ethnicity. The ICG and its chorus of editorialists began pushing hard for giving the Albanians independence. By September 2004, the "Contact Group" ruled out unification with Albania, partition, and the return to pre-1999 status for the occupied province, leaving independence as the only clear option available.

However, the kind of independence they have in mind may not be entirely pleasing to the Albanians, either. It was the ICG who introduced the concept of "conditional independence" into the debate, supported recently by the "International Commission on the Balkans." If and when the Albanians of Kosovo succeed in carving out the province from Serbia, they will likely find themselves under an Imperial viceroy of some kind. Serbia will have suffered a defeat, but for the Albanians, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.

Leviathan’s Embrace

Last week, Croatia found itself a token in the game of two ancient European powers; Austria was blocking the opening of talks with Turkey until the UK removed its objection to starting the talks with Zagreb. Once the agreement between Vienna and London was struck, the supposedly impartial and apolitical Hague Inquisition suddenly found Zagreb "cooperative" enough to talk with the EU.

Meanwhile, Brussels announced the start of talks with Serbia-Montenegro as well, again after the Inquisition suddenly reversed its hostility to Belgrade. However, EU’s commissioners openly said that they could suspend the talks at any time if the ICTY changed its mind. Even though the EU-cheerleaders at the Guardian think Serbia, the "biggest piece of the Balkan jigsaw is the hardest to work with," Brussels has no reason to worry. According to reports, Serbia’s negotiators will be Miroljub Labus and Vuk Draskovic, both eager Imperial sycophants.

It is not a coincidence that Brussels is putting on friendly airs just as Washington is sending "tough warnings" to Belgrade and Zagreb. The divide-and-rule, good-cop/bad-cop strategy is working all too well. Nor is it accidental that the "stabilization and association" talks with Brussels are starting just as the UN has approved the final status talks on Kosovo. According to Albanian partisan Tim Judah, writing for the ISN Security Watch, anonymous diplomats are "hoping that the good news of the conclusion of an SAA agreement next year may help counteract the simultaneous bad news of the final loss of Kosovo and the secession of Montenegro from the state union with Serbia."

Revenge of the Clintonites?

At this point, anyone who has followed the Balkans for the past decade or so has to notice that Judah’s "diplomats" are regurgitating the platform of none other than the International Crisis Group. The Brussels-based Group, founded by U.S. policymaker Morton Abramowitz in 1995, has argued for years for the independence of Kosovo under Albanian domination, the secession of Montenegro, and the forcible integration of Bosnia under a centralized government. This has been a reflection of Balkans policy formulated by "liberal imperialists" – Albright, Holbrooke, etc. – during the Clinton regime, which Bush II allowed to continue for four years before officially embracing it in May 2005.

The ICG lurks under every flagstone paving the road of Imperial intervention in the peninsula. Its founder, Morton Abramowitz, "advised" the Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" at the "talks" in the French chateau of Rambouillet. According to a multitude of speculation, the UN envoy charged with overseeing the Kosovo talks will be none other than ICG trustee Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and "peace envoy" instrumental in tricking Belgrade into allowing the NATO occupation of the province in 1999. Wesley Clark, the U.S. general who commanded the 1999 aggression as head of NATO forces in Europe, also became an ICG board member afterward. The ISN, where Judah published his analysis of how the Kosovo talks would go, has NATO and ICG listed as "principal partners" (along with many other institutes and organizations of similar predisposition).

Yet it would be wrong to think the ICG is influencing Washington and Brussels. Rather, the Group is a front for Imperialist policymakers who dominate both state apparatuses regardless of the party in power; its status in the media of a "respected think tank" allows it to air views that may be seen as extremist at the time, but through repetition and gradual adoption become mainstream. It is a technique pioneered in the Balkans, and used to gradually dismantle the restraints of international law that have stood in the way of the Imperial Dream.

In Search of Reason

Weary of war and poverty, the lobotomized masses in the Balkans are looking to Washington and Brussels as their saviors, eager to accept the array of Imperial impositions for the sake of "integration" they do not understand. Deluded souls in Banja Luka and Belgrade – but also in Zagreb, Sarajevo, and Pristina – still believe the Empire is playing by some sort of rules, or favoring their cause. Yet everything that has taken place over the past 15 years suggests the truth is completely different.

Queried by a journalist for a Serbian weekly in July 2004 about the different principles applied to Bosnia, Kosovo, and the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Morton Abramowitz replied in exasperation: "My answer is that there is no entirely rational answer … you seek perfect reasoning, which does not correspond to reality on the ground."

But is it "perfect" reasoning that Belgrade was after, or just any reasoning at all? For what sense does it make to insist on the inviolability of republic borders when Yugoslavia was falling apart – which meant insisting on the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Croatia while disenfranchising some 2 million Serbs therein – but arguing precisely the opposite when it comes to some 2 million Albanians in Kosovo and within the borders of Serbia? Indeed, what is the logic behind the eagerness of Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Albanians to join the EU for the sake of belonging to something bigger, when 15 years ago, they had that something. It was called Yugoslavia. Inquiring minds should want to know…

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Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.