Chasing Fukuyama

Empire's Futile Balkans Quest

by , November 20, 2010

The principal objective of the NATO summit meeting that began in Portugal on Friday, per the Washington Post, is "to set strategy in Afghanistan for the next four years and agree to a new global mission to take the alliance into the 21st century."

On November 10, however, a New York Times op-ed warned that the Balkans "may yet spoil the party." Its authors, Daniel Serwer of the U.S. Institute of Peace and former Kosovo viceroy Soren Jessen-Petersen, urged the Empire to stay the course in the Balkans, as the region "could still be lost."

Empire’s Dubious Success

Serwer has been a steadfast champion of the mainstream U.S. policy in the region for almost two decades. Following the conventional wisdom of "Serbs bad, others good," he has lent his support to a centralized, Muslim-dominated Bosnia, an independent Albanian Kosovo and a separate, anti-Serb Montenegro. Jessen-Petersen is best known for his friendship with Ramush Haradinaj, a notorious terrorist-turned-politician.

Amongst the great "successes" of the Empire in the region, the authors list "the end of the Bosnian war, the fall of Slobodan Milosevic and the rise of democratic Serbia, the independence of Kosovo, impending Croatian membership in the E.U." Yet polls indicate Croatians are overwhelmingly against entering the EU. Serbia, ruled by an unelected cabal of quislings, is anything but a democracy. Declaring the occupied province of Kosovo an independent state tore a hole in international law, with potentially dire consequences worldwide. And as Serwer and Jessen-Petersen themselves admit, Bosnia’s animosities didn’t end with Dayton, they merely reverted to political form. In fact, in that very editorial, they argue for changing Bosnia’s Constitution (itself part of the peace treaty) so as to create a strong central government. Doing so would almost certainly reignite open warfare.

Ah, but the Empire simply must impose its will on the Balkans completely. Anything else would be a failure, and that — in the authors’ words — would "embarrass Europeans and Americans alike." And there is nothing the Empire dreads more than embarrassment.

Hammering Out "Solutions"

When all one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Serwer and Jessen-Petersen thus see Imperial coercion as the universal solution to any and all Balkans issues. Macedonia’s name dispute? Force Skopje into accepting a geographic prefix to placate the Greeks, then force the Greeks to accept it by invoking their financial troubles. Can’t force the Bosnian Serbs to accept a central government? "Serbia’s own progress toward the E.U. should depend on its willingness to insist that the Bosnian Serbs cooperate with the country’s Muslims and Croats to amend the Constitution in ways that will make E.U. membership possible," they argue.

Since Serbia’s phantom progress also depends on recognizing the Independent State of Kosovo, creating a new state out of its northern province of Vojvodina, surrendering a southwestern region to Islamic militants, ceding more land to "Natural Albania," organizing pride parades, hunting down Ratko Mladic, curing cancer, inventing cold fusion and discovering habitable extraterrestrial planets, what’s one more request added to the list?

Of particular interest is the reasoning on exhibit here. In the 1990s, Croatia was Washington’s "junkyard dog." Since the Croats in Bosnia were taking marching orders from Zagreb, the ongoing assumption in Washington has been that the Serbs took their orders from Belgrade. The only time the Bosnian Serbs ever took orders from Belgrade, however, was when the Empire coerced them into it — by indicting their entire leadership for war crimes and imposing Slobodan Milosevic as the chief Serb negotiator in Dayton.

Just A Little Push

Also striking is the precise mixture of alarmism and triumphalism infusing the editorial. On one hand, the Empire is ever-victorious and its eventual triumph is never in question. On the other, however, unless just a little more effort is expended, everything could come apart. One doesn’t have to be an experienced government-watcher to understand that this is a well-rehearsed tune, specifically composed to ensure whoever is singing it the maximum amount of power and funds that can be extracted from the gullible public. But what else could one expect from people who "have worked on the Balkans for 15 years," as Serwer and Jessen-Petersen remind everyone in their signature?

Give us five more years, they argue, and victory will be total and complete:

"Only when all the region’s countries are irreversibly on a course toward the E.U. will we be able to celebrate. Likely no more than five more years are required. Until then, we need to keep the Balkans on track, ensuring that Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia remain on the train."

To believe this, however, one must ignore observable reality.

Derailed

Having helped them smash Yugoslavia to pieces, the Empire sought to control the successor satrapies by enticing them with the prospect of EU and NATO membership. That prospect was used as both the proverbial carrot and the proverbial stick, offering rewards and punishments to make the governments of the region do Empire’s bidding. Before the people across the Balkans could truly tire of being treated like circus animals, though, the financial crisis hit.

With the U.S. drowning in inflation and debt and the Eurozone shaking, suddenly the Empire doesn’t look so omnipotent anymore. Nor does the EU look like the promised land of milk and honey. Recent Gallup polls show that most Croatians are against joining the EU today, while EUphoria is on the wane in Serbia as well. It doesn’t matter that the government in Belgrade is unquestioningly obedient to any demand from Brussels or Washington; it is rapidly becoming universally reviled in Serbia itself. 

Eventually, though, the biggest wrench in Empire’s works may prove to the Albanians. Washington used them as a means of deposing Milosevic, but the 1999 Kosovo war was a fiasco in that respect. It took the 2000 CIA/NED coup to effect "regime change" in Belgrade. Subsequent Albanian insurrections in southern Serbia and Macedonia showed that the problem in Kosovo was most definitely not the alleged "repression" of the Milosevic regime — but the Empire played that down, and hoped the KLA would be satisfied with the "Independent state of Kosovo." It wasn’t. 

There is a growing push among the Albanians to unify the occupied Kosovo with Albania proper, and annex further territories in Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece into a "natural Albania." Most alarmingly, this project is not without prominent Imperial support.

Eventually, no doubt, Serwer and Jessen-Petersen will end up arguing that a "Natural Albania" is a realistic necessity, and that borders of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro aren’t really all that sacrosanct. But the borders of Bosnia, hey, those are completely different. Because the Empire says so.

Flogging a Dead Horse

It is tempting to dismiss the editorial and the current NATO summit in Lisbon as pure posturing in the face of Empire’s collapse. However, it isn’t exactly clear whether U.S. and EU policy wonks are entirely aware of their actual situation. One should recall that in its infinite arrogance, the Empire thought it could remake the world with sheer willpower (and some smart bombs). The failure of this way of thinking, from the wastelands of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq to the sordid satrapies of the Balkans, is now exposed like a hapless passenger at a TSA pornotron.

Yet the Empire plods on, telling itself and everyone around that everything is fine, and in just a few more years its victory will be final and irreversible. From Obama to Serwer and Jessen-Petersen, imperialists are chasing a mirage: the Fukuyamian "end of history." So fixated they are on that impossible objective, they haven’t noticed that they’ve been riding — and flogging — a dead horse.

Read more by Nebojsa Malic