How stupid does this have to get?
We are referring to Sleepy Joe’s chastisement of Vlad Putin regarding his intervention in the breakaway republics of the Donbas:
“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors?” Biden had questioned in his major Tuesday address from the White House the east room. “This is a flagrant violation of international law, and it demands a firm response from the international community.”
Good question to ask yourself, Joe!
This is you with the former president and prime minister of the breakaway republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci (who is now wanted for war crimes). It was taken after America bombed it free of its rightful owner, Serbia, thereby paving the way for this Independence Day celebration in May 2009 attended by Vice-President Biden.
Indeed, unlike the breakaway provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are ethnically and linguistically Russian in a Ukrainian nation, the province of Kosovo was the cradle of Serbia’s cultural and national identity and thereby an integral part of Serbia’s sovereign territory.
So, far from being a case of one state committing aggression against another, this conflict was a classic civil war. And the aggressor was the province’s ethnic (Muslim) Albanians, who mounted an armed struggle to break free of Serbia and establish an independent state. And, of course, their ample modern arms and munitions, which were deployed with barbaric ferocity against the Serbs (who did likewise against the Albanians), were supplied by Washington.
As the U.N. human rights representative, Jiri Dienstbier, observed at the time:
…..spring ethnic cleansing by Serbs was “replaced by the fall ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Romas, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians accompanied by the same atrocities.”
Needless to say, these Washington agents weren’t little green men like the Russians who allegedly descended upon the Donbas back in 2014, but CIA, State Department and NED (National Endowment for Democracy) operatives functioning overtly under the banner of the stars and stripes.
Thou Shall Not Partition…..Unless Washington Says So!
Actually, during the unfolding of the Kosovo breakaway there was essentially a trial run of the post-2015 Minsk agreement in Ukraine: Just substitute “Rambouillet Deal” for “Minsk Accords”, the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) for the armed Donbas republics and Washington for Moscow and you’ve got the mirror image.
…….Except, except, Washington was far more brutal with its gun-to-the-head proposition to Serbia than Putin has ever been with Kiev:
Essentially, the Serbs, who were given the choice of signing or being bombed, were “negotiating” with a gun at their heads. They saw the Rambouillet deal as one-sided because, although the plan provided that Kosovo would nominally remain a part of Serbia for three years, it also would have reduced the Serbian government’s actual control over the province to a nullity.
Of course, the plan ostensibly would have disarmed the KLA in Kosovo, but because that group can operate out of neighboring Albania, it could have stockpiled weapons there. In fact, the KLA made its intentions quite clear: After the three-year transitional period, either Kosovo would become independent, or the KLA would resume the war.
Furthermore, Serbia resented the provisions of the peace plan that would have required Belgrade to accept the presence of NATO forces in Kosovo.
Can you say, instead, “Kiev to accept Russian forces in Donetsk and Luhansk”?
In a word, when ethnic divisions become insuperable, especially in newly created national jurisdictions, then partition and devolution may be the only recourse, and properly so. Borders were not created by God on the 6th day or any other day.
As one writer put it at the time of the 1999 Serbia bombings,
An analogy to America’s own bitter war of secession can illustrate what NATO is trying to compel Serbia to do. It is as if the nineteenth-century concert of Europe had forced President Lincoln to accept Southern independence and European troops on American soil to police the agreement, and had threatened to intervene militarily in support of the Confederate Army if Lincoln refused. After all, the unprecedentedly murderous American Civil War appalled Europeans just as much as the Kosovo conflict does US leaders today. And just as Europeans believed that North American “stability” (and access to Southern cotton) was vital to their prosperity, so US policy-makers today are convinced that European stability is essential to the United States’ economic well-being. (Of course, the social systems defended in Kosovo and the American South aren’t parallel.)
The Serbs should be castigated for their brutal tactics in Kosovo, but the United States has no moral ground to stand on in such matters. For example, the United States designated wide areas of South Vietnam thought to be under Vietcong control as “free-fire zones.” Rules of engagement were not restricted in those areas, because anyone found there was considered a Vietcong fighter or supporter.
So the question recurs. Where did this border absolutism come from – especially in Washington, the very heart of regime change policy and practice?
The fact is, the map of the world today is not comprised of settled boundaries that have stood for the ages: It is mainly an ever changing artifact of post-partition outcomes that were not adjudicated by the League of Nations, the UN or other diplomatic tribunals.
To the contrary, the partitions have been the consequence of applied force where oppressed minorities have found the means to breakaway from the control of brutal majorities, which themselves were a partition of some other ancient conflict.
For want of doubt, we need look no further than the partition of Yugoslavia itself. The seven nations which eventually emerged were not spawned by the rule of law. For the most part they were the byproduct of bitter ethnic and religious conflict, and were mid-wifed by Washington busybodies and their European bag-carriers.
Once upon a time, John Quincy Adams admonished America to “go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” But based on the flaming hypocrisy of recent Washington actions on the world stage he might have admonished against seeking,”regimes to change, except were existing borders are declared sacrosanct.”
In any event, the Serbian campaign proved to be “a splendid little war,” as Secretary of State John Hay termed the Spanish-American War: That is, 78 days of bombing without a single American battle casualty. As usual, the Europeans went along for the ride but left most of the action to the U.S. The Serbs resisted far longer than Washington had expected, but finally agreed to a settlement that reflected the bulk of the Rambouillet diktat.
Of course, once the Serb security forces withdrew from Kosovo, Belgrade’s authority evaporated. As NATO troops stood by, the Albanian majority carried out its own campaign of ethnic cleansing. In the Yugoslav civil wars the Albanian expulsion of Serbs trails only the exodus of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo after the US began its bombing campaign and the Serb flight from the Croatian Krajina offensive in number of refugees generated. Upwards of 200,000 or more Serbs, Jews, Roma, and non-Albanian Muslims fled Kosovo after it declared its independence.
Needless to say, we believe the Russians surely have Sleepy Joe’s number. In fact, some years ago when he was still on the VP beat, he meet with Russia’s longtime foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, at another Munich Security Conference. Amidst a burst of strong disagreement between Moscow and Washington about ways to end the then 22-month Syria conflict……the US vice president insisted Assad was a “tyrant” and must go.
In short, perhaps what is good for the goose is actually also fair game for the gander.
Still, when it comes to the partition business, there is no more brilliant chronicler of American follies on Russia’s doorstep than Doug Bandow. His concise history of Washington’s Balkans hi-jinks is a reminder of why the term “hypocrisy” is just shorthand for American foreign policy.
Amid the wreckage of two decades of failed military interventions, highlighted by the collapse of America’s Afghan ally even before the last US troops flew home, Washington’s unofficial war party always cited the Balkans as a success. Now that mission, too, is going south, with the unloved polyglot state of Bosnia and Herzegovina heading toward possible breakup. The European Union’s polite Gauleiter, “High Representative” Christian Schmidt, warned that his colonial charge faced “the greatest existential threat of the postwar period.”
The question is, so what?
….Amid a series of civil wars, spurred by support from Germany, which short-circuited any negotiated departure, the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia emerged as independent countries. (The territory of Kosovo later broke free of Serbia but remains unrecognized by many nations and the United Nations.) Only Slovenia’s departure was relatively straightforward. However, Croatia, Macedonia, and Montenegro, despite varied difficulties, today are accepted as independent states.
More problematic has been the development of Bosnia, home to Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks (Muslims). Both ethnic Croats (Catholics) and Serbs (orthodox) wanted to secede and join their co-nationals in ethnically unified states, while the Bosniak (Muslim) plurality desired to maintain its dominance and preserve a multi-ethnic state.
The Lisbon Agreement was reached in 1992 to peacefully divide the republic, only to be torpedoed by Warren Zimmerman, then the US ambassador to Yugoslavia, who is thought to have promised Bosnia recognition if the Bosniaks rejected the settlement. War resulted and thousands needlessly died. Although ethnic Serbs were most notorious for committing atrocities, neither the Croatian nor Bosniak forces were reluctant to murder opponents. Too late, even US officials admitted that they made a mistake killing the agreement.
Nothing impelled American involvement in the Balkans other than the Clinton administration’s grandiose ambitions (i.e. foreign policy busy-bodies no longer needed after the Cold War ended). Unwilling to leave Europe to manage its own backyard, Washington adopted a “Serbs always lose” policy, insisting that every ethnic group was entitled to secede from any territory with a Serbian majority (Slovenes, Croats, Bosniaks, Kosovars) but that Serbs could never secede from any territory with a different ethnic majority (Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia). Indeed, in the latter, the Clinton administration even refused to acknowledge ostentatious ethnic cleansing, which largely emptied the Krajina region of ethnic Serbs.
Washington actively aided and abetted anti-Serb forces in every case, launching a bombing campaign in 1995 against Bosnian Serbs to impose the Dayton Agreement, which sought to preserve a multiethnic state dominated by Muslim Bosniaks. The assumption was that ethnic Serbs would grow to love their oppressors if only sufficient force was applied for sufficient time. Since then, the three-part conglomeration – including ethnic Croats who also had indicated a desire to depart, in this case to join the new country of Croatia – has been effectively ruled by a European overlord titled the high representative. To this imperial throwback the Bosnian people have been expected to submit in all things. (On his arrival the latest foreign import, German Christian Schmidt, said he was honored “to serve the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina,” mistaking what military governors do to their occupied populations as “service.”)
However, the ethnic-Serb minority has little warmed to the viceroy from Brussels. After years of campaigning against his people’s de facto imprisonment in the U.S.-E.U. imposed state, Serbian leader Milorad Dodik is threatening to pull out. He has long been a critic of colonial rule, not unreasonably calling Bosnia a Western “experiment” that “does not work” and a “failed country.” At the very least the entity is unwanted, coerced, and unneeded.
Last month Dodik said the Serb republic planned to withdraw from the joint military, judiciary, and tax authority. He pointed out that his territory’s participation in these institutions resulted from decisions of international diplomats, not provisions of the constitution. He also moved to create an independent version of Bosnia’s agency for drug approval. Schmidt called this “tantamount to secession without proclaiming it.” Dodik’s critics claim that a regional legislature cannot override the “national” parliament, but who will stop him if he proceeds? Allowed Dodik: “There is no authority in the world that can stop us.”
Journalist Srecko Latal resorted to scaremongering, calling this “a terrifying development.” Indeed, Latal foresaw an apocalypse: “The fuse on the Balkans’ powder keg has been lit. It must be stamped out before the region, and even Europe itself, is engulfed in fire.”
Equally hysterical was Hikmet Karcic of the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, who warned that, without US intervention, “Bosnia and Herzegovina could spiral and become another Afghanistan.” Another Afghanistan? Heck, if President Joe Biden doesn’t send in the 101st Airborne tomorrow Dodik might become the next Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, or perhaps all three rolled into one! These paranoid fantasies reflect a desire for control, not assessment of reality.
Dodik made clear he doesn’t want conflict and intends to attack no one. Whatever his private fantasies, doing so would be suicidal. In practice, the ethnic Serbs simply want to be left alone, without colonial oversight from Washington and Brussels. Why should Croats, who long wanted to join the Croatian state, and Bosniaks, go to war to compel the Serbs to stay? If the Bosniaks had a right to leave Yugoslavia, why not wave a pleasant goodbye to the Serbs if they leave Bosnia?
Unfortunately, the Bosniaks want to keep their recalcitrant citizens, just like the Kosovars oppose releasing ethnic Serbs from Kosovo. To prevent the captives from going free, Bosnian Muslims harken back to the civil war, which, they contend, could have been stopped by timely outside intervention. So naturally, they believe, Washington should intervene now and…do something. Without specifying what.
Alas, the Biden administration, despite having much important work on its agenda, has been threatening to do something as well. Also without specifying what. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet made a hilarious call for Bosnia’s leaders “to rise above their own self-interest and to try to keep in mind the broader interest of their country.”
However, Bosnia is not and never was the ethnic Serbs’ country. So why should they be concerned about its interest? Chollet implicitly recognized this inconvenient fact when he made the inevitable threat, presumably of sanctions but conceivably military action, too: “If leaders continue on the path toward divisiveness, disintegration, withdrawal from the central institutions, there are tools we have to punish that kind of behavior.” Thou shalt love your overlords, or else.
What kind of a democracy forces other people to live in arrangements they did not voluntarily agree to? America does! The all-seeing, all-knowing social engineers in Washington will prescribe the way of life for ethnic Serbs in Bosnia. Explained Chollet: “The United States is committed to do whatever we can to try to prevent the worst from happening and, more than that, try to achieve an even better outcome” by ensuring Bosnia’s subservience to the West, or putting it “back on its path towards its Euro-Atlantic destination,” as Chollet more politely allowed.
For the time being, at least, Dodik seems determined to resist the new colonialism. He dismissed the threat of sanctions: “We serve our people and not the US interests.” That sentiment alone is likely to arouse Washington’s shock and outrage. After all, for at least three decades, the Blob believed that it was entitled to chart Bosnia’s future.
The answer to the latest Balkans contretemps is simple: Washington should shut up and the E.U. should bring home its “high representative.” Encouraging peace is a worthwhile goal. Micromanaging other peoples’ lives is not. The US and Europe should allow Bosnia to sort out its own problems, even if that results in a break-up.
As my colleague Ted Galen Carpenter pointed out, “Bosnia is a political and economic zombie, and no amount of Western effort can truly give it life.” It is time to stop trying. After decades of outside rule, allow the Bosnians and other residents of the Balkans to decide how and with whom they want to live.
David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.