I read today [July 7] that the NATO powers have delivered a “draft” document to the government of Macedonia setting out the parameters for a proposed revision of the Macedonian Constitution. This, we are told, is the key to peace in the region, the necessary framework for a negotiated settlement of the Albanian-Macedonian conflict. The Macedonians are being presented with this US-EU plan as the only possible alternative to all-out civil war. The BBC story, referenced above, doesn’t go into any detail about the recommendations, beyond telling us that the document was “prepared by a group of foreign and Macedonian experts” and “is understood to propose greater use of the Albanian language in official business, more Albanians in public service jobs and the devolution of power to mayors and municipalities.” Pretty harmless, wouldn’t you say? Why, those mean old Macedonians, is this what they’ve been fighting against? No wonder those poor oppressed Albanians have been up in arms! Right? Well, uh, not exactly.
THE REAL LOWDOWN
What they don’t tell you is the real crux of the Albanian demands, and that is the right of an absolute veto over any and all legislation. A United Press International report gives us the real lowdown:
“Sources said the document proposes a mechanism by which any legislation that affects major interests of the Albanians cannot win passage unless it is backed by the ethnic Albanian parties even if the measure is supported by a majority in parliament. The Albanian parties hold 25 seats in the 120-seat body. Such legislation would require a two-thirds majority vote and, additionally, more than half of the parliamentarians from the ethnic Albanian parties must approve.”
A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
This, we are told, “is expected to be a major stumbling block in the negotiations.” I’ll bet. To give you some idea of what the Albanians are demanding, just transfer the scene to the US Congress, which is getting ready to vote on George W. Bush’s budget. What if the congressional Black Caucus suddenly announced that, since this legislation will have a major impact on American blacks, the President needs a two-thirds vote instead of just a majority. Not only that, but more than half of the congressional Black Caucus must vote “Aye” for the bill to pass; in effect, giving them veto power over all important legislation. Everyone would think they had gone nuts, and there would be much speculation as to precisely what kind of collective madness had overtaken them. Practically no one would take them seriously; no one, that is, except Lani Guinier.
Remember her? Nominated for head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division by Bill Clinton, Ms. Guinier became the center of a storm of controversy over her nutball ideas on the need to “reform” the electoral system so that minorities have more “rights.” In her infamous article, “The Triumph of Tokenism: The Voting Rights Act and the Theory of Black Electoral Success,” Guinier wrote:
“For those at the bottom, a system that gives everyone an equal chance of having their political preferences physically represented [in the legislative branch of government] is inadequate. A fair system of political representation would ensure that disadvantaged and stigmatized minority groups also provide mechanisms to have a fair chance to have their policy preferences satisfied.”
Never mind that the people in their majority oppose (or support) a particular policy: what matters is how “those at the bottom” feel about it. She expanded on her views in a book, the title of which, The Tyranny of the Majority, is the perfect expression of her views: Guinier’s electoral “reform” scheme, if implemented, would constitute a Tyranny of the Minorities, in effect giving weighted votes to “oppressed” minority groups. As a sympathetic piece in The American Prospect describes her views:
“Merely electing a certain number of blacks to a legislature or some other decision making body is insufficient to satisfy her conception of multi-racial fairness. Even after they gain access to a legislature, blacks can be rendered mere tokens if they are isolated by a white majority of lawmakers who refuse to bargain with them and thus prevent them from delivering substantive benefits to their constituents. Guinier contends that this ‘resegregation within the walls of a formally integrated legislature’ has happened often. Thus instead of hailing the enlarged number of black elected officials since 1965 as a sign of substantial progress, Guinier warns that this development represents ‘the triumph of tokenism.'”
TOKENISM, AT HOME AND ABROAD
This same argument is made by the Albanian rebel group, the National Liberation Army, and its progenitor across the border in Kosovo. It doesn’t matter that there are two Albanian parties in the Macedonian Parliament, and one of them is (or was) in the government. This is just “tokenism,” you see, since, as Lani would put it, minorities need to put in place certain “mechanisms” so they have “a fair chance to have their policy preferences satisfied.” “From this,” avers The American Prospect, “flows her second argument,” which extends the illogic of victimology as far as it will go:
“Fairness requires that the legal system protect the representatives of black communities from having their votes diluted in legislatures, just as the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act protect black voters from having their votes diluted in elections.”
BY THE BOOK
This demand for privileging “oppressed” minorities over inherently racist majorities is perfectly replicated in the US-EU “peace plan.” Rather than have the will of the minority Albanians “diluted” in the Macedonian Parliament, the US-EU brokered solution is to give the Albanians a de facto veto power over all decisions of the government. This is the arrangement that James Pardew, the US special envoy, is selling to the Macedonians as the price of peace: an electoral scheme straight out of Guinier’s book.
GUINIER AT FOGGY BOTTOM?
It’s funny how these things turn out. Even Bill Clinton backed away from Guinier’s theories. He called them “anti-democratic” and “difficult to defend.” But the Bushies seems to have embraced her ideas, at least in the foreign policy realm. Criticism of Guinier’s views from conservatives and liberals alike was finally enough to force Clinton to withdraw her nomination. Yet, in the context of recent developments in the Balkans, one really has to wonder: has Colin Powell hired Ms. Guinier on as a consultant? If not, then she has at least a few fans in the US State Department, that much is certain.
IF I WERE PRESIDENT
If I were the President of Macedonia, I would tell the US envoy the following: “Sure I’ll agree to these constitutional changes, just as soon as you implement the same ‘reforms’ in your own country. I’ll give the Albanian caucus in Parliament the power to block all legislation when George W. Bush grants the Congressional Black Caucus a similar veto.”
When Bush II was elected, I warned that Balkan policy was likely to get worse, not better, but, I have to confess that, back then, even I thought I was exaggerating. I mean, Bush promised to disengage from the region, and through Condolezza Rice even implied that we might pull out, causing consternation in Europe and a direct inquiry from London via NATO warlord Lord Robertson. Now, after all that, the exact opposite is occurring: our involvement in the region is deepening, and its implications are far more ominous than in the Clinton era.
THE VIRTUE OF HYPERBOLE
As it turns out, I wasn’t exaggerating. It’s hard to do that in my line of work. The absurdity and criminality of American foreign policy seems limitless, no matter which party is in power.
DIDN’T I WARN YOU?
To those conservative Republicans who opposed Clinton’s dirty little war, and hoped that a new regime would sweep clean the Augean Stables of the State Department, I can only extend my condolences and mutter “don’t say I didn’t warn you” under my breath. I would further remind them that it is under Bush’s watch that the Macedonian insurgency was unleashed, with little interference from the 30,000 NATO troops stationed nearby. These troops include a garrison of American soldiers in Macedonia, now numbering some 500-plus and no doubt slated to increase in the coming months.
The US has maintained a military presence in Macedonia, albeit an unobtrusive one, since the summer of 1993, when Clinton sent them in to ward off the alleged threat of Serbian aggression. Now, in return for the favor of letting NATO use their country as a base from which to attack Yugoslavia, the Macedonians are being blackmailed into accepting the same fate: ethnic partition and the dissolution of their nation. There is a kind of rough justice in this, albeit one too inhumanly harsh to be called “poetic.”
THE FICKLE CARLA
The big problem with such a cosmic and oddly detached view of justice, however, is that, as usual, ordinary people will have to suffer the consequences of their rulers’ cowardice and sheer stupidity. The KLA and its Macedonian equivalent will be unleashed on a disarmed nation whose rulers have been bought off and neutralized. It wasn’t long after the NATO-Albanian conquest of Kosovo that the former Yugoslav province was ethnically cleansed of practically all Serbs, except for a small enclave in the far north, and the Albanian majority sectors of Macedonia will undergo a similarly violent catharsis and population shift. This is one war crime you can be sure that Carla Del Ponte will never prosecute.
A war crime in the Balkans, these days, is any military resistance to the creation of a Greater Albania and the Macedonians know it. No wonder the commander of their army quit in disgust. That was some weeks ago, but for some reason I think they’re having a little trouble finding a replacement.