A Global Balkans

When the New York Times published the current government’s "National Security Strategy of the United States" last week, the American Empire – already a painful reality – became official.

According to one review, "the 31-page document asserts American dominance as the lone superpower – a status no rival power will be allowed to challenge. And it provides a reason the world should accept this state of affairs: the expansion of peace and more freedom." Another review analyzes the "unrestrained arrogance" of American Empire, and the plan to reshape the world any which way it chooses.

All eyes are now turned towards Iraq, as the testing ground for the new Grand Strategy. But the test has already been conducted over the past decade, in the faraway corner of Europe: the Balkans. From the early-on involvement in dismembering Yugoslavia to the current occupation and domination of the resulting vassal principalities, the US has used the Balkans to test and expand the limits of its power, eventually abolishing them altogether.

What the Strategy offers to the world is a global Balkans: ruined, conquered, desperate, hopelessly mired in delusions and lies. A wasteland, called peace.

Practice Makes Great Theory

There are many passages in the "National Security Strategy" dealing with specific objectives, from promoting genetically modified foods (for which US companies would charge royalties) and "free trade" (only as long as America comes out ahead), to subjugating India, China, Russia and several key African countries. But in the effort to make the world safe for America, the "Strategy" also makes broader claims, grounded one way or another in the Empires’ Balkans experiences: a chilling example of how theory is based on successful practice.

Meanings of Democracy

In several places, the "Strategy" asserts the importance of democracy in the new world order, and pledges US power to spread it to the entire world.

"[W]e are ultimately fighting for our democratic values and way of life," it says (Section III). How? Consider this direct reference:

"when openings arrive, we can encourage change – as we did in central and eastern Europe between 1989 and 1991, or in Belgrade in 2000." (Section II)

That the US literally paid the Serbian opposition to take over the government was freely admitted on the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times even as the Serbian elections of 2000 were under way. In Kosovo, elections were used to legitimize the Albanian takeover and the UN/NATO occupation. In Bosnia, Imperial satraps have regularly attempted to influence electoral outcomes, and if the results displeased them, they would simply dismiss or disenfranchise the winners. Most recently, Imperial lackeys did their best to manipulate the vote in Macedonia.

To seize power anywhere in the Balkans – not just the former Yugoslavia, either – one needs America’s blessing. Yet the lives of Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, Albanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, and Romanians are a far cry from the "American way"- in fact, most are worse off than under Communism.

Rogue and Evil Logic

The next pillar of the Strategy is derived from George W. Bush’s speech in the aftermath of September 11:

"[O]ur responsibility to history is already clear: to… rid the world of evil." (Section III)

That seems like an ambitious goal. After all, George W. Bush considers himself a Christian. As the foremost Christian prayer asks God to "deliver us from evil," wouldn’t this "responsibility to history" be blasphemous? Certainly, unless "evil" is defined in terms peculiarly unique to the Imperial worldview.

In that strange universe, evil and good are not attributes of actions undertaken by individuals or nations, as would normally be the case. Rather, they are attributes of individuals and nations themselves, determining the righteousness or wickedness of their actions. Bombing civilians, for example, would be considered evil under the old morality. In the Imperial world, however, it is evil only when undertaken by evil people – individuals or nations thus designated by the Empire (like Slobodan Milosevic). Employed by the Empire itself, the embodiment of all that is righteous and good, it is entirely acceptable. And why is the Empire the embodiment of all righteous and good? Why because it says so, of course, in a brilliant display of circular logic that circumvents every philosophical principle from the dawn of humanity onwards.

Until Emperor Bush called them "evil" last year, the US-designated forces of darkness were referred to by an Albrightism, "rogue states." According to the Strategy, rogue states:

"display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors, and callously violate international treaties to which they are party" (Section V)

One might note that the Empire itself has committed all of these transgressions: it has flouted international law by attacking Yugoslavia in 1999; it threatens not is neighbors, but indeed the entire world, with "preemptive strikes"; and it certainly does not hesitate to violate international treaties it has signed.

But remember, the Empire says is not capable of evil. Only "rogues" are.

Absolute Power

Indeed, when facing a "rogue" like Slobodan Milosevic, whose cardinal sin was daring to disobey American diktat, anything goes. Dare someone argue that Kosovo was an internal Serbian matter, as international law clearly supports? Nonsense:

"the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is diminishing." (Section IX)

In fact, given the proper media coverage, the democratic public in the West will believe just about anything: from massacre yarns to unsubstantiated claims of genocide. Not only can it believe the nonexistent, it can be made to ignore the existing – such as the mass expulsion of non-Albanians from the occupied province, or the systematic destruction of Serbian churches and cultural heritage in general. The Strategy pays appropriate homage to the power of the media:

"we also need a different and more comprehensive approach to public information efforts that can help people around the world learn about and understand America." (Section IX)

In the aftermath of US interventions, Bosnia (1995+) and Kosovo (1999+) have been occupied by NATO troops. In Bosnia, the occupation was supposed to be temporary. By the time Kosovo came along, even that pretense was abandoned. "Peacekeeping" was replaced by "nation-building." Though a cruel experiment in playing God, with predictably disastrous results, it is endorsed by the Strategy:

"As humanitarian relief requirements are better understood, we must also be able to help build police forces, court systems, and legal codes, local and provincial government institutions, and electoral systems." (Section IX)

Finally, there was the manner in which the Kosovo War was fought: massive destruction from the air, combined with proxy forces on the ground to avoid American casualties. Empire’s causes are worth thousands of deaths, as long as they are not American. The Strategy says:

"We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge." (Section IX)

But what "defenses" does it speak of? September 11 has shown that the Empire lacks true defenses; all its military might is offensive: from aircraft carriers that project bombers (i.e. power) all over the world, to cruise missiles, smart bombs, fast tanks and special forces. Almost since its inception, the United States has defined war as something that takes place elsewhere.

The Law, and Those Above It

It is the absolute power to attack (but not defend) anyone, anywhere, anytime, that has most likely enabled the assumption of Imperial rulers that they alone can define good and evil. To them, law is but a way of exercising power – a means to an end, no more. Their Manifest Destiny allows for some magnificent sophistry:

[T]he United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them.( Section II)

All are equal before the law: a noble sentiment by any standard, and entirely true. But at the same time, some are more equal than others:

"We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept." (Section IX)

Again, a noble value – refusing to give up a nation’s sovereignty to a politically motivated and unprecedented supranational institution – is in service of rank hypocrisy. For even as the US rejects the ICC, it flogs Yugoslavia almost daily into submitting to the ICTY, a "court" even less legitimate than its world-encompassing offspring, and even more clearly political in character.

True Friends of Terrorism

Of course, the Strategy is ultimately about the Empire’s ongoing "war on terrorism". But the war is not against all terrorism – merely the kind aimed against Americans. Employed against others, especially America’s enemies, it is not called "terrorism," and is definitely not labeled as evil.

Terrorism happens to be a remarkably effective way of achieving political and other aims, which is why it is so widespread. The Strategy clearly defines terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents." (Section III)

Consider, then, a statement by Lt. Gen. Michael Short, US Air Force, quoted in the International Herald Tribune and the Washington Post in May 1999:

"If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20 years, I think you begin to ask, ‘Hey, Slobo, what’s this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?’ And at some point, you make the transition from applauding Serb machismo against the world to thinking what your country is going to look like if this continues."

Is this not "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents"? Even as Imperial sophistry says no (for the Empire can do no evil), all logic and reason say yes.

In the period leading up to the US attack, the Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" engaged in politically motivated violence against innocents. It was even branded "a clearly terrorist organization" by a US diplomat, who was subsequently exiled to Indonesia for this transgression. The KLA, you see, couldn’t possibly be terrorists. They were fighting for "American values," as Sen. Joseph Lieberman infamously noted. Never mind their actions, or their celebration of their Nazi ancestors. Imperial support for the KLA and its offshoots in Macedonia and southwestern Serbia is unwavering.

Equally troubling is the continued support for militant Islamic fundamentalists in Bosnia, despite their links to Al-Qaeda. The Strategy proclaims:

"Allies of terror are enemies of civilization." (Introduction)

Here’s looking at you, Your Majesty.

The Poisoning of Truth

That is not one last straw, though. Dripping in hypocrisy, the Strategy repeatedly states that liberty and trade create peace and prosperity – a manifest truth, actually. But the very concept of Empire is emphatically opposed to liberty, trade, peace, and prosperity: it is entirely about enslavement, power, conquest and despair – in short, about force.

But according to His Elevated Majesty, if someone dares dispute this, or argue that peace, liberty and prosperity cannot possibly come at gunpoint (only power does, as Chairman Mao famously observed), such evil rogues and misfits will be preventively bombed out of existence. For their own good, of course.

Just ask the Serbs.

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.