Politics of Destruction

It is not uncommon for countries that have been infected by democracy to fall prey to a malaise in which every sphere of life becomes political, i.e., falls under the control or influence of the state. The amount of power this gives the state becomes so strong a lure that it attracts the very worst of characters, and tempts even the best who somehow manage to stumble into governance. Power struggles at the top result in widespread destruction of society, or even the country itself. One very clear example of this is Serbia today – but if one looks hard enough, it can be seen everywhere. Only the extent varies.

The Very Soul of Dysfunction

Once the heart of a Yugoslav state, Serbia is now joined in a dysfunctional union with Montenegro, partially occupied and ruled by several political factions that cannot agree on almost anything. Two weeks ago, the Imperial viceroy in charge of occupied Kosovo visited Belgrade. In talks with union president Svetozar Marovic, Serbian president Boris Tadic, Serbian PM Vojislav Kostunica, and union FM Vuk Draskovic, he heard four very different policies. Technically, the only one with legitimacy to make policy is Kostunica – but that did not stop the others in the least.

Marovic is an empty figurehead, with little or no authority, appointed by the government of Montenegro that boycotts the union and wishes nothing more than its demise. Tadic, though winner of this summer’s presidential election, has little policymaking authority under the Constitution and is first and foremost the leader of an opposition party. Draskovic is another party leader, a junior partner in Kostunica’s ruling coalition who, in addition to other psychoses, seems to suffer from delusions of grandeur. Kostunica, on the other hand, is prime minister only because he scraped together a ramshackle coalition left over after Tadic’s Democrats and the Radicals claimed two-thirds of Serbia’s political scene.

Problems and Pressures

When Socialist President Slobodan Milosevic was pressured out of office in October 2000, the 18-party coalition known as the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) had the unenviable task of reforming the government and rebuilding the country after an almost devastating NATO attack that followed a decade of embargoes. It failed spectacularly.

The very fact that so many parties existed showed their leaders could not play well with others; Zoran Djindjic and Vojislav Kostunica, whose feud split the Democratic Party in the early 1990s, clashed again after DOS took power. In an effort to isolate Kostunica, Djindjic trampled the Constitution, parliamentary procedure, and a host of laws, and even sabotaged a presidential election. After his assassination in March 2003, the "politburo" of DOS first ruled under martial law for two months, then fell apart amidst scandals and recriminations.

Simply put, Serbia’s ruling "democrats" have been too busy fighting to get in power and stay in power to actually implement any meaningful reforms. Any progress Serbia has made since October 2000 has been in spite of, not because of, its "reformist" rulers. Making matters worse is the Hague Inquisition, which has demanded for years Belgrade’s "cooperation," i.e., extradition of all citizens accused of war crimes.

Given that the entire Serbian leadership of the 1990s has been indicted for a "joint criminal enterprise" to start the Yugoslav wars and create a "Greater Serbia," it is obvious why the present Serbian authorities may be reluctant to comply. Partisans of the ICTY claim Serb dislike of the Inquisition is due to its "anti-Serb bias," which the ICTY seeks to redress by putting on trial Naser Oric, the notorious Bosnian Muslim warlord of Srebrenica, and members of the KLA. But no matter how hard the ICTY tries, the Serbian public still smells a rat: Muslims, Croats, and Albanians are tried for individual crimes, while Serbs are accused of a grand conspiracy. Resistance to the ICTY seems to be flagging, though. Kostunica, who previously opposed the Tribunal for legal reasons, has recently offered a purely utilitarian argument against extraditions.

While Kostunica wants to control extraditions, both Tadic and Draskovic believe submission to the ICTY should be unconditional and prompt. "Cooperation" with the ICTY is cited by just about everyone – from Western media and Imperial envoys to most Serbian officials – as the prerequisite for joining NATO and the EU. Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether joining these institutions would be desirable, one must wonder whether they would want a member whose leadership was convicted of starting the Balkans wars and committing systematic atrocities, even genocide.

The Topcider Affair

Mysterious deaths of two soldiers at Belgrade’s Topcider facility in early October served as a focus of inter-governmental feuds. The resulting fury of recrimination, joined by former DOS leaders, has tarnished the military, threatens to topple the government, and has done great damage to Serbia’s public image.

The Army’s initial explanation that the two sentries shot each other sounded so incredible, a second investigation was ordered. Meanwhile, Draskovic – who’s been pursuing his own maverick foreign policy for months, to the government’s frustration – accused the military of protecting "war criminals" such as Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic in the "bunkers and tunnels" of Topcider. His charges were echoed by former DOS official Zarko Korac, who even suggested the military was planning a coup. Union President Marovic even called for a foreign investigation. Draskovic’s charges, together with his recent contacts with President Tadic, are threatening to topple Kostunica’s government. He’s even called for early elections. Tadic, however, was not similarly enthused; polls show his Democrats barely more popular than the opposition Radicals, and he is not in a hurry to be embarrassed again.

Empire and the Intellectual Taliban

Needless to say, the circus in Belgrade brings joy to circles within the Empire. The Western press, all too eager to decry "Serbian fascism" or "return to Milosevic," duly airs the specious charges of Korac, Draskovic, and others. Even if they hadn’t demonized Serbs for over a decade, they’d still deem newsworthy this kind of talk by senior officials in both the current and the former administration; such behavior is not seen anywhere else in the world. That it further besmirches Serbia’s reputation is an added bonus.

There is a stark difference between patriotism and nationalism, however many seem unable to see it. THe America of 1776 was patriotic; today’s Amerika is nationalist. In the same way, there is a difference between genuine Serbian patriotism and the straw man of "nationalism" created by the same people who crafted the ghastly demonic image of Serbs and Serbia through an avalanche of lies and shameless propaganda heaped on for over a decade. The worst, perhaps, is that much of it is the fault of various ""reformers" and "human rights” activists, who not only haven’t tried to combat the demonic image, but actually nourished it to serve their own agendas.

This excruciatingly loud minority, the dogmatic and intolerant "intellectual Taliban," has taken over the levers of power and press – finding them conveniently centralized in Belgrade – and used them to aggressively impose their postmodern, post-national, post-sovereign worldview on the rest of the country. The Empire blesses their endeavors with both words and money, but they aren’t mercenaries. They would believe and act as they do even if no one paid them – unless that would mean opposition to power. They are preachers of the welfare-warfare god, the almighty State, and its growth is their greatest reward.

Though Foreign Minister Draskovic’s recent outburst of buffoonery seems to help their cause, they consider him nothing more than a useful idiot, and they hold him in contempt. Draskovic does not belong to this self-proclaimed elite; rather, he is an egotistical, paranoid, and obsessive maverick with a theatrical flair. Had he stayed a writer, he’d have been considered a harmless eccentric. As a diplomat, he is an ugly failure.

The Broken Balkans

Be all that as it may, the ultimate result is a Serbia in chaos, caught between its bickering politicians and fanatical state-worshippers on one side, and the Empire and the Inquisition on the other. It isn’t the only country in the Balkans, or in the world, with such a problem.

In neighboring Macedonia, however, one politician decided he’d had enough. Prime Minister Hari Kostov just resigned rather than preside over the slow destruction of his country. He had joined the Empire and its local agents in opposing the recent referendum against redistricting, perhaps believing that obedience was the best course. Maybe the way the Empire celebrated the poll’s failure – with a mixture of jubilation and gloating – helped disabuse him of illusions. Kostov’s metaphorical scream of frustration spoke not just for the trapped Macedonians, but for everyone in the Balkans who feels trapped in the surreal world imposed by the Empire.

Just about everything in the Balkans is broken, from inter-ethnic relations to the economy, from political systems to morality. A lot of that is a consequence of the violent 20th century, and the relentless pressures of fascism, communism, and nationalism, and some reaches as far back as the 19th century, to imperial interference and unresolved territorial questions. But with the American Empire and the Union of European Socialist Republics lording it over the peninsula these days, prospects for repairing anything look rather dim.

Worse yet, the people seem to be sinking into bitter resignation, allowing the politicians and Imperial agents to further destroy their lives and livelihoods. They are giving in to overwhelming despair. It is a process that must stop, and soon, if the Balkans is to even begin emerging from the darkness that gets thicker by the day.

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.