A Broken Promise

During the presidential campaign last year, when John Kerry tried to be a bigger imperialist than George W. Bush, he chose the Balkans as his battleground. Here was a jewel in the crown of Clinton’s “humanitarian interventionism,” neglected by Bush as he went gallivanting about the Middle East, that candidate Kerry promised to resurrect to its former glory. Not surprisingly, most American voters didn’t care about the “legitimate aspirations of the Albanian majority” in Kosovo or the “ethnic re-integration of Bosnia.” But some who did rallied around Bush in order to stop the resurrection of Clintonites in Washington. When Bush triumphed, they rejoiced.

Today, as George W. Bush takes his second oath of office, they have no reason to cheer. Kerry may have been outspoken on his Balkans policies, but the Bush regime actually carried them out, albeit silently. What no one seems to have understood is that overturning the Clinton-era policies in the Balkans would have meant questioning the American Empire itself. And that just isn’t going to happen.

Deceptions and Assumptions

It is generally understood that promises made during the electoral campaign aren’t worth much once the vote-counting is over. But only a “great” president does the exact opposite of the platform that got him elected. Abraham Lincoln promised to preserve slavery. Woodrow Wilson won reelection on a peace platform. FDR pledged he would never send Americans to fight foreign wars – then did his level best to bring the war home. Bush II promised “absolutely no nation-building,” referring pointedly to Clinton’s Balkans interventions. Then he not only launched “nation-building wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also carried on in the Balkans.

It doesn’t matter whether the man in the office is a Republican or a Democrat. As Ivan Eland puts it, U.S. foreign policy rests on a set of dubious assumptions upheld by both Democrats and Republicans, and shared by a vast majority of the general population. Different administrations have given it different flavors – e.g., Clinton’s “humanitarian interventionism” versus Bush II’s “war on terror” – but the dish has remained the same. (It should mean something, though, that only under the current regime has the use of the term “American Empire” become commonplace.)

At first glance, it made little sense for Bush II to perpetuate Democrats’ meddling in the Balkans, especially after September 11. Despite vehement denials, enough truth has emerged over the past four years to show the link between Islamic militants who led the Bosnian Muslims (and to a lesser extent, the Albanian KLA) and al-Qaeda. Nonetheless, and often clearly at the expense of the “war on terror,” Washington continued to support the efforts to create a centralized Bosnian state; establish an Albanian-dominated, independent Kosovo; and dismember Serbia.

A “Better” Bosnia

British viceroy Paddy Ashdown has governed Bosnia since May 2002, but he committed the most egregious abuses of his near-absolute powers in the past year. He conducted two purges of public officials in the Bosnian Serb Republic to the point of threatening its outright abolition, and he forced its government to confess to “genocide” in Srebrenica.

Speculation that Ashdown may have been implementing some personal policy vanished in December, when his latest purge received unequivocal support from the U.S. There is no longer any doubt that Washington supports the ongoing centralization of the country, in direct violation of the Constitution Americans themselves authored back in 1995. This is Kerry’s “ethnic re-integration,” only implemented by Bush II.

It is no longer solely Clinton’s fault that Bosnia is a black hole of nation-building.

The Agenda in Kosovo

When organized Albanian mobs rampaged through Kosovo in the spring of 2004, Washington was offered a perfect opportunity to disavow the disastrous policy of occupation that has supported terrorism and ethnic cleansing since June 1999. But a rapid reaction by Albanian partisans in the U.S. quickly neutralized any outrage at the sight of burned-out homes, churches, and UN vehicles.

Instead of a revision in policy, the U.S. agenda in Kosovo – articulated by Morton Abramowitz, founder of the International Crisis Group – was actually accelerated. Provisional Albanian authorities were given even more power, while a U.S.-favored KLA terrorist became prime minister. The Serb boycott of the provincial elections, aimed at withholding consent from the occupation, was attacked and condemned. Not a day goes by without the UN viceroy or the OSCE demanding that Serbs “participate” in the “political process” in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, the controversial PM declares he is “proud” of being KLA, and foresees independence quickly. A new resolution supporting KLA’s aims has been submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives. Just before Christmas, Abramowitz urged the Bush II government to “solve” Kosovo as a way of mending relations with Europe. Obviously, the forces that persuaded John Kerry to champion the “legitimate aspirations of the Albanian majority” in Kosovo are trying just as hard to make Bush II do the same.

The Siege of Serbia

Then there is Washington’s relationship with Serbia, which continues to resemble the policies of Clinton’s age, admittedly with less violence. Frustrated by Belgrade’s refusal to submit unconditionally to the Hague Inquisition, the State Department has cut off the aid intended for the Serbian government, amounting to some $10 million. However, spokesman Richard Boucher said $73.6 million in aid would still go to “organizations and programs outside of the central government that are committed to reform.” (Reuters)

One such organization is the Humanitarian Law Center, led by Natasa Kandic, who has frequently obliged her paymasters by making claims of Serbian atrocities. Her most recent accusation, given much publicity by news wires, is that Serbian forces incinerated the bodies of ethnic Albanians they supposedly killed during the Kosovo War. Any resemblance with the Holocaust is, of course, purely deliberate. To add weight to her charges, Kandic also claimed her organization was harassed and threatened by Serbian security services.

Kandic was also the source of “refrigerator truck” story in 2001, which conveniently emerged just before the Djindjic government abducted Slobodan Milosevic and illegally extradited him to the Hague Inquisition.

So while Washington is punishing the government of a man who translated the “Federalist Papers” into Serbian, it lavishes funds on purveyors of gruesome fiction like Kandic, and the cigarette-smuggling separatist regime in Montenegro.

Imperator Orbis

“How did the chief magistrate of a confederated republic degrade into the global tyrant we experience today, part secular pope, part military despot, part pseudo-philosopher-king and full-time overbearing global gangster?” asked Adam Young of the Mises Institute in October 2004. It was war and imperialism, he claims, and evidence seems to bear him out.

Bush II came to power promising not to be Clinton. And he wasn’t – he was worse. While Clinton cloaked his wars in the rhetoric of humanitarianism, Bush the Younger reveled in naked imperialism. If Richard Holbrooke is to be believed, Clinton went into the Balkans to build American hegemony in Europe. Bush II stayed in the Balkans, despite pledging he would not, in order to build American hegemony worldwide.

That George W. Bush is a “betrayer of hope” to so many is almost entirely due to the unforgivable naiveté of those who dared to believe in him in the first place. The amount of power accumulated by the office of the president would have tempted a saint. As Young said, that job has long since stopped being the chief executive of a democratic republic, and become Emperor of the World.

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.