The Road to Serfdom

Balkans and the Demise of Principles

As 2005 draws to a close, the ruined remnants of what used to be Yugoslavia are nowhere near the peace or prosperity both their demagogic leaders and imperial interventionists have promised. Saddled with the heritage of state supremacy, total war, and ethnic politics, people of the region are destroying what hope for the future they have by embracing "solutions" from the Empire that offer those very things, albeit under different, fancier names.

Crimes against liberty are committed daily in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and its province of Kosovo, occupied by NATO troops since 1999. Who is behind them, whether the local rulers drunk with power and eager to please their Imperial sponsors, or the Empire that seeks to mold the Balkans into a perfect vision of the postmodern state-supremacist utopia, is hardly of import to the millions of impoverished, oppressed, deluded, and manipulated who survived the collapse of Yugoslavia. Yet it is those masses who parrot dutifully the official lies about "integrations" and "Euro-Atlantic future," hoping perhaps that politics will bring them salvation just this once. And eagerly march to inevitable serfdom.

"Progress" and Its Detractors

Last month, the anniversary of the Dayton Accords was used as a pretext to force a further centralization of Bosnia. Though officially leaving it up to the "Bosnians" to decide what – if anything – they wanted, Imperial officials didn’t bother to hide their desires: a "single, unitary state," just like the U.S. of A. Apparently, the 280-plus million Americans who live in the conviction that their country is a federated democratic republic must be that pesky "reality-based" community. What are some four million Bosnian citizens then, but a nuisance?

Thus the U.S. ambassador to Sarajevo announced happily this week that "Bosnian leaders" have agreed to strengthen the central government and give it more authority. In the name of promoting government efficiency and reducing bureaucracy, two more governmental departments will be created, for agriculture and science/education/technology. No aspect of human activity can remain out of the government’s scope, you see.

Over the weekend, the conservative daily Washington Times published an op-ed by Jeffrey Kuhner, a long-standing champion of Croatian interests, who bemoaned the direction Bosnia was going as a terrible mistake that would result in a state dominated by terrorist-friendly Islamic fundamentalists. Kuhner was immediately denounced by Muslim partisans, but his argument was surprisingly close to the oft-denied truth: a strong centralized state is the cause of conflict in Bosnia, not the solution to it.

Of course, no amount of facts can stop the "Balkanists" in Washington from peddling their vision of Pax Americana. Take for example John Norris, the Washington chief of the International Crisis Group, who once again used the number of 200,000 dead in Bosnia while arguing recently for the separation of occupied Kosovo from Serbia. The number has been conclusively debunked, and even the mainstream media admitted as much last month. ICG’s Norris can’t be bothered to read the news, though – he’s too busy making it, you see.

The Abramowitz Doctrine

Be it noted here that using Bosnia – real or imaginary – in arguments about the occupied Kosovo is the exclusive purvey of Imperial "analysts" and officials. No such outrage will be tolerated from the natives. Both the outgoing viceroy of Bosnia and the EU’s top foreign policy commissar reiterated this in interviews to newspapers in Serbia and Bosnia earlier this month. First, Paddy Ashdown told the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti that "the international community viewed Kosovo and Bosnia as two separate and unrelated problems." Javier Solana echoed him in Sarajevo’s Dnevni Avaz, saying that "the international community will decisively reject any attempt to tie the Kosovo talks to any other regional problem."

This is the Abramowitz Doctrine at work: a term coined here to describe the Empire’s insistence on "complete absence of any principle at all, except power." It is a mental sleight-of-hand used to avoid the obvious lack of any rationality to the "principles" asserted by the Empire in the Balkans, moral relativism at its worst.

Observed in their proper, common context, events in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia are all related in a surprising number of ways, and Imperial conduct in each instance brims with hypocrisy, double standards, and violations of law, principle, and custom. This is why imperialists, from Morton Abramowitz to Ashdown and Solana, must insist that Bosnia and Kosovo, or Kosovo and Macedonia, are completely unrelated – not even separate issues, but separate universes, with completely different metaphysics. Only then can they rationalize why an ethnically cleansed Croatia or Kosovo are good, but multiethnic Serbia is evil; why Bosnia needs to be centralized but Serbia must be broken into pieces; why the borders of Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia are sacred, but those of Serbia are not; why Yugoslavia can exist when it needs to be put on trial, but ruled not to exist when it wants to press charges; and so on.

War on Private Property

Heaven help anyone who actually tries to apply the presumed values of Americans to their government’s actions abroad. If the U.S. government can be brazenly anti-American at home, why should it behave otherwise overseas?

Trial by jury and presumption of innocence? Not for the designated villain of the Balkans. Protection of private property? Not if it belongs to Serbs. Under NATO occupation, hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Turks, Roma, and other members of non-Albanian communities have been forced to flee from the terror of UN-bankrolled "liberators of Kosova." In March 2004, entire villages were razed and priceless churches demolished by rioting Albanian mobs, and not a stone has been restored yet. To add insult to injury, upon its occupation in June 1999, NATO declared all laws passed after March 1989 as null and void, thus seizing property belonging to the Serbian government, private citizens, and businesses, worth millions of dollars. It has been selling off that property to Albanian squatters and foreign "investors" ever since.

Orwellian State Rising

Even before 2005 brought the "new" American policy toward the Balkans, the situation in the region looked positively Orwellian. This time last year, this column concluded:

"Completely different rules are in force for Serbs and for Albanians, or Bosnian Muslims; certainly, no external rules whatsoever apply to the Empire, in any of its manifestations. What ‘rules’ that exist are made by Imperial viceroys, commanders, envoys, commissioners, and advisors, on the spot and without any need (or regard) for internal consistency. The ends – ultimately elusive, but hiding under the platitudes of ‘justice’ and ‘Euro-Atlantic integration’ – justify any and all means, while any resistance to them is a priori considered criminal.

"Law is non-binding upon the Self-Righteous. Treaties are of no consequence. Neither is logic, for that matter. Understanding is not required, only obedience. This is the Balkans in 2004, not the Orwellian dystopia of 20 years prior, but still the same: a boot, stamping on a human face, forever."

Since then, the Empire has become much more overt and arrogant in its contempt of principles, and most of the downtrodden have found no issue with that.

Could it be that people who are willing to forfeit liberty so easily do not actually deserve it? It would certainly explain the sad state of humanity, in the twilight of 2005.


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 debuted in November 2000.