The year almost behind us has been rather interesting. Who would have thought, looking at the rubble of the Twin Towers on the afternoon of September 11, that exactly a decade later Osama bin Laden would be dead, but the "war on terror" long lost? Eight years after Bush the Lesser declared "Mission Accomplished" from the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln, bitter and bloodied U.S. troops trudged back from Iraq, whose future is still very much uncertain. The revolts eagerly dubbed by Western commentators as the "Arab Spring" are turning into springtime for Jihad. Meanwhile, the financial crisis shaking Europe and the U.S. has grown into a proper depression.
In March, a massive earthquake struck Japan, and the resulting tsunami led to a major failure at the two nuclear plants at Fukushima. Fallout from the meltdowns was much greater than publicly acknowledged, but has mostly been absorbed by the ocean.
Fallout from Imperial politics, however, has shown up in many places around the world, from the Balkans to the sands of North Africa. 2012 won’t bring about the end of the world, or even the "end of history", but it may well usher in the end of the world order as we know it.
The Long Shadow
Two anniversaries, half a century apart, marked 2011 in the Balkans: Hitler’s 1941 invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the 1991 beginning of Socialist Yugoslavia’s murder by recognition. Today’s map of the region eerily resembles the one created by the German Reich seventy years prior. And just as the victorious Communists rewrote history after 1945, the Empire is attempting to impose its own version of history, through the war crimes Tribunal – one that has little or nothing to do with justice, but everything to do with politics.
Balkans precedents, from abolishing a country by fiat and weaseling on declarations of independence to "humanitarian" bombing and occupation, have come to haunt the rest of the world, in not quite the ways the Empire originally intended.
For example, the Empire claimed that Kosovo – an occupied Serbian province currently controlled by ethnic Albanian separatists – was a unique case, unrelated to anywhere else, when it supported the province’s claim to statehood in 2008. This year, Palestinian Arabs begged to differ.
When a desperate fruit vendor set himself on fire in January, the Tunisian government faced a torrent of popular protest. The revolutionary mood soon spread to Egypt. What began as a case of withdrawing consent from their respective governments soon became "regime change." Though the dictatorial presidents of Tunisia and Egypt were Empire’s clients, Washington threw them under the bus and rode the Sandstorm, dubbing it the "Arab Spring." Yet while Empire-trained professional revolutionaries aided the demonstrators in Cairo and Tunis, the revolt in Bahrain – a major US fleet base – was brutally suppressed.
Libya and Syria also saw the deployment of the weapons of mass subversion. The Syrian uprising is ongoing, though the thick cloud of propaganda makes it difficult to say what’s actually going on. In Libya, however, the Benghazi rebellion was used as a pretext for invasion. The Balkans intervention march was played on fast-forward: NATO bombers were called in, the "transitional council" claimed victory in August, and by late October, Col. Gadhafi was dead and the entire country conquered.
Springtime for Jihad
Yet the misnamed "Arab Spring" was no victory for the Empire. While the new regimes paid plenty of lip service to democracy, the vacuum created by the demise of Ben Ali, Gadhafi and Mubarak has been filled by militant Islam. Many of the Libyan rebels are Al-Qaeda veterans who fought against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tunisian elections were won by an Islamist party. In Egypt, the Salafists make the Muslim Brotherhood seem moderate in comparison. Violence against Christians and Jews has been widespread, priceless records and artifacts have been stolen or destroyed, and the revolt so bankrupted the Egyptian treasury, that Cairo will soon be unable to feed its people.
While the U.S. Navy SEALs located and killed Osama Bin Laden in May, the ideology that he fronted for is very much alive, and more dangerous than ever. Ironically, it was the Empire itself that made it so.
The Balkans itself remained relatively calm in 2011. The peace in Bosnia turned 16, despite all efforts to undo it. Attempts to bully the Bosnian Serbs into accepting a strong central government failed spectacularly, while squabbles between Muslims and Croats continue to thwart the establishment of a central government, more than a year after the general elections. If the situation continues, Bosnia may well beat Belgium’s record (541 days). It is already ahead of the EU by the number of government employees per capita. It’s not what the U.S. and EU officials had in mind when they spoke of a "Brussels Bosnia," but that’s what their policies have produced.
Croatia got the final approval to join the EU, and is expected to be officially annexed by 2013. That is, if there is an EU at all by then; the announcement prompted one British paper to quip, "Do they know something we don’t?" The Union is in throes of a major financial and political crisis, which may well see some members leaving the Eurozone, voluntarily or not. As the EU was being created, in 1991, Germany bullied its partners to recognize Croatia and Slovenia; today, it is bullying the EU to accept "reduced sovereignty" in matters financial. Could the EU be turning into a Fourth German Reich?
If that’s a joke, the Serbs aren’t finding it funny. The government in Belgrade finalized its project of appeasing the Hague Inquisition this year, with the arrest and rendition of Gen. Ratko Mladic in May and Goran Hadzic in July. As a reward they received a new demand from the EU: recognize "Kosovo." Germany has been the most vocal on the issue: for Berlin, Kosovo is an independent state, and the only way Belgrade can hope to join the EU is to recognize that as a fact.
Yet though it was put in place for just that purpose, the regime of President Boris Tadic has been unable to deliver on Kosovo. Not for the lack of trying, either. But the Empire and EU have pushed too hard, too fast. The artificially induced EUphoria is wearing off. A street revolution is unlikely – Serbia was the test subject for the revolution virus in October 2000, which brought power, riches and tropical islands to some, but misery to everyone else. Look to it for a possible cure for the plague of professional revolutionaries, though. It may have something to do with identity politics.
At the end of 2010, Swiss senator Dick Marty published a report alleging that "Kosovo" authorities were basically an organized crime network, trafficking among other things in human organs. The Empire swung into full damage control mode almost right away, and has continued to obstruct the investigation ever since. Hashim Thaci, the Albanian terrorist-turned-"statesman" was not thrown under the bus, only removed from the limelight in favor of a photogenic young figurehead.
As for Kosovo itself, the Empire doubled down, supporting an aggressive move by Thaci’s regime to conquer the Serb-inhabited north. Not just once, but twice – first in July, then again in September. NATO’s occupation force, KFOR, and EU’s "law and order" mission, EULEX, have sided squarely with Thaci, in open violation of their mandate. The local Serbs, however, have barricaded the roads and have been resisting ever since, despite bloody attempts to dislodge them.
In doing so, they have not only thwarted Thaci, KFOR and EULEX, but also Tadic’s regime in Belgrade, bringing into question the reality matrix altogether. Meanwhile, Empire’s curb-stomping of Serbia over Kosovo has angered Russia, which is now getting more actively involved in the Balkans. Though Moscow has politely turned down the Kosovo Serbs’ request for citizenship, it did send a convoy of humanitarian aid to the besieged community, and faced down KFOR and EULEX in the process.
However, Kosovo is just one of the flashpoints in the ongoing deterioration of relations between Russia and the Empire. Washington is still smarting from Vladimir Putin‘s 1999 palace coup, which deposed their puppet regime in Moscow. Facing the prospect of Putin leading Russia for five more years, the Empire is now trying everything to thwart it, including a "color revolution." Washington’s hubris regarding Kosovo is thus rekindling the Cold War.
Otto von Bismarck once said the Balkans weren’t worth the bones of a Pomeranian musketeer. Twice in the 20th century, Germany meddled in the region – as part of greater plans for European conquest – and suffered disastrous consequences. Could Chancellor Merkel be that bad a student of history, or does she believe that third time is a charm?
For its part, Washington is obviously acting to maintain the fantasy of a white knight riding to the rescue of grateful natives. That particular narrative has certainly made the interventionists feel morally superior, but it has not achieved the desired effect in the Muslim world. Other legacies of Balkans interventions, though, have resonated far and wide: death by recognition, humanitarian bombing, faux revolutions.
The American Empire has rested on three pillars: moral superiority from the victory in WWII, great wealth (as the only industrial nation to escape destruction in WWII), and awe-inspiring military power. But four decades of the Cold War and 20 years of unrestrained imperialism that followed have depleted both the moral and the financial capital. The U.S. military can still kill people and break things, but it takes more to win wars in this day and age.
Instead of re-evaluating its premises, however, the Empire clings to dangerous delusions. Perhaps one of the most important lessons of the false "Arab Spring" is that manipulating and subverting democracy not only has a tendency to backfire, but also undermines the legitimacy of the entire belief system which the Empire claims to hold dear. Now that revolutionary activism designed to topple hostile governments has begun to bleed over into domestic politics, there is no telling might happen next.