Lawless: An Oddly Exceptional Empire

Many empires have risen and fallen over the course of recorded history. All were created by force. Yet all have tried to legitimize that force, by passing laws and seeking to establish some sort of order that would outlive their military supremacy. Some have been more successful at this than others; by way of example, the legacy of Napoleon Bonaparte’s legal code is still alive today, in much of Europe and its former colonies, though the little Corsican’s empire was decisively defeated nearly two centuries ago.

The Atlantic Empire, on the other hand, is the only example in history of an imperial enterprise destroying its own laws, undermining its own legitimacy in pursuit of power.

Scrambling the Nest Eggs

The European Union is often seen as distinctive from, perhaps even a rival to, the Atlantic Empire. This is a useful pretense for the ruling circles of both entities. In actuality, the EU is entirely subordinate to the U.S. in military and foreign policy matters, resembling a client "state" more than anything else. Economic policies of both are in the hands of big bankers, not the electorates that have long since ceased to matter.

This is why what just happened in Cyprus stands to have profound consequences. After several weeks of extortion, bullying and much media spin, the Cypriot government has agreed to "tax" the Cypriot depositors in exchange for an EU/IMF "bailout" loan to keep its banks afloat. But while the Cypriots couldn’t access their money due to ATM limits and bank closures, branches in the UK and Russia worked just fine, and many foreigners were able to avoid being pillaged.

Though the mainstream media claims the "bailout" was "helping" Cyprus, it is blindingly obvious that it did nothing of the sort. Rather, it was a massive criminal conspiracy to defraud the general public and cover the gambling losses of big bankers and speculators.

In doing so, a message was sent throughout the West: your money is not yours, it’s not safe, and the rules no longer apply. The nest egg has been scrambled, so to speak. As one pundit wrote, "In only a few weeks central Europe’s pompous and blundering managerial idiots have managed to undermine the most valuable asset Western banking had in its favor—depositor confidence. They will never again regain such esteem."

A Global Balkans

What the Cyprus "bailout" has done for banking and depositor confidence, the Balkans interventions over the past two decades has done for international law. In both cases, though, the ramifications have yet to be fully recognized.

The War of Yugoslav Succession (1991-95) was used to suborn the United Nations, trapping it into an impossible mission then denouncing its peacekeepers as "ineffective", until the UN mission was literally taken over by NATO in 1995. Four years later, NATO openly attacked the leftover Yugoslavia, dismissing even the need for UN approval.

Because that war had not gone as planned, part of the armistice was a UN resolution (UNSCR 1244). By regulating the NATO occupation of Serbia’s Kosovo province and guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, the resolution threatened the separatist plans of the Albanian terrorist KLA, on behalf of which NATO had invaded. So the Empire has done everything it could to bypass that resolution ever since. In 2008, it backed the Albanian provisional government’s declaration of Kosovo’s "independence". When this was challenged before the International Court of Justice, the ICJ tortured logic and law to declare the act "not illegal," though it clearly was.

The Empire-installed government in Belgrade then shifted the "negotiations" over Kosovo to the Empire-allied EU. Officially the EU was "status neutral", even though most of its members had recognized the breakaway territory as independent. One of the many rumors – as no facts are forthcoming – about the current "talks" between the EU and the regime in Belgrade, is that Brussels will insist on Serbia proposing a new UN resolution to replace 1244, thus removing any obstacles to "Kosovian" independence.

The 2010 ICJ decision was a travesty on par with the average ICTY verdict. Not at all coincidentally, the ICTY – and its younger cousin, the ICC – have been yet another tool for replacing law with lawfare.

By the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the pattern had been well established. It was hardly surprising that the 2011 attack on Libya was a pure mockery of the UN, as the limited "No-fly zone" resolution was immediately used as a license for unrestricted warfare aimed at "regime change." The Brezhnev Doctrine at least limited itself to the Soviet sphere; by contrast, Clinton, Bush II and Obama have claimed the world.

Mission Impossible

Not surprisingly, Imperial lawlessness gets replicated by client and quisling regimes. Seeking to please Washington and Brussels, both the current government of Serbia and its predecessor have repeatedly trampled the country’s Constitution. In fact, ever since the October 2000 coup, whenever laws got in the way of obeying Imperial dictates, the laws would lose. That hasn’t bothered the Empire in the slightest, until its own ox got gored.

Serbia’s quislings recently came under fire by Imperial pundits for selective law enforcement. Back in December 2012, the government arrested a tycoon close to the formerly ruling Democratic Party, on charges of corruption. Whether there was anything to the charges was rather immaterial: the cabinet needed a high-profile case as smokescreen for its betrayal of Kosovo. Apparently, the oligarch in question was some sort of Imperial asset, so his continued detention angered the wrong people in Washington. Even when trying to serve their Imperial masters, the quislings can do no right – what with being Serbs and all, if only by name.

All the Emperor’s Men

The Empire continues to give lip service to the forms of law, but has no qualms about perverting its contents in pursuit of power. It has done so at home. It has done so internationally. But by doing so, it has made its dominion less likely to last, not more.

Already, Washington is trying to delegate some of Empire’s work to select clients. But whether it is France in Mali, or Germany in the Balkans, or Turkey in the Balkans and the Middle East, the clients have their own agendas, their own interests, and their own history.

The Balkans interventions were used by Germany to ditch its historical baggage. Less than sixty years after bombing Belgrade, the Luftwaffe was doing it again. Yet while proving entirely willing to terrorize peaceful civilians with tanks, when the going got tough, the Germans got going. And while the leftist-environmentalist German cabinet eagerly embraced war, the conservatives seem more cautious – an approach that irks some German media.

Turkey, another former Balkans hegemon, has openly declared its desire to bring back the Ottoman times. It appears it has Washington’s blessing: just the other day, the Washington Post gushed about Turkey’s "gentle" comeback in Bosnia. Ankara also has designs on the Middle East, currently playing a major role in the U.S.-organized arming of the Syrian rebels.

Yet for all their power and might, the Ottomans and the Germans – Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns and Hitler alike – were eventually driven out of the Balkans. Perhaps the Atlantic Empire believes that this time it will be different; that there will be no resistance; that the people designated for the yoke will agree to be, and stay, conquered.

History teaches otherwise – but only those who are willing to learn.

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.