Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Serbia and Kosovo

CNN is broadcasting pictures of riots in Belgrade. About 150,000 filled the streets and set the embassy on fire. It took about 45 minutes for the Serbian police to arrive, which should tell you something. Fortunately, the US Embassy was closed this week because of the Kosovo issue. At least they weren't so naive as our president. Kosovo declared independence this week, with the full support of the USA and most of the EU, because final status negotiations with Serbia broke down. It's not just a small grievance for Serbia.

Most of the 10% of the Kosovar population that is ethnically Serb lives near the north of the Ibar river. No border adjustments were allowed or - likely - even discussed. The Serbian Orthodox Church has had its central headquarters in Kosovo for eight hundred years. The province of Kosovo even derives its name from Kosovo Polje, the field where Serbs lost their independence to the Ottoman Empire (more or less) on June 28, 1389. That day is the Serb national holiday (for those who don't realize it, June 28th was the day in 1914 that the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand chose to provoke the Serbs by parading himself through downtown Sarajevo, ending with tragic results for millions). The name "Kosovo Polje" means roughly "field of blackbirds" - referring to the swarms of birds descending over the corposes that day. This is Big Stuff for the Serbs. For Serb nationalists, it's like giving the Alamo back to Mexico. The US position is to hope this just blows over. It might not just blow over.

There is no doubt that Milosevic's treatment of Kosovo convinced Kosovar Albanians that independence was a necessity. UN and NATO made war in 1999 to liberate the province from the grasp of the JNA (Serbian army), which was justified on the basis of stopping the ethnic cleansing then underway. We succeeded with the help of the KLA, a guerilla group with some unsavory ties to Muslim extremists (Kosovar Albanians are at least nominally Muslim).

So why are the Serbs attacking the US embassy? Unfortunately, the United States has shown almost no willingness to pay any respect to Serb grievances. And we have put the pro-Western Serb leadership in the terrible position of defending us and this gross offense to Serbian pride. We could have, and should have, offered some words of condolence to the Serbs and some further invitation for them to continue pressing ahead with EU membership. Utlimately, there will be no real border between Kosovo and Serbia if Balkan integration into the EU proceeds peacefully. Bush and Condi have a tin ear for such things. And in their self-righteous lauding of Kosovar independence, they have midwifed a tiny new unviable state in the poorest part of Europe. (The reason most Serbs gradually left Kosovo over the past century is that Kosovo is sort of the West Virginia of Serbia). Foreign policy should not be turned into a series of morality tales.


Vigilante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vigilante said...

I blogged extensively in the 1990's over the various wars of Yugoslavian dissolution. You have made some good points here, but I revert to my original predilections: The Serbs squandered the legitimacy of their claims to Kosovo by their brutality against the Kosovars. It was right for us to bomb the everlasting shit out of them. Should have done it earlier. Now, that they have bombed our embassy, I'm willing to consider the books are balanced with those motherfuckers.

Vigilante said...

I'm not a supporter of Hillary (yet) like Doc. Strangelove, but I liked what she said tonight about the Serbs burning our embassy!

freeridersupermonkey said...

LTG, I agree completely with your assessment except for what you say about the EU. First, being from Europe myself, I don't think the purpose of the EU is to mop up after the yugoslav policies of all western nations failed. Secondly, I don't agree that borders don't matter. They might not matter de facto, but in the minds of the people they matter a lot. How otherwise could you explain that separatist movements continue to exist and sometimes get stronger in numerous European regions, like northern Italy, the Basque region , Northern Ireland?

The Law Talking Guy said...

When I say "borders don't matter" I think we're on the same page. The reason why separatist movements are getting stronger is precisely because the "independence" within the EU context matters less. The sensible populationsof these European regions -the Basques, Catalonia, Northern Italy, Galicia, Silesia, whatever - are contemplating separatism because the security dilemma and need for economic viability aren't really there anymore. Their neighbors may be upset over the symbolism of independence, but know that, practically, it won't impede business, travel, or any other part of life, nor will it impede their right to live in the newly separated region. So borders may stll matter symbolically, but less so practically. That's why these independence movements take on a funny cast sometimes, like the movement by some in Vermont to secede from the United States.

freeridersupermonkey said...

Okay, I guess I misinterpreted your words then. I totally agree with that clarification of yours. I'd still like to stress, though, that borders are important symbols, even in a (more or less) united Europe.

Raised By Republicans said...

I don't have a lot of patiences for national extremists. I really don't care if there was a battle or a church or whatever in Kosova a hundred or a thousand years ago.

I don't think the Alamo anology is completely apt either. To make it fit we would have to imagine that 90% of the Anglo-Texans had moved out of the state generations ago.

That Serbian nationalism brought this entire situation in the former Yugoslavia on themselves is - in my opinion - without doubt. Had Serbian authorities been more open to cooperation with Bosnians, Kosovars, Croats, Slovenes etc and less interested in extracting resources from these regions for the benefit of the Serbian core of the country, we might have seen a much different history in Europe in the last 20 years.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Have you been to San Antonio?

Just kidding.

Not having "patience" for national extremists is laudable in one sense, but may not be practical in another. We need to be realistic that these nationalist sentiments exist, and that they are meaningful to the participants. Politics is about way more than the distribution of resources. And I think Bush and Condi once again screwed the pooch on this one. The loss of Kosovo is a devastating insult to Serbia, and we should have tried to be cautious about infecting that wound. Doesn't help that, for its own purposes, Russia keeps poking at it.

Raised By Republicans said...

As for resources...they are the fundamental cause of all this nonsense about ancient battle fields.

Do you think Danes give a DAMN that the first capital of a unified Denmark is currently in Germany? Of course they don't! Why not!? Because Danish leaders don't need to distract the starving masses from their tragic daily lives.

I say screw the Serb nationalists and their sensabilities about Kosovo. If they loved it so much why did they leave it? They can't have it both ways. Nor should the international community let them pretend that they can.