Reader DP111 left a link in our comments to one of my favorite analysts, David Warren
, who has this to say about Kosovo:
…I was opposed not only to the wanton bombing of Serbia, but also to the whole “inevitable” project of carving a new European Muslim state out of the flesh of that Orthodox Christian country.
I was not without sympathy for the “plight of the Kosovars,” however. Like virtually all journalists at that time, not of Serbian ethnicity, I fell for a great deal of typically Balkan propagandist rubbish that has since been quietly withdrawn.
My rule of thumb, on wars, is to fight them with your enemies, when absolutely necessary; but never with your friends, and in particular, never in order to create new enemies…
The Serbians, under the late Slobodan Milosevic, seemed determined to inspire loathing and distrust, and suspicion that he was doing in Kosovo precisely what his nationalist allies had done in Bosnia: “ethnic cleansing,” also known as the massacre of innocents. Although not nearly as monstrous as, say, Saddam Hussein, nor anything like Saddam’s threat to the West, Milosevic missed as many opportunities to come clean with his diplomatic interrogators. The Serbs, who allowed this vicious old Communist, turned nationalist demagogue, to remain in power, showed very poor judgment.
But the fact that Kosovo had a significant ethnic majority of Albanian Muslims over Serbian Christians was not, in itself, sufficient argument to detach it from Serbia by main force. For if that is the argument, the state system which provides the only order the planet currently enjoys will tend to disintegrate. [my emphasis – D]
Strange to say, I am with Vladimir Putin on this one, and against George W. Bush. Mr. Putin’s remarks on the inspiration that Kosovo’s independence has given to violent separatists in Chechnya, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and elsewhere, are entirely to the point.
Indeed, driving the Serbian government and Serbian people into the protective embrace of ex-Soviet Russia, and ultimately her ex-KGB strongman, was among several counter-productive dimensions in the war that Madeleine Albright organized, along with other ruinous Clinton interventions in areas of peripheral interest to the U.S. (Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia).
The NATO action in Kosovo brought Mr. Putin – the hammer of the Chechens – to power, by demonstrating that force and force alone will decide secession struggles, East or West. It restored anti-Americanism to its place in the Russian national security consensus, indirectly bringing an end to the Yeltsin reform era.
It was an incredibly stupid war to wage, and the product was on display in Brussels yesterday where the Russian ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogovin, actually threatened the use of force to prevent Kosovo’s declaration of independence from going any farther.
President Bush, who was prompted to recognize the self-declared Kosovar state (together with most European powers), feels obliged to accept the fait accompli he inherited from the preceding administration.
He, or his successor, will then try to resist the next stage of demands, for a Greater Albania in which Kosovo attempts to merge with Albania, and the Muslim majorities in adjoining districts of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Greece begin insurrections to join them. By recognizing Kosovo, Bush et al. have validated exactly that: a deadly new round of Balkan troubles, ripe for Islamicization.
We cannot afford to validate the principle of armed insurrection, whether in Kosovo or Chechnya or Palestine or Kashmir or northern Sri Lanka or southern Thailand or the southern Philippines or in any of the many other places where terrorism demands to be rewarded with an independent state. And, within Europe, a couple of thousand EU policemen (about to be installed without United Nations cover, and in defiance of agreements with Serbia) cannot guarantee order in a territory that is already a European refuge for radical Islamist cells, and threatens to become Europe’s terrorist safe house.
There is a deeper history here, for the understanding of which we would have to review the rest of the legacy of Ottoman imperialism in the Balkans. But that is, alas, something the Serbs understand a lot better than we do
Well, that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? I felt I knew a bit more about the morass after reading Mr. Warren’s take on the situation.
Then, in the comments, I found two coherent arguments – one from a Mr. Thomas Anderson, reflecting his agreement with Mr. Warren, and another by someone who calls himself “Witness to History,” and who stands opposed to both, presenting his reasoned disagreement quite well. I will present their opposing points of view below.
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Having read both points of view, I was as lost as ever. Knowing that “Google is your friend” and that my geographical knowledge about this area is hazy at best, I tried to find out exactly what the regional parameters are. Perhaps a geopolitcal map will provide some clues?
Forget it. Wikipedia left me more confused than before. It seems that no one quite agrees on what is central Europe versus eastern Europe. You open the page and it’s more bristly with disclaimers than a porcupine. Even here, there are arguments:
Eastern Europe is a concept of a geopolitical region recently influenced by the Cold War. Its borders are defined more by culture than by clear and precise geography. Throughout history and to a lesser extent today Eastern Europe has been distinguishable from Western Europe and other regions due to cultural, religious, economic, and historical reasons. Although the term Eastern Europe was largely defined of the Cold War, it still remains much in use. The term is commonly used in the media and in everyday use both in “eastern” and other regions of Europe.
The wiki goes on to explore the various definitions given by various interested parties:
1 Definitions [of eastern Europe]
1.3 Time Almanac
1.6 Soviet era
And the maps on that page aren’t much help, either. The parameters of the map(s) you choose seem to depend on your political and historical leanings. If you go to the page you’ll find a UN map, one from the CIA, another from Time, and a last one showing the divisions post-WWII until the break-up of the Soviet Union.
My conclusion: this place is so mined with both ancient feuds and recent political/historical conflict that there is no “real” truth to be had. Your truth seems to be what you want to see accomplished. Or perhaps, your truth proceeds from your own family’s past.
Here are the two commenters to Mr. Warren’s essay. As you see, they have diametrically opposed points of view. The first debater, Mr. Thomas Anderson, left his email address so I was able to get his permission to put up his ideas here. The other is anonymous with no contact. He calls himself “Witness to History”. Mr. Anderson agrees with Mr. Warren; “Witness to History” does not. They are both worth reading.
First, Mr. Anderson:
…Stupidity, including political stupidity, like the poor, has been with us and will be with us always. What I cannot understand is why, in the last half-century, it has become fashionable to be so politically stupid that we embrace personal, national and indeed cultural suicide with closed eyes and open arms.
I do understand such things as the life cycle of nations and the desire of leaders for a “good” war to enhance their reputations and prop up their support. What puzzles me is the seemingly recent unseemly rush to sell out Western Civilization lock, stock and barrel.
Concerning the situation in the Balkans, for instance, which you describe so well, one has only to look at a map to see that the 1500-year Moslem encroachment on Europe, indeed the rest of the world, is proceeding apace. The Serbs, being on the front line of this struggle between civilizations, understand the situation very well. Never mind this firefight here and that little car-bombing over there. And do not even look at their attempts to preserve a national identity. In the larger view, as you say, they see that we are piece-by-piece giving up land and everything our culture stands for to what I see as a backwards and even evil belief system.
I am puzzled. Why do we not stand up to this monstrosity? Why are we so eager to bend over and give in to these savages? And I say savage by intent. Have we become so short-sighted that we will sell our very souls for gratification in the instant? Is it necessary for us to prove we are so sensitive to our beliefs that we must carry them to sophomoric extremes? Are we now so weak that we will just give them whatever they ask for? Are we just stupid? As little as one hundred years ago, well within my grandfathers’ lifetimes, we as a civilization would have understood the Serb’s attempt to stem this dark tide. We as a civilization would have rushed to their aid. Instead, we tried to bomb THEM back to the stone age. And now we want them to give more land to millions of people who profess a belief in the Koran and the Moslem philosophy of life.
That philosophy, of course, is another sticking point. Except in very rare cases, there can be no such thing as a “moderate” Moslem. Anyone who embraces the Moslem path has already chosen to believe that by teaching and by definition, theirs is the superior way of life and must prevail at all costs. There is no room for any other thought. Even a cursory reading of the Koran will illustrate this. In the end, if someone defines himself as a Moslem, he or she must of necessity side with those who would destroy us.
…As trite as it may be, it does seem that in a most simple-minded way we are repeating the mistakes of history. Again, I am puzzled. Is this inevitable? …
After I read Mr. Anderson’s comment and amplification, I felt as though I understood the situation somewhat. But then, two comments below, I come to “Witness to History’s” strong disagreement with Mr. Warren’s analysis:
Mr. Warren is mostly mistaken in the conclusions he has drawn. He paints the Kosovar Albanians as the demons and then ties them to extremist Islam. Nothing is further from the truth. The ancestors of modern Albanians were in the area now known as Kosova for hundreds of years before the Slavic invasions. They were there during the reign of the Ottomans and actually fought on the same side as the Serbs during the famous battle of Kosovo Polje. Only after the fall of the Ottomans was the Serbian empire able to attempt to re-occuppy Albanian lands.
However, that’s all ancient history. Modern history provides plenty of justification for the independence of Kosova from Serbia. Milosevic’s attempts to disenfranchise completely Albanians in the largely autonomous province of Kosovo were the spark that lit the inferno of Yugoslavia’s dismemberment. Serbs started the bloodbath in Kosova, continued to attempt the same in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and then, unsuccessful in all their previous campaigns of ethnic dominance, returned to Kosova. They attempted to cleanse the province and got their heads handed to them on a plate by a rag-tag army backed by NATO. Throughout this time, the Serbian people supported and defended Milosevic. Now is time to pay the piper. They backed the wrong horse and lost.
Much has been made of the “precedent” of Kosova starting problems in the areas of “frozen conflict”. Why is this bad? Why should the Kurds have to live under Arab Iraqi domination because some British prig drew the lines on a map as the Ottomans collapsed? Why should Chechens have to remain part of Russia in light of their miserable treatment for hundreds of year by the Russians. Because the conflict was “frozen” in 1945 at Yalta? If we really believe it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie than to allow people to determine their own futures, we better give everything east of Berlin back to the Communists and allow that conflict to remain “frozen”.
Let people decide if they want to continue where they are or go their separate ways. It worked fantastically for the former British colonies now known as the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Serbs, follow the example of the Germans after WWII. Apologize for the racist, nationalist crimes of your former leaders, pay reparations to all those you tried to liquidate, and concentrate on rebuilding your economy and earning some measure of respect in the civilized world. You have a lot of work ahead of you. Stick with Putin and his crowd and you will learn the true meaning of the old African saying: “When elephants fight, the grass suffers.”
And for a further complication, a third commenter notes this bit of information:
Ms. Albright is ethnically Albanian BTW. She had a blood feud with the Serbs who killed her Grandfather and Uncle in the 30’s. It was damnably foolish to allow this woman to pursue her blood feuds/psychotherapy with the USAF. It is unforgiveable that we made Russia an enemy over it.
Arrgh! How is anyone who is not already familiar with the millennia of history in this region – a knowledge that seemingly would have to cover not only the present, but go back to the period before the invasions by the Imperial Muslims – how could this fictional “anyone” begin to sort out a consensual meaning that would serve the truth?
Now I know why we Americans seem so simple-minded. Given the brief span of our time on the North American continent, our history is relatively transparent. It’s easy to watch it unfold for we are not that many generations from its very beginnings or its eventual foundation as a nation. We can disagree about what our various historical points mean but nothing is lost in the mists of time.
By comparison, European history is almost as unfathomable as China’s past. More scrutable perhaps, but nonetheless confusing. (I said “almost.”)
The difference between the Americas and other places is that we all have precise demarcations in our histories: for us, who relatively quickly came to dominate, “history” begins with the arrival of Europeans. Since winners write history, we gloss over the sagas of the indigenous tribes already resident when we came. Tribal history simply hasn’t much appeal for the Western mind, since we have long left tribal arrangements, preferring to center on the liberty of the individual.
Meanwhile in central Europe, or eastern Europe, or the Balkans, the tale called “history” changes depending on which small region is telling the story. This is true even in my ancestral homeland, where the argumentative Gaelic Irish were invaded, defeated, and dominated by the more united Sasanach – i.e., Anglo Saxons. That story is still in dispute and will be for as long as there are those who tell the tales to the next generation.