Thursday, March 27, 2008

Former Russian Foreign Minister: Serbs Should Push for Kosovo Partition

As if the situation isn't volatile enough, Yevgeni Primakov decided to speak out in favor of continued ethnic separation, suspicion, and hostility.

Primakov advises Serbs: Migrate and merge

The logic of this proposal exposes the hypocrisy of the "Kosovo is Serbia" line; ethnic Serbs in southern Kosovo are encouraged to leave their homes, and then settle in the solidly Serb north, which will then break away. The fact that these people would have to leave their communities and homes behind means nothing; they are nothing but pawns in an ethnic struggle. The implied threat that "NATO cannot stay forever" tells us what sort of future Primakov has in mind for these luckless Serbs--continued isolation and violence.

He follows this with an absolute red herring; saying that:

" Primakov said that it was not in the U.S.’s interests to support Albanian separatists in other regions until the Kosovo independence question had been resolved."

...which is an answer to a question no one asked--the US does not now, and never has, supported separatist Albanians in Macedonia or Montenegro.

And, of course, such a rant wouldn't be complete without at least one example of anti-Muslim bigotry, this time in the form of a vague premonition:

" Primakov added that it should be taken into consideration that an independent Kosovo represented the beginning of the creation of a strong Muslim country in the middle of Europe."

How "strong" Kosova will be in the near future is debatable; perhaps Primakov could elaborate on the dangers of "allowing" a Muslim state in Europe, especially considering that its Muslim inhabitants have been European all along.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Louis Proyect review of Diana Johnstone's "Fools' Crusade"

A couple of weeks ago, American Marxist Louis Proyect left a short and rather cryptic comment, on my blog. I was curious to see what I might have written to draw his attention, since while he has written from time to time on the Balkans (from a predictably far-left Serbian-apologist perspective), he hasn't been particularly active in the Balkan revisionist project. Then I stumbled across his review of Diana Johnstone's "Fools' Crusade from the "Swans" website.

I had originally planned to consider this review at length, but considering that I devoted several months of my life to critiquing the original book, and considering that I have been so busy lately I have waited over a week to begin this review (despite the date of this post, I am actually writing this on Wednesday, March 19), I thought it best to simply make a note of his review and move on.

I am not sure how much of this chapter-by-chapter review represents Proyect's own "understanding" of the breakdown of Yugoslavia as opposed to simply a synopsis of Johnstone's text. I suspect that the distinction is pointless--they are clearly drinking from the same well, although Proyect's take on matters is more explicitly Marxist. He is honest enough to label Johnstone's portrayal of ethnic Albanians as "unsentimental," which is putting it rather mildly.

There may be little point in linking to this article now that I've chosen to pass on an extended rebuttal (at least for now), except an yet another piece of evidence that an alternate narrative of the Yugoslav wars has indeed taken root in certain intellectual circles. I mention this because I was reading the introduction to Christopher Hedges seemingly dreadful I Don't Believe in Atheists out of curiosity, and I was struck by Hedges angry denial that religion played any part in the Yugoslav wars; rather, he insisted that they were entirely a product of the economic decline of Yugoslavia. When a somewhat-mainstream liberal is parroting the Susan Woodward/Diana Johnstone line, we know we have a problem.


I hope to return to more regular and substantive blogging in the very near future.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Foreign Affairs Article on Ethnonationalism and Partition

The cover story from the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine explains much less than it promises:

Us and Them
The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism
by Jerry Z. Muller

Muller is certainly not defending ethnic bigotry or other prejudices, nor is he calling for ethnic partition as a desirable result; I certainly don't want to imply any dubious motives or beliefs on his part. However, if Muller possesses any particular expertise or wisdom in the admittedly broad area of inquiry, I see little evidence here.

Before I criticize the article's weaknesses, I should acknowledge the strengths Muller possesses. He certainly knows the sweep of modern European history well, and understands that forced population transfers and worse have been an integral part of the creation of modern European nations. His initial argument--that ethnonationalism is a more powerful and deeply-rooted force than Americans have often understood--is persuasive. He is absolutely right to note that dismissals of ethnonational identity as a "construction" are misleading, since what gives ethnic nationalism its power is the perception of legitimacy.

However, the conclusion he draws--that a humane, internationally sanctioned partition might be the least-worst option in certain cases--seems very rushed, and ill-supported by the preceding pages. Explaining that forced population tranfers and genocide have generally accompanied the creation of relatively homogenous nation-states in the past does little more than illustrate a prior disregard on the part of the international community to assume any responsibility for the rights of affected individuals.

Ultimately, Muller can only lamely conclude that the separation of ethnic groups within a multiethnic state, while an expensive undertaking, will ultimately be less expensive than humanitarian intervention, and will lead to greater stability. Some of the points he raises are worth further exploration--the idea that Western Europe has enjoyed peace and stability at least partially because the work of "partitioning" ethnic groups into their own nation-states should not be dismissed out of hand, even though I remain unconvinced. But the concluding thoughts on partition seem hasty and almost predetermined.

Kostunica Draws Line in Sand

Serbia's prime minister dissolves government

The EU absolutely must not cave in to this. Serbia's government seems determined to turn their back on Europe and keep their people trapped in a vindictive cycle of bitterness and denial.

I don't know what Tadic will run on this time, but the EU needs to give him some moral support. Most Serbs are certainly eager to join Europe and move their country forward; Tadic needs some leverage to convince them to re-elect him.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Latest Article from Peter Lippman

I mentioned the recent article by Peter Lippman, posted at Balkan Witness, in a post intended to alert readers to the spate of new articles at that website.

Given that Lippman touches on one aspect of this mostly uplifting story I haven't addressed yet, it is worth giving his article a bit more attention:


Specifically this paragraph:

" Albanians have been protesting what they see as the sellout of their self-determination by their leaders and by international officials. They see the negotiations and the international plan for "supervised independence" as trickery that will leave Kosovo partitioned. Indeed, a northern section of Kosovo never came under the UN's control; it is most likely that that area, never disconnected from Serbia administratively, will now remain under Belgrade's rule."

It is worth remembering that Kosova's independence is still somewhat "managed" by the international community. There is nothing wrong or sinister about this; given the circumstances, I cannot imagine any other process by which the region could move to full independence. But Lippman is correct to note that this arrangement--which has given grist to knee-jerk defenders of Serbian "sovereignty"--could also rankle ethnic Albanian sentiment.

Does Diana Johnstone Believe Her Own Bullshit?

In the interest of keeping up with one of my favorite Balkan revisionists, I read the latest installment of the ongoing saga of Diana Johnstone Versus Reality, and I found myself wondering--as I did frequently during my months-long slog through her delusional epic Fools' Crusade--to what extent she actually, sincerely believes the garbage she writes?

In her case, this question is a bit more interesting than it would be if it were applied to a clumsy propaganda tool like Michael Parenti; Johnstone actually seems to have done a little actual research in her work. Unlike some other revisionists, she occasionally throws some stray facts which would not be readily available to readers of nothing but mainstream news coverage of the Balkan wars. It goes without saying that her facts are very carefully and selectively chosen to match her argument, and usually taken very much out of context and presented out of proportion to their actual import in the grand scheme of things, but that is exactly the point. In her writings on Kosova, for example, she is obviously aware of the existence of the Kosovar Albanians underground parallel government and health care system from the 1990s, as well as the high numbers of students at the University of Pristina, and the use of Albanian-language texts from Hoxha's Albania.

But how does one acquire those facts and yet miss so much of the context surrounding them? How does one know that Albanian-language schools were importing textbooks from Albania without also learning that Serbian authorities had been clamping down on the production of Albanian-language texts--indeed, the teaching of or even the use of the Albanian language--for years before that? How does one know that the KLA had become a heavily-armed, popularly supported guerrilla army without knowing that Ibrahim Rugova had been leading a non-violent movement of resistance against a police state which responded with further repression and terror for years?

I am past wondering why a so-called "progressive" chose to side against an oppressed, impoverished minority against a well-armed and oppressive minority--Johnstone's bias is less understandable than Parenti's naked admiration for neo-Stalinist brutality, but it is so thorough and relentless as to be beyond discussion. While "Fools' Crusade" made her preferences clear, it did not explain them. She was forever twisting facts and data and random quotes in an effort to cast doubt on the generally accepted version of events in the former Yugoslavia, without ever producing a compelling reason to accept the need for such a convoluted re-reading of what seems quite obvious. Of course, there is a ready audience of gullible would-be leftists and knee-jerk anti-Americans eager to sop up any critique of Western hegemony as long as it sounds coherent and reasoned. True believers don't need to scratch the surface to see the logical inconsistencies and factual errors tied together with the weak thread of bogus "anti-imperialism".

I get that; I understand why there are people willing to believe this garbage, and why this kind of shoddy pseudo-scholarship can get published and read and even receive favorable reviews from people who desperately want to believe what she is saying. There are well-meaning who don't know enough to recognize the fraudulent hodgepodge of scattershot insinuations and mischaracterizations for what it is, and who have no motivation to do the very small amount of reading and critical analysis needed to blow the illusion of a cohesive oppositional critique to pieces.

And as noted above, I don't even question her motivations anymore--she is a collectivist at heart, a dogmatic leftist who has internalized the idea that nations can be 'progressive' or 'reactionary' as corporate entities; internalized this notion so much so that she slips into the language--and the mindset--of the implicitly racist ethno-nationalist without missing a beat. She is what she is.

But I still wonder--idly, perhaps, since I care nothing for the woman except so far as she continues to cloud the discourse on the Balkans--what goes on in her mind as she goes about her business. In place of honest inquiry and diligent research, instead she scours the recent historical record for the very few, select facts which--removed from the living texture of history, shorn of any relation to the other disparate tidbits of reality she has gathered, and forced into a predetermined narrative--serve to do little more than feed into paranoid tribal mythologies and further the bitterness and isolation of the Serbs she pretends to care so much about.

And then, I wonder how she and her ilk sleep at night.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Onion-Worthy Post at Greater Surbiton

In a deliciously pithy and sarcastic post worthy of America's Finest News Source, Marko Attila Hoare manages to point out how self-defeating and futile Serbia's stubbornness reall is:

Sometimes, mean-spirited satire is the best way to get to the truth.

Good stuff.