Skip to comments.What a Kerry Regime Would Mean for the Balkans
Posted on 10/17/2004 7:54:00 AM PDT by A. Pole
Where oh where, then, could an incoming Kerry regime look for a quick foreign policy victory, if Iraq and everything else has gone to hell? Welcome back to the Balkans where the "victory" envisioned will prove a disastrous one, dangerous not only for the region but for the long-term interests of both Europe and America.
The Balkans is the region of greatest experience for today's Democrats and, thanks to them, some of it remains a mess even today. And so the famous "something must be done!" interventionist rallying cry still has some life in it there. According to the same Scotsman article of 23 May, Kerry may well choose Balkan interventionist Richard Holbrooke as Secretary of State, in addition to other "veterans of the Clinton administration who have ingested the lessons of Bosnia and Kosovo." Such a scenario is highly likely and will not come out about by accident. Considering both these circumstances and the total lemon Kerry will inherit in Iraq, it seems likely that his future regime will look to the Balkans first and foremost for an easy foreign policy success. However, success simply cannot be plucked from the ashes of catastrophe which is pretty much what the Clinton administration left behind in the Balkans.
For the Democrats to achieve their future goals, the official line on the recent history of the Balkans must be preserved. While countering all of the self-serving propaganda they have generated would require a much larger study, one can get acquainted with the government's major frauds by reading George Szamuely's excellent recent excoriation of Western intervention in the region.
Through a combination of sly lobbying, state-spun propaganda and dumb repetition in the media, the conventional wisdom took root firmly in the collective Western psyche. According to the prevailing narrative, America's interventions in the Balkans, from Bosnia to Kosovo and beyond, were and are motivated by an altruistic concern for safeguarding human rights and opposing genocide. These motives loom large in all of the Balkan autobiographies to come from the Clintonites thus far, and will no doubt also be rehashed by the Commander-in-Chief himself in his upcoming tome.
More often than not no, actually in every case such "selfless" interventions meant opposing the Serbs. Making an entire people and especially one leader (Milosevic) into the epitome of evil has helped distract attention from numerous indiscretions committed by the powers-that-be. The bias lives on in the propaganda of Philip James, a "former senior Democratic Party strategist" who states that while America's crimes at Abu Ghriab were very bad, they were hardly Hitlerian perhaps more "sickeningly reminiscent of the darkest days of Serbian supremacy in the Balkans."
And then there is the famous Dick Morris, who goes one step further and equates the Milosevic government with Saddam Hussein's, while bloviating that America's military is perfectly suited for "crippling totalitarian and terror-sponsoring regimes like the Serbs in Kosovo and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Only our firepower and technology can bring these miscreants to heel."
That such things can be written in newspapers without the editors feeling the need to ask for any substantiation at all shows just how deeply and intractably the conventional wisdom has sunk into the public consciousness. When asked to justify their claims, the Balkan humanitarian interventionists act as if everything they say were self-evident. Proof is no longer needed. Yet just try replacing "the Serbs" or "Saddam Hussein" in the above paragraph with "America" and see what kind of reaction you get.
Broadly speaking, a Kerry regime might not seem that bad in its policy toward the region as a whole. I speak here of economic development policy, which in any case will be shaped by events that have occurred since Clinton left office and will thus simply necessitate remaining on auto pilot.
Since the end of Macedonia's truncated war of 2001, the region (or part of it, at least) has been on the rebound economically. While the new wealth has yet to "trickle down" to the people, it has resulted in increasingly high-profile foreign investments across a range of sectors. These deals have sent the message, finally, that it's safe for foreign investors to return to the Balkans. Companies from all over the world have been investing, but especially from the U.S. and Europe. Just a few examples of recent American investments include Philip Morris and U.S. Steel in Serbia, and now Microsoft in several Balkan states. The Albania-Macedonia-Bulgaria oil pipeline looks finally about to get underway, and who knows? maybe there is even a future for oil in Bosnia.
Just to scratch the surface regarding foreign companies that have increased their operations across the region since 2001, we have Russia's LUKoil, Heineken and other big brewers, German publishing conglomerate WAZ, Turkey's Koc holding company in Macedonia, and more. Bulgaria is now reportedly the 8th most attractive FDI destination in Europe, and along with Croatia emerging favorite for retiring British property buyers. Greece, a Balkan state in geographic terms alone, has a huge and growing investment presence in all Balkan countries.
That said, a Kerry administration would obviously seek to use its influence to maximize opportunities for American investors in any number of major privatization and de-monopolization deals still to be concluded. The only lingering question is whether all Balkan countries will be dealt with equally and fairly, or whether as has long been the case political preferences will shape the "free" market.
Indeed, for a Democratic administration, there will be good and not so good Balkan states. Slovenia, with its high standard of living and new EU membership, is not worth mentioning in this context; it has left the Balkans behind definitively. Croatia, with its glittering Adriatic coast, has been the second most successful, but was perhaps purposefully slowed when it was lumped into a NATO-aspirant troika with backwards Macedonia and Albania. Yet if all goes according to plan, these countries may well join the alliance in 2006.
The two non-Yugoslav nations that recently joined NATO (Bulgaria and Romania) enjoy a cozy relationship with Washington for their support of the Iraq adventure and willingness to host U.S. military bases. They are also on their way to the EU, safe from any conceivable future Balkan bloodletting, and thus look likely to continue the happy affair with the Americans under Kerry though their lack of violence might make them somewhat boring for career peacemakers such as Holbrooke.
Another eager supporter of the Iraq war (Albania) is the farthest behind economically but will swiftly emerge as a key player for the Kerry regime, as the latter will need its input regarding the "Albanian Question" in Kosovo and elsewhere. In this regard, Macedonia (blessed with its own restive Albanian minority) will be equally important. The beleaguered little state is not high on the list of Democrat favorites, but remains somewhat above Serbia, which because of administration members' personal antagonism and political goals will continue to be perceived as the worst of all Balkan nations.
The greatest danger of a Kerry administration is that some deluded hotheads such as Holbrooke and (perhaps from the sidelines) Albright and Clark will become infected with the neocon passion for pronouncing Final Solutions to intractable historical problems. Judging by all of their stated rhetoric, this would involve dismembering Serbia by making Kosovo independent, and perhaps Montenegro too. Yet considering that both provinces of Serbia are too small and impoverished to survive on their own, such a decision could have disastrous results. As it is already, Albanians in Montenegro are clamoring for ethnic federalization; should either it or Kosovo become independent, these cries will only get louder. (And, by the way, if Montenegro goes, whither Sandzak?) As for Macedonia, its epitaph was written in 2001, when the Ohrid Agreement set in motion a future course that can also only end in ethnic federalization. It's hard to imagine that the Democrats, in light of their history and their Albanian-American funders, will put up much of a resistance to these projects.
And so we arrive at the current state of play in Kosovo, where just a couple of days ago another Serbian teenager was shot dead by Albanians eager to provoke a reaction useful for justifying total war. It will be into this cesspool of hate that the Kerry administration, if elected, will look for its first foreign policy victory.
Following the March pogroms (which also began with a drive-by shooting of a Serbian teen) the Albanian movement was instructed by its sympathizers to tone down the nationalist rhetoric, lest anyone get the wrong impression that an ethnically pure Greater Albania encompassing large pieces of neighboring states has been the real goal all along. Tellingly, the virulently nationalist Albanian-American Civic League recently changed its website logo, which for years had displayed a map of the "Greater Albania."
Signs of such a concerted PR campaign abound. The initial reaction to the pogroms was to use the spectacular violence not as something to be ashamed of, but as proof of the pressing need to make Kosovo independent immediately not surprising, considering that neither the Albanians nor their interventionist enablers want to take any responsibility for their actions.
Indeed, on the very eve of the riots in Kosovo, local lord Hashim Thaci spoke at the U.S. Institute for Peace about the pressing need for independence. In a report of March 25, the Serbian publication Blic also claimed that Thaci had at that time attended a Washington dinner with Democratic lobbyists, who reportedly gave him the green light to up the ante in the independence drive. This report, which cannot be confirmed for sure, alleged that the get-together was held by the noted Albanian lobbyist and Serbophobe David Philips of the Council for International Relations, and also attended by Richard Holbrooke and top Kerry advisor Rand Beers.
Whether or not this meeting actually occurred, there is no reason to doubt that an independent Kosovo is a priority for the Democrats. While the Kerry campaign recently told one Macedonian-American businessman that no promises have been made regarding a potential "votes for donations" agreement with the Albanian lobby, there is simply no plausible alternative. The Albanians have already raised huge sums for the campaign, while allegedly hobnobbing with Wesley Clark, Richard Holbrooke, Madeleine Albright, et al on May 24 in New York. This is merely a continuation of a long, long history of funding powerful Democrats (as well as some Republicans). Senator Joseph Biden, for example, is firmly in the Albanian camp, and congressmen such as Tom Lantos, Eliot Engel and Joseph Lieberman have also supported intervention on their behalf and been rewarded handsomely for doing so.
By contrast, the political impact of the Macedonian or Serbian lobbies is minimal. And though they could hypothetically buy some influence with the Democrats by kicking down for the campaign, it is highly unlikely that they could match the scale of Albanian donations. And regardless of the issue of money, they certainly cannot match the latter's strong individual relationships with the politicians, strengthened over years and years of collaboration.
At the May fundraiser, according to Belgrade's Vecernje Novosti, Kerry's people promised the Albanian lobbyists independence for Kosovo and discussed the idea of holding a Pan-Albanian conference this summer in Macedonia, to hit upon a definitive "Balkan strategy." For his part, Wesley Clark "reportedly admonished the Kosovo Albanians for the March events, telling them to 'influence their local commanders so as to improve relations with KFOR.'" In other words, keep quiet, play along, and soon it will all be yours.
Kosovo has never existed as an independent country. It is simply not economically self-sustainable. Besides, it is full (or was, until recently) of monuments attesting to 700 years of Serbian history. Even if the powers-that-be choose to override that pesky second fact, they will not solve the former problem. The only major riches (mineral deposits) are located mostly in Serb-inhabited areas in the north. Unless the Albanians succeed in expelling these people too (highly unlikely), they will not be able to get their hands on this source of wealth, thus making an already unpromising economic situation even worse. And as for the knuckleheads who destroyed dozens of medieval Serbian churches in March (as well as the hundred or so before that), well, they have only themselves to blame for incinerating Kosovo's only potential tourist attractions.
In short, Kosovo is a zero-sum situation, a stalemate with no viable solution. Maintaining any relationship whatsoever with Serbia is unacceptable to the Albanian majority. Yet so long as there are any Serbs at all living in Kosovo, Belgrade will continue to have some stake in the province's future. The only way to eliminate Serbia's leverage, therefore, is to purge all Serbs from Kosovo (something that has been going on for decades, by the way). Yet no matter what actually happens, the possibility of a "multi-ethnic" Kosovo long the deluded dream of the internationals is nil.
Thus the eagerness of interventionists such as Richard Holbrooke, who seek to impose by themselves the "final status" not only in Kosovo, but also in nearby places such as Montenegro itself firmly in the sights of the Albanian irredentist movement. Like bookies, good politicians always know how to bet on the winner. Clinton was no fool when he decided to take up the cause of a rapidly-emerging people with historical grievances, a high birth rate, and no regional allies.
If, after all these years of patiently waiting under a foreign colonial administration, the Albanians of Kosovo are not rewarded with independence, there will be hell to pay. Anyone who stands in their path Serb or international peacekeeper or whoever else will be obliged to move, one way or the other.
So, despite the paradox of non-viability as a state, Kosovo will become independent. It's just a matter of whether this will be done the easy way or the hard way. However, even if the Democrats do manage to get an independent Kosovo established the easy (i.e., nonviolent) way, the local euphoria will be ephemeral. Then the realization that the province cannot survive on its own will begin to sink in. Bereft of international investment and lamenting the departure of thousands of affluent peacekeepers, Kosovo will see its sluggish economy sputter out altogether, thus strengthening the long-established rule of local mafia thugs.
In the end, if Kosovo is forced to join the still poorer Albania, it will come as a curse, not as a blessing. It is remarkable that those pushing for the Greater Albanian monstrosity fail to see this. When external scapegoats be they Serbs or Western peacekeepers no longer remain, the Kosovars will turn on themselves violently. Regardless of what some readers may think, the present author feels no special joy in predicting this. Independence for Kosovo is a bad idea not only for Kosovo's neighbors, but also for its own people. They have been manipulated all along by their own cynical political leaders, who dangle the idea of glorious (yet unattainable) nationhood "like candy in front of a child," as one disenchanted UN peacekeeper put it merely to cover up their own incompetence and avarice.
Independence would also mean withdrawing UN peacekeepers from Kosovo. While alleviating yet another taxpayer burden, such an action would only make a murkily-understood situation downright opaque. Even though they are inept and frequently bolstered by rotated-in recruits having neither knowledge nor experience of the region, the UN contingents cannot be replaced by local enforcers without serious repercussions for Europe and America. With no foreign eyes and ears on the ground, pretty much anything can happen. The smugglers and other criminals will rejoice in their newfound ease of operations. Borders will liquefy and then evaporate altogether. Political assassinations, turf wars and "street justice" in general will only increase in a "liberated" Kosovo. Not to mention what might happen if the Kosovars ever got an air force.
Second, to dismiss the possibility of Kosovo being used an Islamic terrorist base by citing the Albanians' relatively secular ways is irrelevant: terrorists abroad look for safe havens in states with little or no central control, not for the opportunity to make mass conversions. Kosovo with its porous borders, fundamentalist minority, criminal underbelly and proximity to the rest of Europe is a perfect hiding place. And it won't really matter whether it is ever united formally with Albania or not. In either case, there will be no border to speak of. In short, Europe will be blessed with its own little Pakistan.
In the end, it seems that the only people who can possibly benefit from Kosovo's independence are the local criminals (and their partners in the Italian, Serbian and Russian mafias), as well as the deep-pocketed lobbyists and self-serving politicians in faraway Washington, who bathe in the adoring glow of anyone who seeks their favor. They certainly should give it a try; after all, unlike Iraq, Kosovo was a successful intervention. With successes like that, who needs failures?
Kerry + Balkans = Catastrophe!
This time it might be more than Balkans - Russia and Armenia might be added to the mix: