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Dr. Vojislav Kostunica

SERBS AND THE WEST: THE ROAD AHEAD

Source: The Rockford Institute, publisher of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture http://www.rockfordinstitute.org/

The question of what the Serbs have to agree to in their future relations with the Western world, and what they must never accept, is central to our future. I'll try to offer an answer from the Serbian perspective, in the full knowledge that a very different answer may be given from the vantage point of Washington, Paris, London or Brussels. We have to take into account the structure of the contemporary world, especially the position and power of the United States and Europe in it, and -- above all -- we have to start with who we are, and what we are, as "Serbs." In seeking an answer we have to be free from self-delusion of any kind.

The issue "what the Serbs have to accept and what they must not" begs two further questions. The first concerns the definition of the statehood of Serbia, externally and internally. The second concerns the terms for the lifting of all sanctions.

The Serbs entered the twentieth century with two states of their own, and they ended it without a state they can call their own. Serbia cannot resolve its relations with the outside world until and unless it resolves its status from within. This concerns Kosovo, Montenegro, possibly Sanjak and Vojvodina.

Since May 31, 1992, Serbia has been subjected to international sanctions on the basis of Resolution 757 of the U.N. Security Council. Those sanctions

were imposed because it was claimed that Serbia and Montenegro were the principal culprits for the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or, to put it more precisely, because they were alleged to have been responsible. That war was halted at Dayton, but the key sanctions have remained. There have been some changes in the sanctions' "package" but they were not fundamental. Various Serbian concessions ≠ notably concessions made by Slobodan Milosevic at the Dayton peace conference ≠ did not qualitatively ease the position of Serbia. Even after Dayton Serbia remained surrounded by the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions.

Immediately following the end of the Dayton conference, on November 21, 1995, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement giving a summary of the proceedings. In this statement, dated November 22, we encounter, for the first time, this "outer wall of sanctions" against Serbia, banning it from the membership in international financial organizations and denying access to all external sources of credit. It was also the first revision of the Dayton agreement by the United States, because the "outer wall" was not even mentioned in Dayton. It was stated that these sanctions would not be removed until Serbia resolved a number of other issues causing concern -- specifically including Kosovo and cooperation with the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, but not limited to those issues.

The architects of the "outer wall" have never explained it fully. That very term contained an element of mystery. Does it mean that there is an "inner wall" of sanctions, and what does it consist of? Obviously, the "inner wall" is less important, and from Washington we were told that the change of regime in Serbia would lead to the lifting ≠ or merely suspension -- of those less important, cosmetic sanctions, while the "outer wall" would remain. Why didn't they commit to the lifting of the "outer wall" if political changes occur in Serbia? The answer is very simple: new concessions would be sought, whether on territory ≠ specifically Kosovo ≠ or on Yugoslavia's internal constitutional arrangements that would lead to its further fragmentation. That which had not been achieved through Milosevic's action, or inaction, would have to be conceded by those coming after him. That means securing as much American presence and influence in this part of the Balkans as possible.

Another demand, of course, concerns the so-called "democratization." This does not necessarily entail the creation of democratic institution as such. No, this entails finding obedient, pliant people who will assume power, people whose equivalents in Bosnia and the Republic of Srpska are known as the "pro-Dayton" forces. Bosnia-Herzegovina, especially the Bosnian-Serb Republic (Republika Srpska), provides the prime example of the relativization of "democracy" and all democratic institutions. Whether it is elections, the media, or the functioning of elected bodies, the will of the people in the Bosnian Serb Republic is irrelevant. What matters is the will of the authorities in Washington.

If the "democracy" in today's post-democratic societies is controlled, then the so-called democracy in the post-communist societies that have been grudgingly allowed into the First World is controlled even more stringently, in fact dictated from the outside.

Legal forms have special importance in various peace agreements that constitute the pax Americana. Those agreements introduce into the rule of law everything that is opposed to the rule of law: voluntarism, insecurity, arbitrariness. Countless revisions of the Dayton Agreement are a clear sign, as are the many creative legal interpretations by the international High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina. So that this does not sound too abstract, let me quote one statement by Christopher Hill, the American diplomat who was the author of several versions of the proposed peace agreement on Kosovo. In the fall of 1998, Hill stated that the U.S. plan for Kosovo must be worded so as to provide different interpretations of the same provisions by the opposing sides, without undermining the agreement in the process. [...]

Milosevic's foreign policy had always oscillated between excessive uncooperativeness and excessive cooperativeness, and always at the wrong moment. In the first phase, back in 1992, Milosevic was ≠ in the memorable words of The New York Times -- the "butcher of the Balkans." In the second phase, most notably from the Dayton agreement until the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement on Kosovo in the fall of 1998, Milosevic was a "guarantor of peace," a "tough negotiator," a "strongman.

Some authorities in Montenegro and in the Republic of Srpska, and some opponents of Milosevic among the opposition in Serbia, have also behaved very cooperatively. It is noteworthy that communist apparatchiks, young and old, have replaced one form of Newspeak with another. They are well aware what can be said and what is forbidden. One must not talk of the NATO bombing and the subsequent conditions in Kosovo, while one has to talk about the Serb "culpability" and The Hague tribunal. In the aftermath of the bombing this was the basis for institutionalized relations between the European Union, the United States, and the democratic opposition in Serbia. Before that time, those relations were based, for years on end, on the triangle formed by the U.S., the E.U., and Slobodan Milosevic; then it was reduced to the United States dealing with Milosevic.

The price for the lifting of all sanctions and the final settlement of our statehood must be as low as possible. It has to be paid, but with the least possible harm to our national and state interests and to our national dignity. We have to look for the Third Way, between the extremely uncooperative position of Milosevic ≠ which was only reinforced by The Hague tribunal's indictment ≠ and the excessively cooperative position of some of his political opponents. In one of his papers Srdja Trifkovic has presented us with the dilemma of "resistance or cooperation." I propose an answer that could be summarized as both resistance and cooperation. But in order to apply the Third Way successfully, several preconditions have to be satisfied.

First of all, internal relations within the state have to be settled, defined or re-defined regarding Kosovo, Montenegro, and Vojvodina. But for Serbia to do this properly, such decisions have to be democratic, following due consultations with all political and social forces, and to a large extent on the basis of their consensus.

Second, we have to retain the awareness of our national identity. In order for a nation to survive it has to know what is its national interest. In order to define its national interest it has to have a strong national identity. This is a special problem since some Serbs have lost their national identity, by becoming "Yugoslavs," "Europeans, "anti-nationalists," globalists, or else sub-national regionalists. The Serbs have a weakened national self-awareness, in addition to the perennial lack of national self-discipline.

Even if the future Serbian political elites succeed in avoiding the many traps that await them as they sail between Scylla and Charybdis of the modern world, between confrontation with the outside world and a subservient attitude to it, we shall face yet another major problem and obstacle. It is the distorted and prejudiced picture of the Serbs that has been created throughout the past decade in the Western media and public. That picture equates the Serbs with the Germans from the Nazi era, and Milosevic with Hitler. It has been aptly branded by an American commentator as the reductio ad Hitlerum.

It is hard to tell who is the most radical Western crusader against the bogey of Greater-Serbian nationalism. Is it David Gompert, formerly Director of European Affairs at the National Security Council and now vice-president of RAND, who, writing in Foreign Affairs way back in 1994, asked "How to defeat Serbia?" In that article Gompert stated that for years, decades perhaps, Serbia would have to be subjected to isolation and misery, that it would have to be quarantined for as long as it takes to eradicate the virus that Serbia carries within it. Because the Serbs ≠ as Gompert claimed elsewhere, in The New York Times ≠ should be treated as lepers. The sanctions against Serbia do not have to be hermetically tight, he said, provided that they are permanent.

Or is it another such crusader, James Gow, an expert on war studies from London, who describes Serbian nationalism as the hissing snake in the bosom of the international community? [...] We should not forget Richard Holbrooke, who described the Serbs on television as "murderous assholes" and explained that Serbia and Montenegro remain internationally unrecognized because they are not civilized enough to be admitted into the community.

Which of these crusaders should take primacy? How about Daniel Goldhagen, Susan Sontag, Shlomo Avineri, and many others, who allow for the possibility that Milosevic is not quite Hitler, that the Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences is not quite Mein Kampf, that the Serbs did not quite try to destroy one whole nation as the Germans had tried with the Jews, but nevertheless ... According to them the Serbs, just like the Germans before them, need a benign occupation, denazification of sorts, during which democratic forces could emerge and grow strong. Let me quote only one of this group, philosophy professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Shlomo Avineri. He says that the Germans were able to rejoin the community of civilized nations after 1945 not only because they became a democratic state under Allied occupation, but also because they have come to comprehend the horrors done in their name to Jews and others under Hitler's regime ≠ and that is the destiny of the Serbs, too. [...]

It is now quite clear that factually, politically and legally the so-called humanitarian intervention by NATO against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was not justified, that it was the intervention itself that caused the humanitarian catastrophe, the consequences of which will be felt for a long time. This view is shared by an increasing number of prominent commentators, from Noam Chomsky to Henry Kissinger. This is the view of some Western media and many international organizations, including the CSCE. Even the chief protagonists of the air war, including President Clinton himself, defend it with an ever-slackening enthusiasm. It is hard to imagine President Clinton going public today with an article claiming that the war of nineteen NATO states against Serbia was "just" and "necessary.

Today and in the future the Serbs cannot count on any "allies" in the old sense among the great powers. They can count, however, on covert and overt allies in the West, in Europe, and on the diffuse but ever more prevalent resistance all over the world to what has come to be known as "benevolent global hegemony." They can count on the growing awareness that the NATO war against Serbia was mediated in the West by lies and manipulations, by the creation of a twisted and false picture about the Serbs that justified their punishment by sanctions, bombs and indictments at The Hague.

The fact that it is increasingly obvious that the NATO war against Serbia was neither just nor necessary still has not greatly undermined that prejudiced, almost racist image of the Serbs created in the Western public. Even when the "outer wall" of sanctions is removed, it will take a lot of skill and effort to alter this image of the Serbs. As our philosopher Mihailo Djuric has said, our nation has no alternative but to endure gallantly and with fortitude this latest round of heavy suffering because this suffering is not earned by guilt, it is allocated by judgment. Indeed, the Serbs will not accept that which is unacceptable only if they are not deracinated, that is to say, if they have not ceased to be Serbs.

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