Thursday, March 20, 2008

A symbol of something else, now

It is nothing short of incongruous that the government of Serbia and the Serb Republic in Bosnia (RS) have both adopted a design for their press rooms copied from the USA. The outline of the government building, the font, the colors - it's more than a homage to the U.S. government, it's outright mimicry.

Belgrade adopted the "American look" during the rule of Zoran Đinđić (2000-2003), who was ideologically closer to European socialists. Vojislav Koštunica, who at the time presided over Yugoslavia, was a scholar of American politics and philosophy; he had translated the "Federalist Papers," published a study on De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," and praised Hannah Arendt's "On Revolution," a paean to the American revolution and republican spirit.

Many other Serbian politicians, philosophers and intellectuals have been fascinated by American values and ideals. However...

Everything changed with February 17. The majority of the Serbian political class and intelligentsia now thinks ill of the USA. Having any sympathy for American policy is considered a sign of feeble-mindedness (or lack or morals). Even classic American values, from liberty to rule of law, are seen as having been betrayed by the Americans themselves. The minority voices that advise the Serbs to stop opposing U.S. policy invoke "pragmatism" and "realism" - i.e. the argument of force – rather than some moral or political superiority of the American position.

After everything that happened in 1995, 1999 and 2008, the United States have no true friends in Serbia. There are spokesmen and followers, yes, but no friends - no one left who believes we share the same values. Once, American friends in Serbia shared the ideals of freedom and democracy. Today, American "friends" in Serbia mostly share American money. That's symbolic, in a way. The eager translator of the "Federalist Papers" and the commentator on "Democracy in America" is today dismissed by the American government as a "hardline Serb nationalist." Meanwhile, Washington praises the politician who restored the notion of the "iron broom" into domestic political discourse as a "young and dynamic pro-Western leader." Again, that's symbolic."

(Slobodan Antonić, writing in Politika, March 20, 2008)


Something will have to change, Antonić concludes: either the sign, or the U.S. policy towards Serbia. His bet is that after the May 11 elections, there will be a new symbol in the Serbian government's press room. I would not be surprised.

The one people in the Balkans that actually believed in American values, that actually admired America, whose community in America has always proudly served in the military (leading the way in Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, for example) and took pride in being the ally of America in two world wars... and that's the people Washington picked to demonize, embargo, besiege, bomb and occupy? It almost beggars belief.

This - rather than oil prices, or deficits, or the falling dollar - is why America won't be a great power much longer. It has betrayed its own principles and values in pursuit of power.

I notice that no one in Washington is asking "Who lost Serbia?" they way they asked about China, Korea, or Vietnam. Maybe because they know the answer. And maybe because the question isn't who lost Serbia, but who lost America?

They know the answer to that, too.

3 comments:

John said...

I think that the forced amputation of Kosovo will become a classic "Inat" moment in Serbian History. Serbia will pull away from the EU and United States to it's own detriment financially, but will be able to hold it's head high morally.

A definition of INAT: One oft-quoted aspect of the Serbian character is inat (инат), roughly translating as "spite," or the stubborn refusal to submit (regardless of the reason), or acting to the contrary, even to the point of harming oneself. While inat can have negative connotations, some cite Serbian tenacity in sports and in warfare to this characteristic

Red Star said...

Grey Falcon - Can you point me to a web site that can explain more about the hisory of Kosovo? I'm puzzled by the term 'Kosovo Albanians' for instance. I assume this means they speak Albanian - but this in turn is puzzling, as to how they come to be included in Serbia and not Albania, in the first place. Although I understand there are many such anomolies in the area (Hungarian speaking Serbs, etc)

I'm not an expert in The Balkans - plainly - but I tend to side with you in your view of US intervention, and its incoherence as a policy.

Whether Serbia will turn away from Europe/NATO now, as John predicts, to its own detriment - seems a big call. Economically, Russia may hold a stronger hand than the US before long.

Gray Falcon said...

There isn't a single site I know of that would help here. But don't try to make sense of it by reading Noel Malcolm's rubbish "Short history".

Basically, being a Serb and being a citizen of Serbia are two different things. One can be a citizen of Serbia and be an ethnic Albanian, Hungarian, Ruthenian, Muslim, etc. Ethnic Albanians are currently a majority within the occupied province of Kosovo due to a variety of factors, such as their higher birth rates, illegal immigration from Albania, ethnic cleansing and violence against Serbs and non-Albanians in general. The only time Kosovo was ever a part of Albania was between 1941 and 1944, when it was sponsored by the Nazis.