Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beyond the Law

It really takes a great deal of arrogance - hubris, even - to assume that one's actions will not have consequences. Or better yet, that those consequences can be tightly controlled. For almost two decades now, the powers meddling in the Balkans (and by this I am referring to the U.S. and its European satellites) have flip-flopped between whichever "principles" suited their policy at the time, with the only constant being that the Serbs would always come out on the losing end.

First they advocated self-determination for the peoples of Yugoslavia - until the Serbs in what are today Bosnia and Croatia asserted that right. Then the principle suddenly changed to sanctity of borders (of Croatia and Bosnia - not Yugoslavia), only to go back to "self-determination" in 1999, so that the ethnic Albanians could claim Serbia's province of Kosovo. Sanctity of borders? Oh, that doesn't apply to Serbia, don't you know?

In effect, Serbia and the Serbs have been put outside the law. There is no punishment for killing Serbs. You want proof of that? Ask Naser Oric, Ramush Haradinaj, Ejup Ganic or Florim Ejupi. Ethnically cleansing Serbs isn't a crime, either. Franjo Tudjman, Alija Izetbegovic and Hashim Thaci became respected statesmen by doing so. Invading and occupying Serbia doesn't seem to be a crime, either - the ICJ ruled in 1999 that Yugoslavia (as the union of Serbia and Montenegro was then called) had no standing to sue NATO, which was at that time conducting a campaign of aggression with the purpose of occupying Kosovo.

But the Empire couldn't stop there. Oh no. It insisted, instead, that this is all a special case - even as it reserved the right to treat anyone, anywhere as it has treated the Serbs. Well of course it was a special case, comments former Imperial official Matthew Parish, more special than even the Empire itself knows:

The enormity of the legal precedent being set by Kosovo’s independence cannot be overlooked. In Kosovo a consortium of foreign powers, acting initially without a United Nations mandate, intervened using force in a sovereign state to resolve that country’s ethnic conflict. They then occupied part of the country and oversaw its secession over a nine-year period. It is not clear that the ICJ should have lent its imprimatur to such an exceptional event. Whatever one’s view of Kosovo’s independence, it must be conceded that the events that led to UNMIK’s occupation and separation of the province from the rest of Serbia were unique.

To have lent these events a cloak of legal support may be to suggest that other disputed territories have a similar 'right' to secede, potentially fuelling ethnic civil wars elsewhere in the world.
It is the very peril I pointed out in December 2009, as the process Serbia initiated before the ICJ began: "It is one thing to flout the law with impunity. It is quite another to call such behavior legal."

What I call the Empire, Parish dubs - perhaps more accurately - a "consortium of foreign powers." But the point remains: they imposed their will, by force, explicitly against the laws of nations, on another country. Where once they maintained their actions were "illegal but legitimate" (in the words of Goldstone's "Independent commission"), now they insist that it was all perfectly legal. Thuggery has become law, thus making the law pointless.

This goes beyond Serbia, or the Albanians, or the territory of Kosovo itself. It is a nuclear bomb detonated amidst the already crumbling world order - by the very people who style themselves its foremost guardians. Now we brace for the inevitable fallout.

(Hat tip to reader "Aleks" for the Parish essay)


Dejo said...

Check the second last paragraph.

Gray Falcon said...

Oh, I didn't know that about Holbrooke. It fits, though.

Dorde said...

I'm surprised that Parish would describe UNMIK's aggression as unique. After all the occupation of Sudatenland, initiated under a similar imprimatur as Kosovo, is still fresh in many memories...