Monday, February 07, 2005

Quisling or Tragic Idealist?

I must admit, the first time I heard about Slavisa Petkovic, the token Serb in the "government of Kosovo," I felt revulsion that a Kosovo Serb could possibly agree to legitimize the Albanian thugocracy and ipso facto the occupation of the province by participating in a sham government run by Ramush Haradinaj, a terrorist if there ever was one.

But here's the thing: Petkovic's interview with the notorious Patrick Moore of RFE/RL revealed this man not as a quisling by intent, merely someone who still harbors unrealistic optimism. I'd call him naive - but then, I'm pretty jaded.

Anyway, Petkovic says he took the job in order to help the return of the Serb refugees, and thinks he can succeed. Either he doesn't understand that these people were ethnically cleansed and that Albanian leaders (I can't say for the people, though they are incredibly regimented) want it that way, or he understands but chooses to ignore it. I've often said that one never knows what's possible until it's been tried; still, one ought to have at least a marginal chance of success. Petkovic's work seems doomed from the start.

He also told Moore that "Kosovo’s problems are '99 per cent economic...and only 1 percent political'." I obviously don't have firsthand knowledge of this (were I to show up in Pristina, I'd have to pass as an American, and even then I'd live only so long as no Albanian saw my name on the ID), but it strikes me that extremist nationalism, terrorism, ethnic hatred and occupation are all political issues. Obviously, any sort of decent economic activity is entirely impossible in a system that doesn't recognize any law save that of the gun. Private property, the foundation of market economy, is almost unheard of. A lot of Kosovo's land is owned by Serbs (whether privately or by the Church), but in the situation where even the most basic property right - that to life of one's own - is nonexistent, how can anyone speak of economic issues?

Petkovic's take on ethnic relations illustrates his naivete:
'there is so little democracy in Kosovo that one cannot speak “even of the ‘d’ in democracy” existing. He said he had told the Albanian leaders that they needed to tell their own people “every day...that the Serbs must return to their [homes], because we have lived in Kosovo for centuries”. That means that the Albanians cannot claim to be the “hosts” and consider the Serbs to be merely guests. “We must live together”...

Actually, what Kosovo has is absolute democracy: mob rule by the majority, which believes it has the right to do anything by the simple virtue of being the majority. There's a reason the Imperial press constantly harps on the "90-percent Albanian majority" when reporting on Kosovo. Not only are there no real limits to government power (whether UNMIK's, NATO's or that of the "provisional government"), there are no real limits on individual behavior - i.e. if Albanians decide to massacre Serbs, they go ahead and do so with impunity (see March 2004). NATO has previously disarmed the Serbs completely, and any attempt to resist is deemed "provocation from Belgrade," so there is little if anything the Serbs can do just to stay alive. Worst yet, their reliance on NATO's protection is then taken as consent to the occupation!

Anyway, I think that over the past century or so - and definitely for the past six years - Albanians have demonstrated repeatedly that they don't want to live together with Serbs, that they regard Serbs as interlopers, and have no compunction about buying them out, forcing them out, or just plain massacring them when they get impatient. Petkovic's hope runs counter to history - except that it indicates the Serbs have always been more tolerant of the Albanians than the other way around.

What I've mentioned so far would tend to paint Petkovic as a feeble-minded idealist who is at most a useful idiot for the Albanians. However, I have to give him points for a couple of things. First, he is one of the few people who doesn't genuflect before the ICG:
"he did not understand why so much attention was paid to the ICG. “It is [just] one informal group that writes such reports... as is its right, but it has no right to sow chaos in Kosovo.”

Second, he is scornful of the leadership in Belgrade - though for reasons different from my own. Petkovic accuses Belgrade of treating everything as a partisan issue, and being interested only in manipulating the Kosovo Serbs, not working in their best interest.

The leadership in Belgrade isn't interested in the welfare of Kosovo Serbs, or Serbia and Serbs in general; only in getting and keeping power, with all the privileges of plunder therewith. It is only natural they would see everything as a partisan issue, because partisan politics is all they know. Worst of all, their partisanship by and large isn't rooted in ideological differences, but in clique membership. So no, these people are mentally incapable of actually helping anyone, save inadvertently.

But here's the irony: for all his idealism and naivete, so is Petkovic. He wants to make a difference for the better, but by acting on this impulse he is legitimizing and aiding the system built with the express purpose of defeating his efforts. His diagnosis of the problem is wrong, and his belief in coexistence misguided. He may be honestly committed to improving the lot of Serbs in Kosovo, but he will fail. Not by anything he does (though that's a foregone conclusion), but by just being there, giving aid and comfort to the occupation.

Many people throughout history have collaborated with occupiers and invaders, claiming they only wanted to help and do what's best for their people. They may have been tragic idealists, but history will remember them as quislings.

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