Thursday, April 14, 2005

Better off without Kosovo? Think again!

On March 26, the Jacobin daily Danas published an op-ed by one Ivan Ahel, "expert in systems and management theories," who offered arguments why Serbia would be better off without Kosovo. I initially dismissed Ahel as a state-supremacist who operated in the dreamworld of statistics and systems that had little connection to reality. The BBC thought otherwise, and posted a translation of Ahel's article through their Monitoring service. It was soon making rounds on pro-Albanian websites and forums.

I won't repost the article here; it is easily available at the two links above. However, shortly after BBC's translation was published, I read an interesting rebuttal of Ahel's remarks by John Bosnitch, a journalist in Japan. Originally posted in a closed email forum, Mr. Bosnitch's article is published here with his permission.

"Expert" Ahel selling a rotten apple
I remain totally unconvinced after reading Mr. Ivan Ahel's regurgitation of the standard Western diet of disinformation about why Serbs should give up what other nations would never even dream of losing. Will there never be an end to such new encouragements to surrender? Who is Mr. Ivan Ahel? And what is his background and training?

The threat he tells us of is that the Albanians would make up 20% of any joint state and 30% of the army and will start populating central Serbia... So what? In the European Union that Mr. Ahel wants Serbia to join, the Albanians will freely be able to move across borders and inhabit the exact same areas of central Serbia that he warns us that they might occupy now. Except, of course, in the EU, Serbia would no longer have the national sovereignty needed to respond to the situation. Mr. Ahel's report smacks of Orwellian propaganda: white is black and black is white, whenever he says so.

Mr. Ahel's report has been quoted by BBC under the title, "Expert argues why Serbia would be better off without Kosovo". What are they talking about? What "expert"? In what field, "nation-breaking"? The BBC will of course title responses like mine, "Extremist denies facts about Kosova."

My fellow Serb (?) Mr. Ahel, says, "Reason and not myths and emotions should decide the final status of Kosovo." If he were telling the truth, he should also have written an article titled, "Reason and not myths and emotions should decide whether Serbia joins the German-dominated EU." Does anyone really think that Mr. Ahel will ever write such an article? Does anyone think that Mr. Ahel is going to tell the Serbs, a nation that has lived at the exact center of Europe for over a thousand years, how stupid it sounds when they repeat silly EU-centric mantras like "Let's become Europeans!"

First, Ahel bases his "analysis" on an imaginary scenario that Serbs would never accept: that Kosovo, as an ethnic Albanian statelet, would be granted equal "republic" status in a union with Serbia and Montenegro. His argument, like a house built on sand, simply cannot stand. Not only would we never grant separate republic status to the historic core of Serbia, even if we did, the Albanians would then have a republic's right to secede and would surely destroy the state union the very next day. So, Mr. Ahel's premise of a Kosovo republic is a complete nonstarter. But like any confused traveler who sets out on the wrong road, Mr. Ahel then continues to write about all kinds of make-believe consequences.

To be honest, some of his purported consequences sound relatively good. Ahel writes: "Albanians would fill many ministerial positions." Fine, let's make one of them the minister for fighting smuggling and the Mafia drug and sex-slave trade. We might then finally get that situation under control. Ahel writes that an Albanian would be "head of state and foreign minister once in three or six years". Fine, if that right is reciprocal for Serbs, that would be a big improvement from Tito's Yugoslavia (about which some Serbs still reminisce) in which no Serb was ever head of state and "Serbs" (Serbs in name only) would at best get the premiership or foreign ministry only once every eight years. Ahel writes that Kosovo does "not have economically important resources." However, another Western-backed nongovernmental organization called the European Stability Initiative calls Kosovo a place that is "remarkably rich" in natural resources. Curiously, the ESI is financed by the same types of U.S. backers that finance Mr. Ahel's Forum of Ethnic Relations to urge Serbia to give up Kosovo.

Mr. Ahel is loose with his facts and even worse with statistics. Citing economic figures from soon after the 1993 Western-induced run on Yugoslavia's banks and wartime hyper-inflation, Mr. Ahel tries to convince us that the Serbs are performing poorly, and that the underproducing Albanians will pull our per capita average income even further down. He then makes comparisons directly against data for the ethnically pure states of Slovenia and Croatia, neither of which is under the pressures and sanctions that the U.S. is still putting on Serbia. Mr. Ahel's comparisons are obviously unbalanced. Instead of trying to convince Serbs to commit national-identity suicide, he would be better off trying to convince his economic mentors in the U.S. to give Serbia a fair chance in international trade and commerce.

Mr. Ahel writes, "In a [new] common state, central Serbia and Vojvodina would have to support 2m poor and production-wise non-productive Albanians and that kind of money flow would create big problems for Serbia. The four to five times poorer Kosovo would be an impediment to Serbia's development." There is no basis for these conclusions. The levels and rates of infrastructure development in Kosovo and the rest of Serbia do not necessarily have to be the same. Any reasonable form of autonomy would see the residents of Kosovo paying taxes mainly to their local institutions and having their regional infrastructure development being led and paid for by their locally elected and funded provincial institutions. There is no reason whatsoever to expect that the residents of the rest of Serbia, or of Montenegro, should pay for utilities, roads, administrative facilities, or even garbage collection in Kosovo. We are continually being fed a story that Kosovo cannot prosper unless it is independent, but no one talks too much about how Kosovo will suddenly get the money that it needs upon becoming independent. The honest truth is that all of these economic assessments are based on a development model centered on massive borrowing from Western financiers. The collateral for such loans is national sovereignty, which is lost as loan recipients turn their nations first into economic, then political and finally military colonies of the U.S. and German-led empires. As long as Kosovo is not independent, the Albanians in power there simply do not have the legal power to sell Kosovo's soul to international bankers. That is good, because the soul of Kosovo is not theirs to sell.

Mr. Ahel paints a picture of a Kosovo and a Serbia in which there is no hope for progress. If anyone is starting to believe that message it is only because the brainwashing by Mr. Ahel and other Western programmed "experts" is starting to work. God and fate have placed the Serbian nation at the ideal crossroads of trade and commerce, on land that is rich and productive both above and below the ground. Mr. Ahel is acting like just one of the many servants of foreign powers that hope to convince us to either give away or sell our birthright to foreigners for a few pennies, just like the Americans cheated their native peoples into selling them Manhattan Island for a handful of shiny pieces of glass.

Mr. Ahel writes as if there were no connection between the strategic infrastructure bombing conducted by NATO and the subsequent offers by Western financiers to lend us money to rebuilt the very same things that their bombers earlier destroyed. To take his advice of accepting the West's deal, would be like letting a thief steal your car every single morning, then going to work all day so that you could buy your car back from the thief in the evening, every day, forever. This is not a viable economic plan for Serbia.

Mr. Ahel refers to past demographic trends in Kosovo to try to scare the few remaining Serbs into running away. Without even mentioning that a great portion of the population expansion in Kosovo is the result of unrestricted illegal immigration during the Tito era and since the NATO bombing, he tells us that they are reproducing so fast that there will be 8 million Albanians in central Serbia within 40 years. Why does he not also admit the statistical truth that if they continue reproducing at that rate, Albanians would also be the single largest nation in Europe in 120 years? The mathematics is clear, but it bears no relationship to reality. Such projections are based on unfounded presumptions that we will continue along the defeatist road that we are being led on by the current Western-backed regime in Belgrade. The fact is that their mismanagement and general incompetence will bring a fundamental change of government in Serbia long before Mr. Ahel's fantasies could ever come true.

Central Serbia is being depopulated as a result of a self-destructive government policy of over-concentration in Belgrade. When the people of Serbia and Montenegro decide to make themselves happy and successful, they will have to start by building some joint institutions, including a new federal capital, in the Raska area that would bring together their peoples and resources in a state union built on trust and common ancestry. Even one such simple step could reverse the flight of people and investment from the rich heartland of the nation. What is lacking is not the resources, nor the people, nor even the will needed to succeed. What is lacking is a national leadership with the vision needed to find a viable solution and the courage needed to implement it. Kosovo has never "left the Serbs". Kosovo remains geographically exactly where it has always been. It is we, the Serbs, who have been leaving Kosovo. Until we realize that the current state of affairs is totally within our power to change, we cannot move forward. Adopting Mr. Ahel's medieval-style pseudo-medicine of self-amputation as our primary economic plan for the third millennium would be no less than the final coup de grace for the Serbian nation. No nation can survive the amputation of its heart.

Mr. Ahel suggests that, without independence, Kosovo Albanians would inevitably seek their version of Hitlerian "lebensraum" in central Serbia . Other than the time Mr. Ahel appears to have spent outside Serbia getting indoctrinated in Western voodoo economics, he has not yet traveled far enough from his home "village" to learn that a broader perspective can change everything. Here in Tokyo, we could fit the entire Albanian population of Kosovo into my local city ward (opština) and not even notice the difference. A more imaginative perspective is needed to save Kosovo and the rest of Serbia. Mr. Ahel's study misleadingly mistitled "Systemic Approach to the Kosovo Problem," merely represents defeatism, intellectual laziness and transparent illogic.

Good fruit does not grow from poor seed. Mr. Ahel's report is a product of the Forum for Ethnic Relations NGO, which is a branch of the U.S.-based NGO called the Project on Ethnic Relations. The U.S. group is marking out the ethnic fault lines along which the U.S. and Germany will seek to break apart the entire Slav world from the Balkans to Kamchatka through a policy of "divide and conquer". Growing from such poor seed, Mr. Ahel's "study" is a rotten apple that I, for one, am not biting.


Iz Juge said...

Углавном се слажем са овим Боснићем. Јесте да нам треба нови главни град да се поправи распоред сатновништва по Србија. Али треба много више од тога, треба нам целокупна стратегија.
1)Да се што више избјеглица врати, у Крајину, Мостар Сарајево итд.
2)Да се заустави полако изумирање народа и да се привуку млади из иностранства.
3)Да се сасвим промени садашња економска политика, која води у слепо црево. Био сам по Мађарској. 15 година су се развијали док смо ми ратовали, били под санкцијама, били бомбардовани, а имају само мало већу стопа запослености и стандард и Будимпешта пропада. Уствари, никада неће изаћи из тз. "транзиције".
4)Да се гаје добри односи са ЕЗ, али не да се циља за чланство, што би било огромна грешка.

и још много тога. Али овај је потпуно у праву кад каже да јесте све у нашој моћи. За последње, и мене нервирна ово придруживање Европи. Ми ЈЕСМО Европа. И Швицарска је Европа а није чланица ЕЗ.

Kesler said...

Good post. Another point to make is that this "expert" bases his fatalistic predictions on a continuation of the 1945-1991 Albanian rate of national increase, which is completely unscientific and misleading. The Albanian birth rate in Kosovo has been decreasing, as happens everywhere, as the birth rate falls to meet the lower death rate. One could also duplicate his arguments for the Sandzak/Rasca, and say that Serbia and Montenegro should cut off the Muslim-majority parts, giving them to Bosnia or an independent state, thus probably leading to the emigration of the Muslim minority from the other parts, ensuring Serb majority status in those areas at least. As anyone with a working brain could see, however, such an argument would be ludicrous and suicidal.