Monday, March 26, 2007

Absence of Principle

In July 2004, I posted on the blog some translated excerpts from an interview with Morton Abramowitz, published in the Serbian magazine NIN. Abramowitz is the founder of the International Crisis Group, a major figure in the Council on Foreign Relations, and somewhat of a guru to Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke, and other "stars" of U.S. policy-making in the Balkans. At the forefront of interventionism in the 1990s (to the point of advising the KLA at the 1999 Rambouillet "talks"), he has scaled down his public profile since, but has remained steadfast in his pursuit of the American Empire.

NIN was interested to hear from Abramowitz because they knew he spoke for the Democratic foreign policy establishment, and since the Kerry-Edwards ticket still looked like it might unseat Bush the Lesser, it looked like good foresight. Little did they - or anyone else - know that Abramowitz's notions of "aggressive solutions" would be embraced as official policy by the Bushites in the spring of 2005, culminating eventually in Ahtisaari's proposal.

This is what Abramowitz said then (emphasis added).

On Kosovo Albanian politicians:

“Their ability to cooperate is almost nonexistent, except when it comes to the independence of Kosovo. About that, they do not argue. This is why the West must establish a dynamic towards realizing that plan, because the Kosovars [sic] aren’t capable of doing it themselves.”

On multi-ethnic Kosovo:
“We all want a multi-ethnic state in Kosovo because that is the politically correct position. […] Unfortunately, the problem is that Serbs do not believe in Kosovo as a state. So, if you are considering a multi-ethnic Kosovo in which Serbs are safe and Albanians run the show, that is feasible, but it is far from what we call a functioning state. … [There can be no functional state] while the status of that state is unresolved. So long as Serbs believe in the return of Serbian authority to Kosovo, there will be no progress.”

On Serbia’s plans to enter the EU:
“EU membership is certainly a vital decision and goal for Balkans countries, especially for Serbia which first has to make a choice. If it wants to be a part of the EU, Serbia must give up Kosovo.“

On U.S. and the Balkans:
“America, of course, has strong interests in the Balkans and Washington very much cares about successfully finishing everything that has been done in the Balkans so far. […] In case of Kerry’s victory, Dick [sic] Holbrooke would be one of the main candidates for Secretary of State, which would probably result in a much more active role of the U.S. in the Balkans. Other candidates are [Senator Joseph] Biden and [Sandy] Berger. In any case, Holbrooke has the most personal interest in the Balkans and actual success in the region. I speculate, but I think that with Holbrooke as Secretary of State, the U.S. would seek the resolution of the Balkans situation much more aggressively. […] With a new administration and someone like Holbrooke, who is deeply interested in the region, the possibility of accelerating Kosovo’s independence is much greater.”

On Greater Albania:
“There are strong elements among the Albanians who will demand the unification of Albanian territories, but I think the West can control that and prevent it from happening. I am convinced that the U.S. believes the independence of Kosovo is inevitable, while the creation of Greater Albania can be prevented.”

On Bosnia:
“You will not get the [Bosnian] Serb Republic. Why? Because Bosnia is a result of the Dayton agreement which we have to honor, and this question will not be opened. That would mean our approval of ethnic cleansing and everything we fought against. Bosnia is a quasi-state, I agree. [But] the Serb republic is a horrible creation of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic… Everyone knows that Dayton legitimized status quo and created the Serb Republic because we stopped the Croats from expelling all the Serbs from Bosnia. And that was humane of us. Were it not for Dayton, the Serb Republic would not have existed, and all the Bosnian Serbs would have been in Serbia now. We could not allow half a million [sic!] Serbs to be expelled.”

No context for Kosovo:
“All that can happen is that Serbs and Kosovars [sic] agree on the partition of Kosovo. If you don’t succeed in that, there will be a united, independent Kosovo. Those are the only practical solutions.[…] The only thing on the table is Kosovo and how it might be partitioned. […] What you will get for letting Kosovo go is membership in the EU, better life, growth and prosperity. […] As I said, setting the Balkans in order would require some delicate and hard compromises that can only be achieved of all the countries involved have a clear goal at the end of the road.”

To sum it up: questions of law, sovereignty and self-determination (especially when it comes to Serbs) are irrelevant to the Empire, which Abramowitz hopes will return to its “aggressive” policies in the Balkans if the Democrats win power. The sacred issue of practicality demands that Serbs surrender both their self-determination and their sovereignty for an empty promise of better life in the EU (into which, though I did not note it here, Abramowitz cautions they would enter only after completely submitting to the ICTY’s demands for “war criminals,” surrender of Kosovo notwithstanding).

But his line about the “humane” effort of the Empire to save the Bosnian Serbs from extinction that befell their western brethren is by far the most cynical and demented argument presented here. It is as if he assumes no one read Holbrooke’s memoir, in which Croatia is identified as Empire’s “junkyard dog,” armed and supported for the explicit purpose of countering Serbian claims; why should the Serbs be grateful to America for leashing its attack dogs, instead of angry that they were unleashed to begin with?

Ironically, at the time I had glossed over the most important thought in the entire interview, and didn't bring it up until November 2004. Answering the reporter's question about the self-determination of Bosnian Serbs as opposed to Kosovo Albanians, Abramowitz said this:

"My answer is that there is no entirely rational answer; you seek perfect reasoning, which does not correspond to reality on the ground."

Ponder this for a moment. There is "no entirely rational answer," he says. Because logic does not, and cannot, apply to Serbs. How else would ethnic cleansing be legal only when aimed at Serbs, self-determination be unacceptable only when those who wish to practice it are Serbs, borders be sacred only if they don't belong to Serbs? These are not minor quibbles, but fundamental issues; Abramowitz rejects "perfect reasoning" but the "reality" he preaches means no reasoning at all!

With this in mind, my end-of-the-year column in 2004 concluded with these passages:

What seems to govern events in the Balkans under Imperial rule is something that, for lack of a better term, could be termed the "Abramowitz doctrine": a complete absence of any principle that would be valid for all. Indeed, a complete absence of any principle at all, except power.

Completely different rules are in force for Serbs and for Albanians, or Bosnian Muslims; certainly, no external rules whatsoever apply to the Empire, in any of its manifestations. What "rules" that exist are made by Imperial viceroys, commanders, envoys, commissioners, and advisors, on the spot and without any need (or regard) for internal consistency. The ends – ultimately elusive, but hiding under the platitudes of "justice" and "Euro-Atlantic integration" – justify any and all means, while any resistance to them is a priori considered criminal.

The Ahtisaari Plan is just the latest manifestation of this nightmarish "order" which the Empire seeks to impose on the Balkans.

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