11 Jan 2007
Bush Plays Va Banque
by Srdja Trifkovic
” Va banque ” is a risky strategy deployed most commonly by emotionally unstable or inexpert players, usually with disastrous results. In essence it means risking the balance of one’s capital on a single card, or roll of dice, or spin of the wheel. In extremis a seasoned pro may resort to it, but usually he will do so in conjunction with a radical change of strategy to reverse a losing streak and on the basis of a rational calculation of costs and benefits of his action.
On Wednesday night President George W. Bush announced he was going to play va banque in Iraq. Evaluated dispassionately and without prejudice to the many lies and errors that had preceded tha war, his plan suffers from two major weaknesses. It does not entail any major, let alone radical, change of strategy. Its one novelty-the commitment to exert more pressure on the Iraqi government to meet certain political objcetives-makes the success or failure of the plan contingent upon the behavior of local actors over whom Mr. Bush has diminishing control, and whose motives and goals are very different to his own.
While it contained many elements present on previous such occasions, it has escaped most commentators’ attention that Mr. Bush’s speech had an uncanny semblance to his address at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in November 2005, when he unveiled his ” clear strategy for victory .” The largely-forgotten “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq,” outlined by Mr. Bush to the graduating class of Navy cadets, rested on three pillars:
On the political side . . . we’re helping the Iraqis build a free society with inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis . . . engage those who can be persuaded to join the new Iraq, and marginalize those who never will. On the security side, coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offensive against the enemy . . . leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy, and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives. As we fight the terrorists, we’re working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight-and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.
To that end, Mr. Bush added, out, “we have increased our force levels in Iraq to 160,000-up from 137,000” to fight “an enemy without a conscience.” As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political process advances, he went on, “we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists.” But, he concluded,
victory in Iraq will demand the continued determination and resolve of the American people . . . In Iraq, there will not be a signing ceremony on the deck of a battleship. We will not turn that country over to the terrorists and put the American people at risk. Iraq will be a free nation and a strong ally in the Middle East-and this will add to the security of the American people.
One year, two months and two thousand American lives later, last Wednesday Mr. Bush announced that U.S. force levels in Iraq would be increased to 153,500-up from 132,000. We are still engaged in a struggle against “the terrorists and insurgents in Iraq [who] are without conscience,” that struggle is still decisive for “the global war on terror-and our safety here at home.” And once again we were told, word for word, that “there will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.”
If Mr. Bush lacks the good sense to find speechwriters capable of coming up with new cliches for such important occasions, it is hardly surprising that his new plans, strategies, or blueprints for Iraq also look barely distinguishable from those preceding it. The “deck of the battleship” metaphor displays a doubly patronizing attitude: it assumes that the public will not notice, or mind, that it is being fed recycled platitudes; and-worse still-that the public does not grasp the intricacies of a challenge as complex and multi-layered as Iraq.
Mr. Bush’s diagnosis for the failure to provide security to ordinary Iraqis thus far is that “there were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents,” but this time Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated”:
I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq’s other leaders that America’s commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people-and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced . . . America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks.
What Mr. Bush fails to grasp is that there is no “Iraqi people” as a coherent polity that shares the sense of common destiny and common aspirations. Mr. al-Maliki’s pledges are worthless. He and his fellow Shiite Islamist politicians don’t give a hoot for “the Iraqi people” outside the confines of their own community. They are not concerned about the support of “the American people” either-if that support (or lack thereof) was capable of being translated into actions and policies on the ground, American forces would be withdrawing from Iraq, rather than increasing their numbers.
Iraq is in the grip of a vicious civil war, whether Mr. Bush accepts that term or not. By condoning the indecently hasty execution (“lynching” would be a more appropriate term) of Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush has effectively taken sides in that war.
The Shiite leadership, thoroughly penetrated by Iranian agents and Muqtada al-Sadr’s radicals, will not be intimidated by Mr. Bush’s threat of disengagement. He has already finished the job for them. If and when the withdrawal is completed-and it will come, under terms probably even less favorable to American interests and American reputation than today-Iraq will disintegrate into three ethno-sectarian units. President Ahmadinejad of Iran or his successor will be the main beneficiary. Had Mr. Bush exerted his pressure on al-Maliki’s predecessors when the Badr Brigades and al-Mahdi’s Army were first detected embedded inside Iraq’s new security services, it could have worked. Now it is too late.
24 Jan 2007
Dinesh the Dhimmi
by Srdja Trifkovic
Jihad ‘s Fellow-Traveller’s Agenda
Nearly two years ago the Jihadist lobby in the United States made a concerted affort to have my book The Sword of the Prophet banned from National Review Online . Jihadi activists gathered around CAIRclaimed the book defamed Islam and its “prophet.” When it did not get immediate satisfaction from National Review , CAIR instructed its partisans to pressure the Boeing Corporation to withdraw its advertisements from the magazine. Faced with the loss of revenueNational Review briefly took down The Sword , but then quickly reposted it, under pressure from mainly conservative quarters .
It is now, perhaps inevitably, the turn of a phony conservative to join CAIR’s ranks. In his latest book, The Enemy At Home , Dinesh D’Souza writes that,
In order to build alliances with traditional Muslims, the right must take three critical steps. First, stop attacking Islam. Conservatives have to cease blaming Islam for the behavior of the radical Muslims. Recently the right has produced a spate of Islamophobic tracts with titles likeIslam Unveiled , Sword of the Prophet , and The Myth of Islamic Tolerance . There is probably no better way to repel traditional Muslims, and push them into the radical camp, than to attack their religion and their prophet.
Two of the titles D’Souza finds so offensive that condemning them tops his list of “critical steps” are by my friend Robert Spencer , and “The Sword” is mine. D’Souza wants us, and presumably other similarly minded authors ( Bat Ye’or , Ibn Warraq , Andrew Bostom, Walid Shoebat , et al .), to shut up.
As my fellow offender Spencer has noted , D’Souza assumes that peaceful Muslims will have a greater sense of solidarity with jihadists than with non-Muslims, which is indeed the case, but it makes hash of his entire thesis-that social conservatives should ally themselves with these “traditional” Muslims:
For if these peaceful Muslims really abhor jihadism, they should have no reason to object to critical presentations of the elements of Islam that foster jihadism. But if such presentations will just drive them into the arms of the jihadists, then how committed could they really have been to peace and moderation in the first place? If they think ‘Islamophobic tracts’ . . . are more threatening to their religion than acts of terrorism done in the name of Islam, how ‘traditional’ and moderate could they possibly be?
It is noteworthy that D’Souza is condemning our writings as “Islamophobic” without further elaboration. Like the term “Islamophobia” itself-a classic product of the Hate Crime Industry-his technique is characteristic of the totalitarian Left. I remember reading, as a teenager in Tito’s Yugoslavia, similarly worded condemnations of dissident writers and their “tracts” in the communist-controlled press. Once they were defined as “anti-socialist,” “reactionary,” or “nationalist,” no further elaboration was needed and no debate allowed.
Furthermore, D’Souza uses “Islamophobia” with the implicit assumption that the term’s meaning is well familiar to his readers. For the uninitiated it is nevertheless necessary to spell out its formal, legally tested definition, however. It is provided by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia ( EUMC ), a lavishly-funded organ of the European Union. Based in Vienna, this body diligently tracks the instances of “Islamophobia” all over the Old Continent and summarizes them in its reports . The MonitoringCenter’s definition of Islamophobia includes eight salient features:
1. Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
2. Islam is seen as separate and “other.”
3. Islam is seen as inferior to the West, barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist.
4. Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a clash of civilizations.
5. Islam is seen as a political ideology.
6. Criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand.
7. Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
8. Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal.
This definition is obviously intended to preclude any possibility of meaningful discussion of Islam. The implication that Islamophobia thus defined demands legal sanction is a regular feature of the Race Relations Industry output. It also routinely refers to “institutional Islamophobia” as an inherent social and cultural sickness of most Western societies that needs to be rooted out by education, re-education, and legislation. In reality, of course, all eight proscribed statements are to some extent true. As I have argued in these pages and elsewhere,
1. That Islam is fundamentally static and unresponsive to change is evident from the absence of an orthodox school of thought capable of reflecting critically upon jihad, Sharia, jizya, etc. and developing new Islamic interpretations that Western liberals (and notably the 9-11 Commission’s Final Report) keep hoping for. Attempts to reformulate the doctrine are not new, but they have failed because they opposed centuries of orthodoxy. As Clement Huart pointed out back in 1907, “Until the newer conceptions, as to what the Koran teaches as to the duty of the believer towards non-believers, have spread further and have more generally leavened the mass of Moslem belief and opinion, it is the older and orthodox standpoint on this question which must be regarded by non-Moslems as representing Mohammedan teaching and as guiding Mohammedan action.” Huart’s near-contemporary Sir William Muir, noted that a reformed faith that should question the divine authority on which the institutions of Islam rest, or attempt by rationalistic selection or abatement to effect a change, would be Islam no longer. A century later the diagnosis still stands: it is not the jihadists who are “distorting” Islam; the would-be reformers are.
2. That Islam is separate from our (Western, Christian, European) culture and civilization, and other than our culture and civilization, is a fact that will not change even if the West (Christendom, Europe) eventually succumb to the ongoing jihadist demographic onslaught.
3. Whether Islam is “inferior to the West” is a matter of opinion. That it cannot create a prosperous, harmonious, stable, creative and attractive polity is not. Whether Islam is “barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist” is at least debatable; but that its fruits are such is beyond reasonable doubt.
4. Islam is seen as “violent, aggressive, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a clash of civilizations” not because of an irrational “phobia” in the feverish mind of the beholder, but because of the clear mandate of its scripture, because of the record of almost 14 centuries of historical practice, and above all because of the timeless example of its founder.
5. “Islam is seen as a political ideology” because its defining characteristic is a highly developed program to improve man and create a new society; to impose complete control over that society; and to train cadres ready, even eager, to spill blood. The doctrine of Jihad makes Islam closer to Bolshevism or National Socialism than to any religion known to man. It breeds a gnostic paradigm within which the standard response to the challenge presented by non-Muslim cultural, technological and economic achievements is hostility and hatred. D’Souza’s alleged distinction between Islamic “extremists” and “moderates” is a Western liberal construct, of course. The difference between them may concern the methods to be applied but not the final objective: to turn every last square mile of Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam.
6. Criticisms made of the West by Islam should not be rejected out of hand, they should be understood. Islam’s chief “criticism” of the West-and each and every other non-Islamic culture, civilization, or tradition-is that it is infidel , and therefore undeserving of existence.
7. A priori hostility towards Islam should not be “used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims.” Quite the contrary, a comprehensive education campaign about the teaching and practice of Islam should result in legislative action that would exclude Islam from the societies it is targeting, not because it is an offensive religion but because it is an inherently seditious totalitarian ideology incompatible with the fundamental values of the West-and all other civilized societies, India, China and Japan included.
8. “Anti-Muslim hostility” is not “natural or normal.” The infidels’ determination to defend their lands, families, cultures and faith against Islamic aggression is both natural and normal, however, and must not be neutralized by the Eurocrats from the left of by D’Souza and his likes on the “right.” They will deny that Islam, in Muhammad’s revelations, traditions and their codification, threatens the rest of us, that it is the cult of war and intolerance, but the truth will out. Until the petrodollars support a comprehensive and explicit Kuranic revisionism capable of growing popular roots, we should seek ways to defend ourselves by disengaging from the world of Islam, physically and figuratively, by learning to keep our distance from the affairs of the Muslim world and by keeping the Muslim world away from “the world of war” that it seeks to conquer or destroy.
It is entirely possible that Dinesh D’Souza subscribes to some other definition of “Islamophobia” than the one provided above. If he does, he should spell it out so that those he singles out for criticism can defend themselves. Until and unless he does so, we’ll have to agree with a recent commentator who concludes that D’Souza wants me and others “to lie about Islam, like himself, or to be silent”:
Now think how amazing this is. Has it ever happened in this country-I’m not talking about some totalitarian country but America-has it ever happened that a prominent “intellectual” called on leading writers on a subject of major importance to stop writing what they’re writing, because it would “offend” someone? No, this has never happened before. It has never happened before, because it’s only in response to Mohammedanism that Westerners adopt the posture of pre-emptive surrender, which Bat Ye’or calls mental dhimmitude . Of all the social, ethnic, religious, political movements in the world, only Islam has the ability to evoke this eagerly cringing attitude, only Islam has this faculty of inducing people to surrender psychologically to it even before it has any actual power over them.
Dixit . A man is defined, to some extent, by his enemies. Counting D’Souza and his ilk among mine casts an eminently pleasing glow on this drab January morning.
01 Feb 2007
Abraham Foxman, Jihad’s Friend
by Srdja Trifkovic
According to an interesting New York Times profile of Abraham Foxman published on January 14, the director of the Anti-Defamation League is a domineering bully who over the years has driven out all potential rivals and successors. When the journalist asked Foxman whom else in the $50-million-a-year organization he should talk to, he couldn’t think of anyone-not even Kenneth Jacobson, the ADL’s deputy national director and Foxman’s alter-ego.
For all its myriad activities, the author concluded, the ADL “is a one-man Sanhedrin doling out opprobrium or absolution for those who speak ill of Israel or the Jews.” The list is long. It includesMearsheimer and Walt , of course, and anyone supportive of their views-notably Tony Judt , whose Polish Consulate affair prompted him to say of Foxman, “Pollution like him swirls around in the gutters of every democracy.” Foxman is an anachronism, the New York Timesconcluded, whose harping on Jewish insecurity and readiness to gevaltize is an embarrassment to many younger, confident but less affiliated Jews.
It is unfortunate that the New York Times refrained from dealing with other, no less interesting aspects of Foxman’s long career-notably the fact that, under Foxman, the ADL has been repeatedly investigated forspying on dozens of organizations and obtaining confidential information on private individuals through illegal means, or that it has pursued bloody-minded vendettas against those individuals that many Jews regards as counterproductive and embarrassing.
But the main problem with Foxman is that he reflects a mindset and promotes an ideology that is deeply detrimental to the struggle against Jihad. Like CAIR , the ADL also resorts to deception in billing itself as a human rights group that provides “programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.” What it does in practice has very little to do with its stated objective. It has a radical political program and social engineering agenda that goes way beyond “fighting discrimination.” It insists on America’s total demographic and cultural transformation into something that it is not, even when that transformation is manifestly detrimental to the interests of the Jewish community itself.
ADL’s immigration policy illustrates the point. For decades ADL has been advocating more or less unrestricted Third World immigration into the United States, on the grounds that a restrictive policy was inherently discriminatory and that a more diverse population would make the Jews more secure. In November 1965 it hailed the abolition of national origins quota system and stressed the “educational role” it played in helping to bring this change about. For the ensuing four decades it became strident in equating any advocacy of immigration control with “discrimination.”
But as many American Jews now realize, ADL’s agenda was driven by its leftist ideological blinkers, not by its concern for the community. As Stephen Steinlight, former Director of National Affairs at the American Jewish Committee, wrote soon after 9-11, the Jewish community “should stop letting the thought police of the more extreme incarnations of multiculturalism squelch it”:
We cannot consider the inevitable consequences of current trends-not least among them diminished Jewish political power -with detachment. Our present privilege, success, and power do not inure us from the effect of historical processes, and history has not come to an end, even in America. But if we hope to persuade the organized Jewish community to adopt a new stance of enlightened self-interest with regard to the immigration debate, a debate that will surely become increasingly bitter, fractious, and politicized in the crudest partisan ways in the days ahead we have little choice. Of equal urgency, and inextricably linked to that debate, is the mission of finding ways to strengthen national unity and social cohesion in America by resuscitating patriotic assimilation under demanding, historically unprecedented circumstances.
That Jewish groups should defend an uncritical immigration and visa policy that allows for the open-ended entry of Muslim fundamentalists to America-Steinlight went on, obviously alluding to the ADL-and then deny government agencies the means of keeping track of them, is self-defeating to the point of being suicidal. Major components of the current open-ended approach to immigration must be re-thought, he concluded, “before we will have become complicit, through action or inaction, in a fait accompli that may have dire implications for Jews and for America.”
What he means is that, these days, real anti-Semitism doesn’t come from those who talk about the Jewish role in promoting liberal immigration policies. It comes from Arabs and other Third World immigrants-including, significantly, a growing segment of Aztlan nationalists-whose presence in this country is the fruit of those very policies. They may yet make the position of the Jewish community in America far less secure than it would have been if they had not come here in the first place. That much should be obvious; but what Steinlight understands, Abraham Foxman will never admit.
The ADL is no less self-defeating in its routine equation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. By engaging in smear campaigns against people thus accused, it breeds the very malaise it claims to combat. By insisting on an ever more passionate American attachment to Israel the ADL is not doing it a favor. Encouraging Israel to diversify and creatively enhance its external relations, and to reduce its present excessive dependence on the United States, would make it better equipped to survive in an inherently unfriendly environment. Foreign policy making is a form of continuous adaptive behavior aimed at preserving and enhancing the security of a state. Being perceived as a permanent American client-state, and perceiving itself as such, and modifying its behavior accordingly, is bad for Israel because it distorts the adaptive pattern. This over-reliance limits Israel’s room for diplomatic and military maneuver, and this may become fully apparent at a future critical juncture when American and Israeli strategies diverge.
ADL’s self-appointed task of preventing any such divergence in perpetuity is inherently risky. Its strategy of doing so heavy-handedly, by equating any opposition to the task with anti-Semitism, is dishonest and dangerous. If and when American regional hegemony is challenged by a new element in the equation, the limits of the present ADL strategy may become rapidly, and for the Israelis painfully obvious.
Perhaps the darkest side of ADL is its contribution to the campaign to establish “hate crimes” motivated “by reason of the race, color, religion or national origin of another person.” In April 1990 the Congress passed, and President Bush signed the bill. This awful law has prompted the rise of a veritable industry of special-rights advocates, attorneys, and assorted hate-mongers who continuously prompt their constituents to report “crimes.” They have made America seriously less pleasant than it had been before. The “culture” of victimology and the obsessive imposition of the agenda of gender, race, and sexual orientation on the rest of us was the predictable result. If the ADL and CAIR had their way, we’d have more of the same, much more. Their demands for additional sweeping legislation to limit the freedom of speech in America are crafted in different phrases but are identical in substance.
Prima facie CAIR and the ADL look pretty much like two sides of the same coin, like Commies and Nazis, or one-world liberals and neocons. They both share a vision of America as an unpleasant-nay, outright evil place. They hate the real, historical America with passion and want to metamorphosize her in line with their peculiar world outlooks. Their desired outcomes and the methods they’d like to apply are somewhat different, but the goal is the same: CAIR’s and ADL’s partnership of hate is a revolutionary project that aims to destroy the vestiges of America’s Christian faith and tradition, to make Americans feel guilty about who they are and ashamed of their history, culture, and ancestors.
One important distinction nevertheless should be kept in mind: CAIR’s motivations and methodology are far more in keeping with the broader religious community it claims to represent, in terms of Islam’s advance against what is left of Christian civilization and society, than ADL’s are, or ever will be. Catalytic activities to hasten our ongoing dissolution are fully justifiable to most “mainstream” Muslim leaders, both morally and strategically.
With respect to ADL, by contrast, the circumstances are more complex. Many American Jews are waking up to the impact on Jews, specifically, as well as on everybody else, of ADL’s pet projects, and most notably unrestricted immigration. For some of them Foxman’s ridiculous campaigns against former Congressman McCloskey , or against three Bay Area peace activists, Jeffrey Blankfort, Steve Zeltzer and Anne Poirier, was a wakeup call. Foxman’s histrionics are but a silly footnote compared to ADL’s role in opening the floodgates of Third World deluge and the laying of the foundations of a police state.
The only service Foxman and his organization may have done to America at this critical moment in our history was to prompt a bold response from those Jewish intellectuals who realize the need for national unity and social cohesion by resuscitating patriotic assimilation, or who understand that preservation of Christianity is essential not only for the moral survival of Jews as a community but, in due course, for their physical survival as individuals. While it is too much to expect that realization will dawn on the current ADL leadership, we can hope the disparity between that organization’s self-anointed mission and the genuine interests of the community it claims to champion will be increasingly evident to the detriment of the former.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Kosovo’s Future in the Balance
by Srdja Trifkovic
On February 2, U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari finally unveiledhis much-anticipated plan for the final status of the Serbian province ofKosovo which has been under NATO-UN occupation since Bill Clinton’s war against the Serbs in 1999. While avoiding the contentious word “independence,” Ahtisaari presented the framework for a new Albanian state that would have all key attributes of sovereign statehood. The plan gives Kosovo an army, an intelligence service, a new flag, and the right to join the World Bank, the IMF, and eventually the United Nations (UN). The international authorities that have run the province since 1999 will remain, with the European Union (EU) replacing the UN, and the status of Kosovo would supposedly undergo review for the first time after two years.
The period of international supervision envisaged by the plan, as well as a host of “guarantees” and promises of “substantial” municipal autonomy for the few remaining Serbs and other non-Albanians in the province, are but a fig leaf meant to conceal the plan’s reality: that on the fundamental issue of Kosovo’s legal, constitutional and political status Ahtisaari gives everything to the Albanians and nothing to the Serbs. Even without using the “I” word, the plan proposes de facto separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Its primary focus is to finalize the detachment of Kosovo from the last formal vestiges of Serbia’s authority, with the definition of its future status a secondary consideration.
The promise of a “review” after two years is mendacious: if on their current church-burning, dope-smuggling form, the KLA terrorists and criminals who run Kosovo are deemed worthy of independence, it is preposterous to assume that someone-anyone-would dare suggest otherwise two years from now, once they are even more firmly entrenched in power. If 150 Serbian churches went up in flames, and a quarter-million Serbs and other non-Albanians were ethnically cleansed while tens of thousands of KFOR soldiers and UNMIK policemen were stationed in the Province, what would be the worth of Ahtisaari’s “guarantees” once they all leave and the KLA (under whatever current name) takes over?
Ahtissari’s plan is illegal: it violates the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, and the Security Council Resolution 1244 that all recognize Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is immoral, because it seeks to reward the most egregious violators of elementary human rights and standards of civilized behavior in today’s Europe. It is deeply destabilizing because it helps create a base for jihad-terrorism in the heart of Europe and sets a dangerous precedent that will be emulated by each and every disenchanted minority around the world: from Transylvania, to southern Slovakia to the Basque Country to Northern Cyprus to the Crimea, not to mention Transdnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. (To this there may come yet another assurance from the State Department that “no precedent would be set”; yet, while Foggy Bottom bureaucrats may impact reality, they certainly cannot control it.)
In March the Security Council is expected to review Ahtisaari’s plan , and Russia has said it will veto any resolution that Serbia does not support. The European Union, with barely concealed divisions among its member states (Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Greece and Rumania are uneasy about Kosovo’s independence), finds itself half-on and half-off the court. If the UN Security Council fails to approve the plan, then Washington could turn to Plan B: unilateral recognition by the United States, United Kingdom, and then other states. But, if the Bush administration decides to go it alone, how many EU states would follow that lead, let alone countries in the East and South? Brussels would prefer not to risk such scenario.
Ahtisaari’s plan dwells in a cloud-cuckoo land of elaborate political formulas without substance. As informed commentators have noted , his paper is packed with assertions that have no basis in reality-declaring Kosovo to be “diverse,” multiethnic and democratic, when it is manifestly not so, and there is no known mechanism to make it such. It blandly states the Albanian-dominated authorities would protect human and property rights and freedoms of everyone, when they have shown absolutely no inclination to do so in the past eight years, or ever beforein the bloody history of the Province . Today’s Kosovo is not only devoid of democratic institutions that defend the rule of law, it is inherently unable to develop such institutions. The 1999 NATO war against the Serbs was ostensibly waged for human rights, but-judged by any rational standard-the NATO-UN mission in Kosovo has been, and still is, an unmitigated disaster . The pretense that this is not so is nevertheless maintained by Ahtisaari and his mentors, amidst murders, unreversed ethnic cleansing, rampant crime, prostitution, drug-smuggling, and general dysfunctionality of a thoroughly failed, violent, and dysfunctional polity, a black hole utterly devoid of a single redeeming feature.
It has been known all along that Ahtisaari’s plan would be unacceptable to the Serbs, yet the United States and the European Union are still trying to convince Belgrade that it should sign on the dotted line. They are well aware that only the impression of an ambivalent responsefrom the Serbs-the one that could be (mis)interpreted as “qualified acceptance” of Ahtisaari’s paper-could preclude a Russian veto in the Security Council of a new resolution that would replace UNSC 1244 of June 1999. And so an array of European bureaucrats flew to Belgrade, essentially trying to get something for nothing. Washington, too, believes that Ahtisaari’s proposal is excellent, according to U.S. envoyFrank Wisner , who urged “all parties to engage constructively in the coming weeks, before the proposal goes to the Security Council.” What he means is that the Serbs should give up a sixth of their land in return for some non-binding promises that one day they may ” enter into the community of Western Europe and its institutions .”
In Belgrade, Serbian officials have stated their rejection of Ahtisaari’s plan, but with an uneven level of commitment. Prime Minister Kostunica appears firm . He has stated on many previous occasions that Belgrade would resist not only a plan that makes Kosovo independent, but also any attempt to base the solution on a framework that detaches it from Serbia. His position remains predictable and clear.
Not so President Boris Tadic, whose position is ambivalent, which prompts some foreign proponents of Kosovo’s independence to claim that Belgrade’s position is shifting . He is trying to be all things to all men: pro-Western, progressive, forward-looking, Euro-enthusiastic, NATO-friendly. and “patriotic” at the same time. He keeps repeating that Serbia’s integration into “Euro-Atlantic” institutions has no alternative and should continue, regardless of the way the Kosovo issue is resolved, even though those same institutions support Kosovo’s detachment from the state which he represents. Tadic’s desire to have it both ways was reflected in his eccentric statement that he would do his utmost to save Kosovo, but that he did not believe it could be saved.
While Tadic’s ambivalence is and will be exploited by the supporters of Kosovo’s independence, he does not have any constitutional prerogatives to make binding commitments on behalf of Serbia. In the end that decision will have to reflect the will of the majority in the Assembly. That majority still belongs to those parties that have stated and repeated ad nauseam that under no circumstances would they agree with Kosovo’s independence-the Radicals, the Socialists, and the Democratic Party of Serbia.
In Belgrade a caretaker government is temporarily in charge, with the newly-elected parliament yet to be convened and the establishment of a new cabinet uncertain. Marti Ahtisaari nevertheless went ahead and presented his proposals, which is remarkable. An evenhanded and fair negotiator would have waited for the new government to take shape. After Arafat’s death, or in the aftermath of the illness that incapacitated Ariel Sharon, international negotiators were naturally unwilling to come up with any new initiative regarding the “Road Map to Peace,” that is, while the political scene in either Israel or the Palestinian authority was in a state of flux. No such standard exist when Serbia’s future is at stake, however, and Ahtisaari’s behavior, while deplorable, is hardly surprising.
It is noteworthy that Ahtisaari delayed presenting his plan from November 2006, when it was essentially completed, until after the general election in Serbia on January 21, but refused to wait with its release until a new cabinet was in place. His was a double ploy: First, he manipulated Serbia’s electoral process by concealing the details of his proposals during the election campaign, and thus helping improve the vote of those parties that are deemed “pro-Western” and therefore soft on Kosovo. Second, he released his plan in the immediate aftermath of the election, while Serbia has no assembly and no government in place, and then insists on a speedy and final completion of the negotiating process.
In the meantime Serbia remains in a political, with its parliamentary parties unable to form a majority coalition. They may be forced to hold repeat elections-the Radicals’ leader, Tomislav Nikolic, has already demanded a fresh vote-but that cannot happen before some months go by.
The results of elections held on January 21 have not produced any significant changes in the country’s political landscape. The strongest party is still the Serbian Radical Party ( SRS ), nominally headed by The Hague detainee Vojislav Seselj, but effectively led by Nikolic. The Radicals can reliably count on just under a third of the vote. Their share has remained static since the previous election just over two years ago, although with 81 seats they have actually lost a few mandates in the Assembly of 250 deputies.
The result was somewhat disappointing for the Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica and the coalition of his Democratic Party of Serbia and the New Serbia Party led by Velja Ilic-who had hoped to exceed twenty percent, but received under 18 and a total of 47 seats. A significant surprise is the entry into Parliament the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Cedomir Jovanovic. He is the darling of a wide array of Western NGOs and has been propped up by lavish donations. LDP is the only parliamentary party that openly supports Kosovo’s independence. It has barely managed to get into parliament with 5.2 percent of the vote, and has only 14 deputies, but from now on the acceptance of Kosovo’s separation nevertheless will be construed-abroad especially-as one “legitimate” point of view in the Assembly of Serbia. The secret of LDP’s ability to get into Parliament was in the votes of thousands of Albanians in the PresevoValley and the separatists in Vojvodina. The latter are represented in Jovanovic’s team by a sworn enemy of Vojislav Kostunica and a proponent of Vojvodina’s separation from Serbia, Nenad Canak.
The Democratic Party has done reasonably well by increasing its number of seats to 64, apparently cashing in on Boris Tadic’s exuberant promises of Serbia’s “European future.” He can afford to make all sorts of optimistic statements about Serbia’s embrace of the West and to remain vague on how to fit in the strategy of ‘Euro-Atlantic integration’ with the commitment to defending Serbia’s claim to Kosovo. Tadic’s advantage is that he enjoys media visibility but has no real responsibility, as the constitutional powers of the President of Serbia are very limited.
In the absence of significant surprises we can expect further rounds negotiations aimed at the formation of a new government. Kostunica has already announced that he will not accept any coalition in which he is not Prime Minister, and-echoing the Halstein Doctrine of the 1950s-that he would cut off diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Kosovo’s independence. He will insist on retaining the portfolios of police and justice and on taking over the Foreign Ministry, which is soon to be vacated with the departure of Vuk Draskovic(whose SPO party was defeated decisively on January 21, and whose political career is effectively over).
Kostunica’s main potential coalition partner-the one that that Washington and Brussels push forward as their favorite-is the Democratic Party(DS), yuppified, urbanely post-national, “pro-Western”-and greedy for a piece of action after two years in the wilderness. Kostunica is apparently willing to give the Democrats several key economic ministries, such as energy, foreign trade and industry. This is significant in view of the fact that two of Serbia’s most valuable state corporations-electricity generation (Elektroprivreda Srbije, EPS ) and oil refineries and distribution (Naftna industrija Srbije, NIS )-are due forprivatization later this year. If G-17 Plus is brought into government yet again, however, the former Minister of Finance, Mladjan Dinkic, will expect to get his old portfolio back and to retain control over the National Bank-which would leave fewer pickings for the Democrats.
There are people in Tadic’s entourage in the Democratic Party who would gladly accept the deal that would give them control of those ministries and grab rich dividends in the process of privatization of the EPS and the NIS. These two shiny jewels in the remaining portfolio of yet-to-be privatized enterprises in Serbia will yield a lot of money and a lot of power to those who control the relevant ministries. On the other hand, Tadic is under heavy of pressure from the West not to settle for these rich domestic pickings that are irrelevant to foreign affairs. Foreign advocates of an independent Kosovo insist that the Democratic Party should control the foreign ministry if Kostunica remains prime minister, or else to refrain from entering any coalition with him.
If there is no coalition that can command a simple majority in Parliament, another possibility mentioned in Belgrade is the creation of a minority government, led by the DSS, which would be tacitly supported by the Radicals-just as the previous coalition had been tacitly supported by the Socialist Party. At the end of the day, however, if the deadlock in Belgrade continues for another week or two, a new election in late April will be the most likely outcome.
In the meantime, a dozen high-ranking Western bureaucrats and government officials-among them E.U. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Portugal’s foreign minister Manuel Lobo Antunes, Belgian foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, US chairman of the negotiating team for Kosovo Frank Wiesner, the EU foreign minister Xavier Solana , and British Minister for Europe Geoffrey Hoon-have visited Belgrade this week, or are expected to do so in the text few days. They appear intent on exploiting the unsettled and confused political scene in Serbia to create the impression of incoherence or ambivalence in the Serbian camp and somehow induce the Serbs to give up Kosovo. The difficulty they face is that there is no counter-favor on offer that could induce their interlocutors to accept the loss of Serbia’s sovereign territory.
If they could come to Belgrade and say, “if you give up Kosovo now, you can join the European Union this year, and no visas would ever be needed for your people to travel to the rest of Europe,” some Serbs would be tempted. If they could say, “if you give up Kosovo, The Hague Tribunal will be abolished, the pressure over General Ratko Mladic will be ended, and Serbia’s debts to the international financial institutions will be cancelled”-again, some Serbs would be tempted. But they are offering none of the above . All they are bringing is a non-binding assurance that Belgrade’s surrender now would be taken into account favorably when, at some unknown time in the future, Serbia’s integration into the EU turns from a vague promise into a likely prospect.
There is no incentive for anyone in Serbia to go along with Ahtisaari’s proposal, with the exception of Cedomir Jovanovic who wants to secure his own credentials vis-a-vis the West that keeps him afloat. On the other hand, there is a steep political price to be paid at the next election for prevarication. Some Serbian politicians would like to have it both ways, but cannot afford the risk of political oblivion.
Prime Minister Kostunica’s statement that Serbia would sever diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Kosovo’s illegally proclaimed independence has a solid international legal precedent. The Federal Republic of Germany, known as West Germany at that time, for decades had pursued the so-called Halstein Doctrine, which postulated that Bonn would break off diplomatic relations with any country that recognized the GDR (East Germany). Likewise, China has a long-established practice of breaking off relations, or not establishing them, with any country that recognizes Taiwan. What Kostunica had said was neither remarkable, nor extreme. If unilateral declaration of independence by a secessionist movement in some part of a sovereign country’s territory prompts another country to recognize that territory as a state, it is obviously an unfriendly act made in violation of international law and in violation on the assumptions on which the international system has rested since the Peace of Westphalia of 1648.
Reading between the lines of Kostunica’s statement, it is clear that Kosovo simply cannot function without Serbia’s acceptance of the final solution. The only railroad and the only two road links between Kosovo and the heart of Europe go across Serbia. All other alternative transit routes, through Montenegro, Albania, or Macedonia, are taking Kosovo away from Europe, not into it. In any event, Kostunica has no prerogatives right now, as the head of a caretaker government, to make any commitments or to negotiate issues of substance. He can give his personal opinion on the Ahtisaari’s plan, and declare that it is unacceptable, but he is not authorized to make any binding decision until a new coalition is in place.
The pressure on Serbia is likely to fail for two reasons. One is that there is no incentive for the Serbs to give up. Another is that for as long as Belgrade remains firm, the Russians have no reason to do a Yeltsin and cave in. To start with, they have not received any offers from Washington vis-a-vis their own enclaves (Abkhasia, Transdnistria, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh). Quite the contrary, on February 7 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated to Russia that Washington’s support for Kosovo’s eventual independence from Serbia does not mean it would back the breakaway aspirations of Russian autonomous regions in the Caucasus. For a newly assertive Russia that is looking for ways to show its strength and independence, Kosovo offers an easy and easily justified way to demonstrate it. As the former U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade William Montgomery warns in a recent column , Moscow’s position has dramatically changed the equation and “given the public comments now made, it is hard to see how Russia can change course without losing face.” As the United States and some EU members continue to push for Ahtisaari’s scenario, they are hoping that in negotiations over the Security Council Resolution, they will be able to secure wording which will be ambiguous, but sufficient to then move rapidly to independence:
In other words, the U.S. Administration is pressed by its domestic constituency to continue to pursue an option which looks unlikely to succeed. The United States is thus faced first of all with the problem of keeping increasingly skeptical Europeans on board for this solution while figuring out how to bring Russia along. It will require very “heavy lifting” on the part of the United States with Russia and the EU will be of little help in this process.
Montgomery concludes that Russian intransigence could well lead to three possible outcomes:
A. Moscow stays firm and there is no UN Resolution at all, and Europeans unwilling to move into Kosovo to replace UNMIK without a UN Resolution authorizing it. Kosovo is left with a depleted, demoralized UNMIK for the foreseeable future. The U.S. objective of “wrapping up” the Balkans is frustrated.
B. There is a dramatic rise in violence by Kosovo’s Albanians which KFOR would not be able to prevent. Initial targets may well be the remaining Serbs and UNMIK, but “in their bitter disappointment over the lack of movement on independence, even the U.S. forces may become a target”-which would be the Bush Administration’s worst nightmare.
C. There is a split between the EU and the US, either if the EU proves willing to accept wording from the Russians in a Resolution which is unacceptable to the United States, or if they are unwilling to circumvent the UN altogether.
?Ahtisaari’s “deadlines” and Western pressure notwithstanding, for as long as there is no government in Belgrade qualified to negotiate on the issues of substance there can be no movement on Kosovo’s final status-and Kostunica is in no hurry to oblige his detractors . If there is no progress on forming a coalition, another election may be held in late spring and the Radicals have already expressed support for that option. That would mean further delay over Kosovo, but in resolving a problem that harks back to 1389 , all deadlines ” deadlines ” are arbitrary and artificial anyway.
A new election may be needed-now that Ahtisaari’s cards are on the table-to neutralize the effect of his sordid attempt to manipulate Serbia’s democratic process. His goal is to create a new Muslim state in the heart of Europe that would be a veritable black hole of criminality, lawlessness, and jihad terrorism. He must not succeed: pandering to Islam’s geopolitical designs-in the Balkans, or anywhere else-is not only bad, it is counterproductive, and violating laws of God and man along the way is evil.