the Serbs Handle Slobo
might turn out to be fortunate, although I see no evidence yet that
the timing was other than coincidental, that the current Serbian
government arrested Slobodan Milosevic the same week the Bush administration
was confronted with its first major foreign-policy incident with
the downing of a U.S. spy plane near Chinese territorial waters.
With all US eyes turned toward China, the 24 crew members aboard
the highly secret (and supposedly sophisticated) E-3 surveillance
plane, there is only a little energy left to demand that Serbia
send the old scoundrel to The Hague.
fact, the apparent jailing of former dictator Slobodan Milosevic
by the government that replaced him via the ballot box last Fall
could mark an important step forward in the life of Serbia and whatever
else is left of the former Yugoslavia. Even though the pursuit of
Milosevic does seem to be part and parcel of a sincere commitment
on the part of Serbian leader Vojislav Kostunica, the timing of
the raid on Slobo’s house and the apparently jurisdictional confusion
surrounding the drawn-out incident make the incident less clear-cut
in nature than one might have desired.
TO PLEASE THE US
The fact that the arrest was so difficult
and that it was apparently undertaken to meet a U.S.-imposed deadline
takes some of the sheen off. But as Ted Carpenter, vice president
for defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute told me on
Monday, "the new government wants to settle accounts with Milosevic
more than anybody. He not only stole from Serbia but got the country
into conflicts that have virtually crippled it."
United States would do well to let the Serbian government handle
the former dictator itself and not to continue to press its rather
ridiculous and more than a trifle arrogant demand that the Serbs
dispatch him at once to "that Kangaroo Court in the Hague,"
as Mr. Carpenter characterized the international war crimes tribunal.
In fact, however, Mr. Milosevic, according to some news stories,
might decide to be tried at The Hague because he just might face
the possibility of a death sentence if convicted under Yugoslav
the standpoint of relatively narrow Serbian interests, the arrest
of Slobodan Milosevic might not be entirely beneficial. Assume,
as Mr. Carpenter told me, that the arrest will be followed by an
indictment for various crimes, including "economic crimes"
against the Serbian people and Serbian law. Assume further that
there is ongoing discussion of whether or not to extradite Mr. Milosevic
to The Hague for trial, highlighting disagreement among Serbs who
otherwise agree that Milosevic is a villain deserving of sever punishment.
this will divert attention from the issues that have lately occupied
international news organizations regarding the Balkans. The extremist
Albanian groups, in some cases building on the Kosovo Liberation
Army and in some cases on other organizations and impulses, have
been causing all kinds of mischief in Kosovo, Macedonia and other
countries or statelets bordering on Albania. This mischief was just
starting to be fairly widely acknowledged and even deplored by right-thinkers
the news media have a short attention span and limited resources.
If they devote more of their attention and resources to the ongoing
struggle over whether Slobo is sent to The Hague or even
to his ongoing trial in Serbia if that is how things shake out
then less attention and resources will be available for coverage
of Albanian mischief.
of this provides ample reason for the United States not to play
too large a role in deciding where and how Mr. Milosevic is tried
for the various crimes he has committed. It will take a certain
amount of hypocrisy for the United States to stay out of it, since
Congress last year passed a law cutting off aid to the government
in Belgrade unless it turned Milosevic over to the Hague before
than. But the Bush administration has already performed the requisite
verbal maneuvers, certifying that Belgrade has made sincere efforts
to punish the former dictator.
THE RIGHT THING?
makes the decision to arrest Milosevic, even though it might not
have been a simon-pure decision, quite possibly a relatively noble
undertaking. Despite the likelihood that attention to Milosevic
will divert attention from the machinations of their enemies, the
Serbs have decided to make an attempt to bring Milosevic to some
rough approximation of justice.
fact that Milosevic might be charged not only with ordering murders
and involving Serbia in conflicts that have had a good bit to do
with unraveling whatever there was of a decent way of living in
Serbia, but with the supposed economic crime of causing inflation
and undermining the economy is ironic. Perhaps I should be pleased
to contemplate the possibility that a socialist dictator will be
charged with causing inflation.
would be even more fun, of course, if causing inflation were more
widely recognized as a crime against the people over whom one presumes
to rule, and the precedent were used against other leaders
perhaps even putatively democratic leaders who cause inflation.
If this be a crime, virtually every government leader in the world
has been guilty of it. Let the indictments fly and the lawsuits
that I think that is likely. The capacity for hypocrisy among the
so-called leaders of the free and unfree world is virtually unlimited.
Let the courts do what they will against a defeated and discredited
leader. The infection of treating stupid economic policies as criminal
acts even though in an existential sense they could very
well be viewed that way is unlikely to discomfit other leaders,
especially the bloated NATOcrats who so desperately want to get
their hands on Milosevic while supporting economic policies almost
as stupid (and criminal?) as his.
US has certified that Yugoslavia has done enough to bring Milosevic
to justice to keep the aid flowing. This nicely elides the question
of whether the US government should be sending aid to Yugoslavia
or any foreign government. Ted Carpenter says that in some sense
payments extracted from US taxpayers and sent to Serbia might be
viewed as war reparations. It might be comforting to think that,
but if the payments are not openly acknowledged as reparations paid
to a Serbia wronged and harmed by the illegal and unconstitutional
Kosovo bombing campaign fat chance of that they will
not accomplish any positive good.
would prefer, then, acknowledging that foreign aid is almost always
harmful to the ordinary citizens of countries to which it is sent
(though it sometimes maintains despots in power and reinforces their
power) and ending it altogether. But that it a consummation unlikely
to develop any time soon.
acknowledged that reality, however, one can still offer a muffled
cheer or two fro what seems to be the de facto position of the United
States despite the howling of zealots like Vermont Sen. Patrick
Leahy of letting the Serbs handle Milosevic for now. Maintaining
a judicious distance from Mr. Milosevic’s ultimate fate is the right
thing to do.
more item, an observation from my recent trip to Washington to observe
and report on the oral arguments in the US Supreme Court on the
federal government’s civil injunction against the Oakland Cannabis
Buyers Cooperative, which had been dispensing medical marijuana
to certified patients after voters approved prop. 215 in 1996 (a
subject on which I might write later for this venue).
Friday morning, as I was crossing the Capitol grounds on the Supreme
Court side of the building, I saw a fairly sizable demonstration
300 to 500 people assembled to protest against US
involvement in the civil war in Colombia and involvement in Latin
America in general. The speakers mostly indulged in fairly standard
rhetoric about the US only defending evil corporate interests and
keeping the poor people down. But at least they were there.
I broached the subject in Washington not everywhere I went
because I was focused on other issues as well I encountered
uncertainty and trepidation about the determination of the United
States to invoke the Holy War on Drugs as a justification for ongoing
involvement in the ongoing civil war in Colombia. Almost everybody,
across the ideological spectrum, feared that there was not only
no exit strategy but no involvement strategy. Most people believe
it will turn out badly and body bags will start coming back to the
United States before long.
so far almost nobody but the far left has gone so far as to organize
protests or even to organize a letter-writing campaign. The war
in Colombia may turn out to be more dangerous to this country than
anything happening in the Balkans or the South China Sea. But so
far little has been done to try to stop it or slow it down. Most
people in Washington seem paralyzed at the idea of resisting.
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