or Deterring Democracy?
or not there is a runoff election, and even whether or not Slobodan
Milosevic leaves office in the near future, it seems likely that
the political leadership and perhaps even the political atmosphere
in Yugoslavia is about to change seriously. It is still unclear
whether the change is likely to be better for the people of Yugoslavia
or will even make Yugoslavia a less potentially threatening neighbor
in the Balkans. Even before the shape of political reality becomes
apparent, however, it is worthwhile to explore the question of whether
NATO, the United States and the West in general have contributed
to change or have deterred it.
most sociopolitical questions, of course, it is hardly susceptible
to an easy or unambiguous answer. An individual human being is too
complex for science in its present state of development to understand
completely. A society full of such creatures is even more complex.
While cause and effect may operate within societies, they often
operate in ways that are not immediately apparent or easily grasped and
you can be sure that adherents of various ideologies, interest groups
and theories will be spinning the perceptions even as the changes
are occurring, which seldom aids genuine understanding.
The causes of wholesale societal changes or even relatively minor
political shifts are usually more multifarious than most analysts
acknowledge and often enough have more to do with accident and circumstance
than with any intention or plan on the part of actors in the drama.
It seems virtually natural that most people will tend to overemphasize
their own contributions, or the contributions of those they consider
allies or partners or role models in bringing about change perceived
as beneficial. This tendency transcends political niches; just about
everyone does it. Sorting it all out is the job of the few historians
in any generation who possess a rare combination of insight and
ability to stand back (rather than being journeyman memorizers and
absorbers and transmitters of conventional wisdom), and reasonably
perceptive sorting out usually doesnít occur for at least a generation.
process of taking credit for the apparent/possible rejection of
Milosevic by Yugoslav voters has already begun. President Clinton
has lauded the "brave" Yugoslav voters, telling a Georgetown
University audience that "Despite the governmentís attempts
to manipulate the vote, it does seem clear that the people have
voted for change. He offered the carrot of an end to economic sanctions
if Milosevic actually leaves office.
chorus over the next few weeks assuming that Milosevic leaves and
the result is perceived as an improvement can be predicted. The
evil and wily Milosevic schmoozed and backstabbed his way to power
and stayed there for an inordinate period of time through ruthlessness
and canniness. But NATO and the West stayed strong and determined,
imposed economic sanctions, punished his ethnic cleansing and eventually
pushed him out. The outcome of the game was sometimes in doubt,
but toughness and refusal to do business with a ruthless tyrant
eventually won out with a victory for democracy, civility and the
new world order.
NATO will feel vindicated, able to argue that the bombing over Kosovo
was not only justified but essential to the greater good. The United
States will be confirmed in its conviction that being tough and
staying the course is the way to deal with troublesome leaders in
other parts of the world. The 13-year campaign against the Milosevic
regime will be studied for the valuable lessons it can impart about
how to bully tinpot dictators into playing ball with the vaunted
international community in the future.
TOUCH OF HYPOCRISY
will be an inevitable touch of hypocrisy in this chest-beating.
For example, it is at least passing strange, for example, for an
American president to shed crocodile tears over the Yugoslav governmentís
attempt to meddle with the elections when the United States
openly enough to attract complaints
from the Russians did exactly the same thing. The United
States apparently didnít try to train the opposition in how to perpetrate
voter fraud, but it did sink a significant amount of the taxpayersí
money the lowest estimate I found was $37 million, with credible
estimates ranging up to $80 million in trying to bolster
opposition political forces.
subsidies to the opposition were bolstered by barely veiled threats
that NATO was ready to take more military action against Yugoslavia
if voters didnít do the right thing and oust the demon Milosevic.
There were also promises of economic assistance (which in practice
usually means sizable payments to key elite political players who
think they need another Mercedes) after Milosevic was ousted and
the threat of harsher economic sanctions if the voters were not
properly enlightened or Milosevic managed to steal the election.
seems likely that much of this money was wasted, at least in terms
of bolstering candidates and organizations genuinely amenable to
NATO manipulation or influence. As George
Szamuely has detailed the U.S., through the National Endowment
for Democracy, USAID and other organizations, has concentrated on
the ever-evanescent "forces of moderation" American diplomats
and scholars are always sure are lurking in every country, waiting
to arise if they are only vouchsafed enough resources. Much was
made of support for OTPOR, begun as a student resistance movement
in 1999 and of subsidies for "independent media."
the way to encourage independent media is to make them dependent
on foreign support and subject to foreign control.
thing. It is against US law for a foreigner let alone a foreign
government or an "institute" subsidized by foreign taxpayers
to donate money to an American political candidate. But this administration,
along with most of the foreign policy elite, see nothing wrong with
using American money to subsidize and promote specific political
candidates in Yugoslavia and elsewhere. They donít see it as imperial
arrogance, of course, but as spreading the blessings of democracy
amongst the heathen.
maybe this administration is simply being consistent in its internationalism willing
to accept Chinese money and spread money around the world as well.
If thatís the situation, however, the Clintonites really ought to
make the case for repealing the law against donations from foreigners
or become more skillful at concealing illegal donations.
matters turned out, however, the political movements subsidized
by the West seem not to have done all that well at the polls indeed,
the perception that because of the subsidies they were "NATO
puppets" probably hurt them. In short, the campaign to fill
Yugoslavian politics with reform democrats of the type who would
be comfortable in a UN seminar was a failure. The candidate who
emerged with a fighting chance of outpolling Milosevic turns out
to be at least on first inspection very much the same
kind of nationalist, perhaps with smoother edges.
everyone who pays attention to such matters says that Vojislav Kostunica,
noted in its September 25 weekly update, "derives his popularity
from a track record that reflects Milosevicís own. Kostunica is
a hard-line Serbian nationalist and a committed opponent of the
West. He condemned last yearís war and labeled NATOís prosecution
of the air campaign as a series of criminal acts. He has said he
would not cooperate with the international war crimes tribunal in
the Hague. And Kostunica has flatly stated he would not turn in
Milosevic, according to the Yugoslav press."
has made it very clear that unlike most of the opposition candidates
he has accepted no money from the United States, and to some extent
that fact contributed to his emergence as a credible alternative
to Milosevic. If he does take office he might be more polite and
talk with Western diplomats from time to time, but he is unlikely
to take orders or to transform Yugoslavia into a model of western-style
democracy-cum-welfare-state. He might even be more effectively intransigent
and troublesome than Milosevic.
Kostunica will not be Milosevic, and it is Milosevic as a person
US and European international diplomats have invested so much time
and trouble in demonizing. So for the short term the replacement
and the validation of the Long March against Milosevic might be