January 8, 2004

Nothing Radical
Behind the Serbian Election
by Nebojsa Malic

On the last Sunday in 2003, Serbian voters sent a message of protest and rage to both their domestic tyrants and their foreign backers, giving the largest number of votes (but not a majority) to the Radical Party. The result was predictable, and indeed predicted by some observers, yet still came as a shock to the legions of professional fussers mired in wishful thinking.

Most commentary, from government as well as media and pundits, can be reduced to East German poet Berthold Brecht's onetime comment that it would be easier for the government to "dissolve the People and elect another."

For the amount of media noise it has attracted, the December 28 vote will make surprisingly little difference. Serbia will still get a government with far too much power over people's lives, whoever ends up in charge of it, while the Empire will applaud democracy but continue to reserve the "right" to demand absolute obedience nonetheless.

Solana: Elect a New People, Instead

One important thing to note about this election is its apparent propriety: i.e. there were no objections to the conduct of the polls, and no allegations of theft or irregularities. As much as that is ever possible, the election was fair. But the world's masters aren't interested in processes, only desirable results. Thus outside pressure began on other Serbian parties to form a coalition government at the first news of a Radical victory.

Washington's spokesman thus taunted the safely imprisoned Milosevic, commended the Serbian devotion to the forms of democratic religion, and then rattled off a list of demands for whichever government is put together in Belgrade. Clearly, they were only interested in obedience. European Union's foreign policy commissar Javier Solana, on the other hand, may have been motivated by ideological zeal:

"I appeal to all democratic forces to work together to ensure that a new government based on a clear and strong European reform agenda can be formed rapidly."

Unfortunately for ForPolCom Solana and other advocates of a "neo-DOS," the past three years of just such a regime have created bad blood not only among the people, but among the quisling politicians as well. After heading just such a coalition, only to be discarded and humiliated by its svengali, leader of the Serbian Democrats (DSS) Vojislav Kostunica is reluctant to repeat the experience. Modern Serbia being what it is, however, everything is possible.

Media Coverage: Fear and Hysteria

Western media faithfully echoed the official positions in Brussels and Washington, often with more zeal. The prevalent themes in reports from Serbia were the absolute disdain for Milosevic, Seselj and their parties, and the "need" for a united government of "reformers" to keep the "forces of darkness" (Times of London) away from government.

Another big theme was Slobodan Milosevic, who won a parliamentary seat despite his imprisonment. Thus the Associated Press announced "Milosevic seeking a comeback," and many others mentioned his candidacy in addition to seething over the Radicals' triumph.

Reuters's analyst actually believed the Radical upset was not sufficient to throw out the "reformers." France-Presse, on the other hand, noted how the results were frustrating to both Brussels and Washington.

A Guardian reporter explained the results by the "attraction of the nationalist 'Greater Serbian' project." An editorial in that paper actually mentioned the "militant nationalism that has never been far from the dark heart of Serbian politics."

The Economist's analysis reflected nothing so much as a frustration with the Serbian people, who dared to displease the Eurocrats.

American papers were a bit more circumspect, preferring to express their preferences through the subterfuge of editorial guidance. Thus the NY Times published grim predictions of a pro-Western analyst comparing Serbia to 1933 Germany, while The Christian Science Monitor carried similarly plaintive assessments by Belgrade intellectuals committed to post-national globalism.

Even local US papers such as The Charleston Post thought it somehow appropriate to opine on Serbia's rejection of "stable democracy."

Perhaps the most straightforward was the editorial in Japan's Asahi Shimbun, which may also have been a shrewd analysis of the real Imperial agenda:

"The reconstruction of a country and its democratization are not easy. But unless they are carried out, the rationale for intervention will be called into question. Failure in Serbia will not be tolerated."

Adventures in Social Engineering

Failure of what, precisely? As it turns out, many in the Empire and some in Serbia itself see it as an experiment in social engineering, an attempt to turn a traditional nation into a post-modern post-society. The Empire thus failed to support the Dossie government because it was no longer able to pursue the agenda of de-Serbing the Serbs through the introduction of "multi-culturalism," "democracy," "free market" and "tolerance," all concepts with exact opposite meanings in reality.

For example, according to The Independent's Belgrade correspondent, Serbs have a "misunderstanding" of market economy: "they think selling off state-owned companies to Western ones is a betrayal of the national interest." Well, that's because it is. Not to mention a violation of basic property rights, since the state came to "own" those companies by confiscating assets of its subjects, whether the actual enterprises or the money needed to build them. Between selling stolen assets for pennies on the dollar, taxing the people harder than ever, and incurring more foreign debt, it's a wonder the Dossies lived to be thrown out of government. Many Serb rulers weren't as lucky.

From the same perspective comes perhaps the worst and stupidest analysis of the Serbian political situation by a scholar at the "Centre for the Study of Global Governance," at the London School of Economics and Political Science. One Denisa Kostovicova bemoans the Serbs' stubborn refusal to destroy their society and culture and embark on a massive project to remake themselves into Eurodrones. Invoking the idiotic thesis by some post-German that "a nation's defeat may trigger its democratic rebirth," she argues that the NATO bombing and the October coup were a way of liberating and emancipating the Serbs from themselves.

To support her argument, Kostovicova quotes an essay by Slobodan Antonic, published in February 2003, supposedly criticizing Serbia's "missionary intelligence" – that is, Kostovicova's "true democrats." Only trouble is, while Antonic is criticizing the "missionaries" for excessive zeal, he actually shares their values: devotion to State, hatred of society and nation as backward and barbaric, a commitment to social engineering. So, even those who subscribe to the multi-cultism of the globalist Left but without sufficient hatred and militant zeal risk being branded "nationalists." One is tempted to think being a nationalist might not be so bad, if it means being opposed to these lunatics.

Serbophobes Unleashed

Not surprisingly, Serbia's choices provided an opportunity for professional Serb-haters to ply their trade, seeking perhaps to reawaken the hysteria of the 1990s. Marcus Tanner, writing in The Independent and reprinted by the Toronto Star, seemed torn between denigrating the object of his hatred and making it look menacing enough, so he did both. In Tanner's view, Serbia is a "furious old cat, hissing away through toothless jaws," which also left "western strategy in the Balkans in ruins."

To Jeffrey T. Kuhner of the Washington Times, Vojislav Seselj is the Hitler Reborn, and the Radicals are Nazis. He dares condemn Serbia for harboring "imperial dreams of national expansion," (!) and openly advocates the immediate independence of Kosovo. Kuhner also calls for Washington to approach Croatia's new "neo-conservative" government (that is by no means a compliment – except in Kuhner's eyes – but if the shoe fits…) to establish an alliance as a "deterrent against Serbian expansionism."

What surprises is a lack of similar screeds by partisans of Bosnian Muslims, or Kosovo Albanians (where is Veton Surroi when the International Herald Tribune needs him?).


In truth, Empire has little to fear, though its agents in Serbia may have some reason for hysteria, as their years of acting with impunity may well be over for now. The Radicals are not strong enough to form a government, but will have just enough clout to make those who want to kowtow to the Empire walk very carefully. Together with Milosevic's Socialists, they have just enough votes to block major legislative endeavors. Given the sort of state-expanding laws the Serbian parliament (and others, for that matter) is in the habit of passing, that won't be a bad thing at all.

It is Christmas season in Serbia right now, since the Serbian Orthodox Church adheres to the old Julian calendar. That means a new government won't be formed before next week at the earliest. The parliament should meet before the end of the month. In all likelihood, Vojislav Kostunica and his DSS will get to put together a minority government, but their chances of success are slim. Everyone knows that whoever becomes the next Prime Minister will face the same bleak reality of vassalage under constant Imperial extortion, and constant security threats, external and internal. Coping with this requires vision and leadership, which are in very short supply.

As for the people of Serbia, they may not fully understand the principles of liberty just yet, but they have instinctively rejected a form of tyranny that had pestered them for three years. Now they only need to heed the words of C.S. Lewis: "those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

Stopping the torment altogether – now that would be a good New Year's resolution.

– Nebojsa Malic

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Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo, and contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Thursday.


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