May 17, 2001

The Balkans: Land of Delusions

The more things change, the less sense they tend to make – at least in that southeastern corner of the European subcontinent this column has primarily focused on. Words and deeds do not match up, policies fail to make sense, and everyone – from the locals to the foreign powers involved in "helping" them (and themselves, in the process) – seems to be ridden with delusions. And while minor misconceptions are a part of human nature and thus a staple of politics, in the Balkans they tend to take on colossal proportions. Misconceptions and fallacies easily turn into delusions, wider in scope and dire in consequences.


Though last week’s column dealt more closely with events in Macedonia, it is worth mentioning that the fabled coalition government has indeed been formed last Friday. It achieved absolutely nothing; the UCK immediately attacked government positions, rejecting any government that excluded its representatives. This position is seemingly counterproductive. After all, the Albanian political parties claim they fight for the same goals as the UCK: more "rights" for Albanians and a "redress of grievances," in the form of increased access to the public trough and a legal recognition of their parallel, apartheid-like society. With the new coalition in place, Macedonian acceptance of these demands seems inevitable. Why, then, is the UCK still fighting? The only rational explanation revolves around the premise that the UCK is not at all interested in "redress of grievances," but wants something else altogether. A chunk of Macedonia for itself, perhaps?

Either way, the UCK is showing no signs of going away. Even if the government in Skopje manages to decide to root the bandits out by force, and get NATO’s approval for it – which is extremely unlikely – it would still have to contend with the Albanian demands for a de facto apartheid society. By forming a coalition with Albanian parties, Macedonians effectively gave those demands undeserved legitimacy Skopje does not seem to understand that the Macedonian predicament does not revolve around human rights, but around the issues of territory and statehood. Consequently, Macedonians have shown little willingness to articulate a policy on either. The Albanians, on the other hand, already seem to have a coherent policy on which both political parties and the UCK can agree on.

Western support for their cause is by far the greatest delusion Macedonia’s ruling elite may be harboring, even if reinforced by thoroughly insincere outpourings of rhetoric from the US, EU and NATO. Most news agencies and some major Western papers have already started calling ethnic Macedonians "Slavs" – adopting thus the UCK practice of denying the existence of a Macedonian ethnicity and, with it, statehood. More ominously, an officer of the Kosovo Protection Corps recently took over military command of the UCK. The KPC is a militia created and paid by the UN occupation regime in Kosovo, consisting exclusively of members of the original "UCK" – the KLA. He UN regime also "accidentally" released 42 UCK members captured by NATO while trying to cross into Macedonia from Kosovo. Macedonians ought to decide whether to trust UN/NATO’s words, or their actions – and fast, before it is too late.


Macedonia is by far not the only one wallowing in delusions, though it stands to lose the most as a result. When it comes to delusional behavior, its northern neighbor is doing its best to run close second. For one thing, it is still called "Yugoslavia." A romantic 19th-century idea about the union of South Slavs, at the dawn of the 21st century it represents an anachronism, largely because most of the aforementioned Slavs have deemed it better to become "Southeastern Europeans" and vassals to NATO or whoever pays more. Inside what remains of Yugoslavia, the political elite is flaying about in confusion.

The rulers of Montenegro are showing no signs of quitting their quest for carving out a separate ethnic identity and independence for some 600,000 people they currently lord over. They care little that they squeezed by in the recent election by less than 5000 votes, despite their monopoly on media and instruments of state coercion.

Their colleagues in Serbia are even less coherent. The 18-party ruling coalition is behaving like 18 separate governments, with various ministers acting on their own. Foreign policy has largely consisted of trading sovereignty for recognition, while security policy has been one of waiting and restraint, with dubious results. Having already resigned themselves to Montenegro’s possible secession, authorities in Belgrade have nothing to show for their policies except new American threats and the sheer joy of being allowed by NATO to "control [their] own territory" (under certain conditions, of course) in a small stretch of devastated land surrounding the still-occupied Kosovo.

On the domestic front, the government of Zoran Djindic has callously exhibited the worst traits of statism, such as government monopolies (fuel) and confiscatory taxation. In the name of filling up state coffers – allegedly emptied by Milosevic – they have resorted to prohibitive tax rates that target the entire population, already sucked dry by ten years of sanctions and war. Rather than reducing the government pillaging, the new regime seeks to "improve" it in order to "help" the people. This sort of thinking alone is the first step towards a predatory, pseudo-socialist regime that considers itself the rightful owner of all wealth in the country – and the death of private entrepreneurship, before it is even given a chance. With that in mind, the recent sex scandal that forced the government to dismiss one of its ministers seems downright irrelevant.


For Belgrade to continue its Que sera, sera policy would be not only delusional, but criminal. While it may be true that NATO and Washington in practice control Kosovo, and that Montenegro is in practice already independent, and that the ICTY is in practice a powerful institution, it does not mean any of these things are either legal, legitimate, or acceptable to the Serbian national interest. Millions of people who voted for DOS did so because they wanted Kostunica, Djindjic & Co. to take care of the national interest better than Milosevic did. Certainly the last thing DOS voters expected to see is their new government "defending" their interest by giving  them up. DOS has so far curbed popular disappointment by blaming everything on Milosevic. Now that Milosevic is in prison, though, this tactic is no longer working. Disappointment is giving way to rage.

The Kolubara miners, whose general strike launched the DOS takeover of power in October last year, now say the new government is ruling by decree "just like the old one," and are threatening a new strike because of the rapidly deteriorating economic environment. At least the people are not too delusional not to notice something serious is rotten in the state of Serbia.


Moving up the ladder of delusions and their consequences, one runs into NATO, the highest authority in most of the Balkans, and its political arm, the UN.

After having angered the Bosnian Serbs by taking yet another piece of their territory, the UN decided to organize pompous ceremonies in two Serb cities, honoring the reconstruction of mosques blown up by Serb hooligans during the war. Now, the destruction of mosques is as deplorable as the destruction of Serbian churches in Kosovo – which, by the way, continues despite (or because of?) the presence of over 40,000 NATO troops. In Bosnia, though, building and rebuilding of mosques and churches is a political statement, a marking of ethnic and religious territory. What else could it be, in a land that desperately needs homes, factories, offices and schools, none of which are forthcoming? Predictably, quite a number of Serbs rioted in both cities, stoning the Muslims and foreign officials who attended the ceremonies. Equally predictably, Muslims, Croats and the occupation authorities exploited the riots to further pressure and blackmail the Serbs, incredulously linking the events with Serb "war criminals" still on the loose.

Just recently, the UN regime destroyed the banking system in predominantly Croat part of Bosnia, aiming to cripple the largest Croat political party. Now it turns on Serbs, trying to effectively destroy their autonomy guaranteed by the Dayton Agreement.

All this is done in the name of unifying Bosnia. But why is Bosnia’s unity somehow sacred? How can anyone build a central government without the consent of the governed? This, as manifested in domination of certain ethnic groups over others, was the very issue that caused the 1992-95 war. Of course, the UN and NATO still hold the delusional belief that the war was caused by Bosnian Serbs’ aggressive, genocidal, land-grabbing plans, in which Croats and Muslims were but innocent victims.

Wolfgang Petritsch, Bosnia’s Reischskommisar, can thus blurt out that "ethnic states are a thing of the past," even as he governs a land where people fought within families over ethnic identity. There is absolutely no logic in maintaining a unitary Bosnia after having destroyed the federal Yugoslavia – but that hasn’t stopped the West from trying really hard for nine years now.

Western policy in Bosnia resembles lunacy – i.e. doing repeatedly something that consistently produces adverse results. Every time someone touches the tender fabric of ethnic relations, Bosnia shivers violently. Instead of taking responsibility, the occupation authorities resort to the ready panacea – arrest "war criminals," and all will be well.

When a country does just that – Serbia and Milosevic being a case in point – and things actually get worse, the Empire have a ready response again: arresting isn’t enough, one must try and sentence them in The Hague! If that fails, surely, there will be another "only remaining thing" standing between the Balkans and the lush fields of Elysium.

Text-only printable version of this article

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 had contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specialized in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics, which were published by the Serbian Unity Congress. His exclusive column for appears every Thursday.


Past Articles

The Balkans: Land of Delusions

Enemies at the Gates

ICG’s Blueprint for Destruction

Kosovo: Between Death and Taxes

Madness in the Mountains: Montenegro's Looming Secession

A House Divided


Empire at the Gates

Macedonian Maelstrom

Pax Americana

The Fourth Balkan War

Mayhem in Macedonia

Surreal Realm

Santayana’s Curse

The Croatian Conundrum

March of the Black Eagle

Showdown in Belgrade

Out of the Shadows

With a Grain of Salt

Crusade's End

The Worst of Times

Moments of Transition

Déja Vu

The Crucible

Bandits on the Border

It's the Spelling, Stupid

Zoran Djindjic: Serbia's Richard III

Wheels of Injustice

The Tragedy of Bosnia

The Suspended Castle

Hand Of The Empire: Decision in Kosovo

Introduction: The Balkans Babylon

ITN: Case Closed


If justice is indeed the answer, the Empire ought to start practicing what it preaches – from investigating Bob Kerrey on one hand, to doing a better job of keeping militants and terrorists behind bars. It must be awfully embarrassing at the very least to have the Albanian who blew up a busload of Serbs "disappear" from the heavily fortified US base at Camp Bondsteel, or when UCK troops captured by KFOR’s patrols at great personal risk are released on nonexistent legal technicalities. Surely, the soldiers who captured the bandits are just brimming with confidence in their commanders’ competence right about now.

That’s not the end of it, by far. The US is currently funding a campaign against "violence" there. But "violence" is not the problem, obviously – not when NATO uses it. Besides, by supporting the KLA and separatist leaders in general, NATO has effectively approved of their terror against Serbs, Jews, Roma and Turks. Agency and newspaper reports – filled with exculpatory phrases such as "revenge killings" by "Kosovars" and claiming that NATO’s blatantly illegal aggression was "air campaign to end Serb state repression of ethnic Albanians" – have clearly supported the KLA. Obviously, "violence" in and of itself is not the target here. Even if it were, how effective is it to oppose "violence" while leaving its root – Albanian separatism – untouched?

But instead of opposing Albanian separatism, the UN/NATO occupation regime in Kosovo is actually rewarding it. Kosovo’s current Reichskomissar, Hans Haekkerup, recently announced the new "provisional constitution" for the occupied province. It did not foresee an independence referendum, but in every other respect, including its name, the "constitution" bowed to Albanian demands. After the elections, set for November 17, Albanian-ruled Kosovo is supposed to have more autonomy than it had under the Communists from 1974-1989. It was in that period, incidentally, that Kosovo became quasi-independent, and thousands of Serbs were expelled by an aggressive Albanian administration – prompting a Communist official to call the process "ethnic cleansing."


Blinded by arrogance of power, the tentacles of Empire have consistently ignored the reality of the Balkans, believing foolishly they could create their own. So far they have been getting away with it – the very presence of NATO’s occupation forces, ICTY and UN "high representatives" testifies to that. But delusional premises cannot possibly lead to rational solutions. Elementary logic prohibits it, and experience has proven it over and over.

There might be some method in the madness, though. Experience also shows that Western policies – though a far cry from their publicly states aims – have had some success in creating a new generation of Balkans denizens, obedient and conciliatory, united around consumerism, valuing money more than their ethnic identities (which need to be junked, as they only cause ‘violence’). After they’ve been "softened up" by wars the West officially opposes but secretly fuels, they are blackmailed with "aid" and brainwashed into becoming "sheep", eager to follow whoever their master might be.

Needless to say, most of the money invested in the Balkans goes to foreign contractors, since no one is encouraging local industry. The rest goes to paying salaries for foreign "administrators." What is left goes to projects designed to buy the fealty of local politicians and their subjects. Bosnia, the recipient of most foreign "aid" over the past five years, is now a dependent, atrophied state with no economy and people willing to divest themselves of everything for morsels.

Such comprehensive brainwashing would produce pliable slave labor, willing to work for minimal wages in Western-owned factories, rebuilt by the very same corporations whose weapons reduced them to rubble. Religion would be reduced to a facade, national pride would vanish and cultural identity would disappear in the wasteland of Western bubble-gum pop. This is a recipe for creating third-world states, emasculated colonial peoples whose ability to develop socially is on par with that of heavily abused children.


People of the Balkans definitely suffer from a variety of delusions, about themselves as well as the West. However, they can at least claim those fallacies have roots in prolonged suffering, representing a misguided manifestation of naïve hope.

The delusions so pervasive among the Westerners, however, have roots only in the unbridled arrogance of power and blind self-righteousness, both of which have done tremendous harm so far – both to the people they wish to "help" and their own countries. Both those who fight for "multi-ethnic" societies by supporting ethnic terrorism, and those who think the United States can be an Empire abroad and a Republic at home, most definitely suffer from delusions far more harmful in scope and potential than any the tortured denizens of the Balkans may have.

Little wonder the Balkans is a disaster, then. When those with delusions of grandeur start preaching "reality" to those with delusions of naiveté, what other results can one reasonably expect?

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