of course, depends on the new man in charge in Washington.
During Bush I's reign, Yugoslavia's slow and bloody collapse
was a secondary issue, subordinated to extending dominion
over the Middle East and breaking up the USSR. Bush II is
surrounding himself with his father's advisors
and seems reluctant to ride the high horse of Bill Clinton's
Middle East seems to have a pull on the Bush cabinet, whether
because of financial interests (oil), traditional concerns
(Israel), or personal vengeance (Saddam Hussein's threadbare
survival in Iraq). While Clinton sought to gain fame for himself
and the US in the uncharted Balkans waters, the Bush Restoration
– unburdened by Balkans commitments – could easily shift its
focus on settling old scores further southeast.
and realists can reasonably argue that the Balkans has already
served all the goals of US power-politics; the UN is now marching
to NATO's tune, Russian influence in the area has been largely
erased, Europe was shown to be helpless without Washington's
planes and missiles, while the Balkans has been largely pacified
and turned into a cluster of unstable but loyal client regimes
– or at least non-hostile countries the likes of new Yugoslavia.
There is nothing more to be accomplished in the Balkans. Spreading
"American values" by force was always more of a
Clinton line, anyway.
if the cynics are right and the US policy in the Balkans was
partially aimed at destabilizing and retarding the creation
of a European state, withdrawing US troops and funds from
the region could easily do just that, all over again.
is not likely, however, that Bush II will completely abandon
America's client states in the Balkans, antiquated as their
purpose may be. No one is rushing to dismantle NATO, after
all. The US will want some sort
of presence in the Balkans for a time to come, if
nothing because getting out of the quagmire is always more
difficult than getting in.
client-states themselves are nervous. Their leaders'
statements are underlined by a thread of panic. One
need only remember the disastrous consequences of Nixon's
decision to "bring the boys home" from Vietnam in
1973 to the regime in the pro-US south. Within two years,
their troops were overrun and the country was unified under
the northern, Communist regime. Will these Balkan vassals
prove to be equally ephemeral as the Republic of Viet Nam
was twenty-five years ago?
is also entirely possible that Bush II and his advisors might
eventually grow tired of their vassals' constant blackmailing.
a new eruption of violence if the US troops leave only goes
so far. Kennedy supported the assassination of South Vietnam's
Dinh Diem over much less. And Richard Nixon had no qualms
about abandoning the war his Democratic predecessors had largely
been associated with. Bush II has few obligations to the states
Bill Clinton helped create, and even less of an obligation
to put up with their whims and demands.
analogies are notoriously unreliable, and Bush II may not
follow the logic of those who came before him, be it Nixon,
Clinton, or his father. Even though there is plenty of background
to suggest otherwise, his ascendance to power may not mark
a departure from Clinton's imperial policy of intervention
worldwide, though it may spell an end to the insanity of "humanitarian
the Balkans itself, there is somewhat of a backlash against
the radical rearranging of the region by Clinton's money,
men and missiles. Romanians just elected the man
who led the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu, even though
he has become a Socialist since. In Bosnia, voters of all
ethnicities have voiced their support to more local decision-making
and less interference by the international governor. The Bosnian
Serbs just formed a government despite overt US dislike
for its leading members. Croatians turned
out in large numbers to honor their dead dictator,
snubbing their new leadership.
forces of change are stirring in the Balkans again, no matter
what the new Emperor in Washington thinks or does. And the
20th century ends much the way it had begun: with
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