Democracy Comes to Macedonia
THE TRIUMPH OF ILLOGIC
The Albanians in Macedonia have been successful for many reasons, but two stand out in particular. The first, of course, is sheer force of arms. KLA/NLA terrorism has accounted for all of their territorial gains, and some of their political ones as well. The second reason has been the uncanny ability of the Albanian political leaders, in particular, Arben Xhaferi, to master Western political rhetoric. It is eternally obvious that few politicians anywhere care about the ideals behind the rhetoric they spout; that fruitless cause is left to aloof theorists, common civilians, and marginalized political parties. The need to assure the electorate that the imperial wardrobe is not ultimately threadbare, however, is what sustains the pretense of Western political rhetoric. And so the Albanians in Macedonia.
In 2001, critiquing the Albanian "liberation movement" has been about as easy as shooting ducks in a barrel. Media hypocrisy, self-contradictory policy statements, and an uncomfortable dependence on funding from criminal and Islamic terrorist syndicates have left the movement bereft of legitimacy. A further affront to reason was the media's portrayal of NLA warlord Ali Ahmeti as some kind of saint. Yet even as NATO-NLA collusion became undeniable during the summer of 2001, Western media and diplomats astonishingly turned up the heat on Macedonia – an effort to drown out the justified outcries against Albanian extremism.
As the US showed its hand in faithfully backing the side it had foreordained to win, it became clear that a political experiment was being carried out in Macedonia – incidentally, an experiment that would never go down in America. The magic formula involves implementing the Lani Guinier model of "collective rights" on Macedonia as a whole – but simultaneously demanding traditional democracy in Albanian-majority areas. The inherent contradictions here are simple, their underlying purpose, more complex.
THE GUINIER EFFECT
This website's own Justin Raimondo, back on 9 July 2001, assessed the impact that extreme left-wing American political philosophy has had on Albanian leaders. The specific target of Raimondo's criticism was Lani Guinier. A rejected Justice Department nominee from the Clinton era, Guinier brings the protection of minorities to its logical conclusions: the principal of "collective rights." I don't need to go into much detail, as the above article discusses this idea at length. Let's just say that Guinier's theory goes way, way beyond affirmative action, or any other minority statute, for that matter.
Guinier's philosophy implies that minorities are by nature helpless victims and objects of discrimination, and that they therefore should be allowed to subvert democracy. Minority votes should be artificially weighted in order to "level the playing field." Arguing with reference to the blacks in America, Guinier believes that minority groups should not only be forcibly represented in government, but that they should also have veto powers to override the wishes of the majority. Raimondo notes the similarity here with the identical veto power given the Albanians last summer:
"This demand for privileging 'oppressed' minorities over inherently racist majorities is perfectly replicated in the US-EU 'peace plan.' Rather than have the will of the minority Albanians 'diluted' in the Macedonian Parliament, the US-EU brokered solution is to give the Albanians a de facto veto power over all decisions of the government. This is the arrangement that James Pardew, the US special envoy, is selling to the Macedonians as the price of peace: an electoral scheme straight out of Guinier's book."
THE PSEPHOLOGIST'S HOARD
In her tome, The Tyranny of the Majority, Guinier argues that minority votes are "diluted" under the democratic system of "one man, one vote." Democracy, claims Guinier, relegates minorities to being merely "tokens." This theory was critically dissected on this website back on 2 August 2001, by Dimitar Ilievski. In this article, he reiterates Guinier's thoughts on "dilution":
"To combat this problem, Guinier proposes the idea of cumulative voting. Under such an arrangement, 'people can cast multiple votes up to the number of open seats and express the intensity of their preferences by aggregating their votes. A voter could, for instance, cast all of her votes for a single candidate.' She also proposes 'supermajoritarian decision-making rules' that would 'give minority groups an effective veto, thus forcing the majority to bargain with them and include them in any "winning" coalition.'"
Guinier's theories are remarkable, to say the least. One could conceivably cast their lot – that is, their lots – all for the town dogcatcher in a presidential election. It's almost like how high-school cliques vote for yearbook superlatives, or how squirrels hoard chestnuts.
This bizarre conception ends up sounding like some children's board game in which the player can build up his resources to deploy as he so chooses. Come to think of it, the game it most resembles is that classic of strategic imperialism, Risk – and let this word stand as testament to the inherent dangers of such thinking.
PULLING RABBITS FROM THE HATS OF RHETORIC: ARBEN XHAFERI
Overshadowing all other Albanian politicians in Macedonia is elder statesman Arben Xhaferi of Macedonia's DPA (Democratic Party of Albanians). He has positioned himself as a "man of peace" and an "optimist in a panic" in numerous interviews, such as the influential one with the New York Times (28 March 2001). Xhaferi is also an ardent follower of Guinier. He has frequently cited in his writings the Dutch professor Arend Lijphart, author of a book (Democracy in Plural Societies) which contains arguments that influenced Guinier, and which were worked into the Albanian treaty demands under Xhaferi's watch. The basic conditions of Lijphart's system are: executive power sharing among ethnic groups; regional autonomy; proportional representation; and most important, a minority veto power.
This connection was also discussed by Ilievski in his article of 2 August. In it, the slickness of the Albanian rhetorical machine – and its American backers – becomes apparent:
"It is clear that Xhaferi's proposals are redirected legal reforms of the electorate model favored by the Democrats, and especially by Clinton. A whole team of well-paid legal advisers carefully prepare Albanian legal claims so that they should fit Western models. One of them, Paul Williams, even arrived in Skopje during the talks. He will probably try to ensure that Guinier's ideas are recycled into the future Macedonian constitution."
Mercenary legal eagles aren't the only ones, however, to broadcast Xhaferi's message from stateside. The inimitable Albanian-American Civic League, which trumpeted the KLA as "the defenders of life and liberty in Kosova," and displays a map of Greater Albania on its website, also features two key articles by Xhaferi. His "Challenges to democracy in multiethnic states," a paean to the incomparable and unique plight of the Albanians, is particularly democratically-challenged. As Ilievski points out, the "humanitarian" rhetoric so beloved by the West has been hijacked by Albanian extremists:
"Xhaferi is well aware of the Western concern for the issues of 'human rights.' Thus, he extensively uses vocabulary that triggers the Western conscience. For instance: 'In the face of massive human rights abuses and economic, cultural, and political disenfranchisement, a people's right to self-determination must have priority over territorial integrity. Emerging new States should be recognized only if they guarantee human rights, freedom, equality, peace, and democracy for all groups.'"
THE 'EMERGING NEW STATE' OF KOSOVO?
As a lackey of NATO, Xhaferi is certainly referring to "liberated" Kosovo here. The elections of 17 November were meant to show that the troubled province is moving out of the dark period of corruption, violence and tacit mafia rule that has characterized it since NATO rolled in more than two years ago. Luckily, the expected violence never materialized. And so NATO and the UNMIK colonial administration breathed a giant sigh of relief, and patted themselves on the back for a job well done. Media cheerleaders, like the Washington Post, applauded and amplified the suzerain's self-congratulary blabber. Yet the real reason there was no violence, it seems, is that there was no real government for which to vote. Regardless of the results, the UN would still be in control. And so to apathy can be attributed UNMIK's stellar performance.
Indeed, only 60% of Albanians and 50% of Serbs voted in the rather dubious elections of November 17th. Kosovo's nebulous status, somewhere between free, autonomous and Yugoslav, was not resolved. The UN authorities seemed to believe that holding a meaningless election in a hypothetical country would be a good litmus test for a real election in a country that might exist, sometime in the unknown future.
A scathing indictment of these elections came from the British Helsinki Human Rights Group. David Chandler, speaking for the organization, ridiculed the self-congratulatory antics of Kosovo's Western overlords. Despite their assurances that everything is fine in Kosovo, Chandler reminds us that Serbs still suffer "imprisonment in ethnic enclaves" to the extent that they "require military escorts to visit family cemeteries or former homes and villages."
The low Serb turnout, Chandler relates, was declared by UNMIK to be a result of "intimidation" from other Serbs – evidence of which was never found. The colonial administration loftily declared that the low turnout had been "the fault of minorities themselves, rather than the ethnic segregation overseen by the international community." Further, the West's happy chatter concealed the fact that "…under the guise of promoting media freedom and independence, freedom of expression and political debate were further restricted."
Most ominous for Macedonia, if the Kosovo blueprint is anything to go by, is the West's unabating appetite for colonial rule. In Kosovo, "majority rule was replaced by a consensus imposed by the UN's Special Representative… under the fiction of democratic autonomy for the people of Kosovo, they legitimized a constitution that openly replaced the 'popular will' with the unaccountable power of an international protectorate."
Remarkably, the emperor's clothes are being unraveled by just the type of organization that more often works as his seamstress. In concluding the BHHRG report, Chandler reiterates the main point – that apathy is the natural result of empty words, believed only by those speaking them:
"The OSCE and UNMIK are celebrating the elections as a major international success. They may have secured some international legitimacy for their tin-pot protectorate and won kudos for their 'success' in encouraging 'democracy' and 'peace' in Kosovo. However, phony elections can only create phony consultation bodies. The reduced election turnout among the Albanian voters and the low turnout for the Kosovo Serbs suggests that the domestic legitimacy of the international protectorate may be the real sticking point for the future."
For many Albanians, the Macedonian government will never be trustworthy as long as there are Macedonians in it. And so the enthusiasm among Albanians, from public figures to peasants, for NATO intervention in Macedonia. "If only NATO would bomb those evil Macedonians," they sighed. Yet these people had better take a good hard look at the situation up north. If Chandler is right, NATO occupation of Macedonia would be long on rhetoric, and short on favorable results for either group. Then we'll see how enthusiastic the Albanians are about remaining the mouthpieces of Western interventionists. Two years on in Kosovo, and no one is happy; should we expect it to be any different in Macedonia?
COLLECTIVE RIGHTS: A DEMOCRATIC DISASTER
Guinieriots, of course, do expect that things will get better – as soon as democracy is subverted to make room for "parity," that is. Champions of collective rights claim – often correctly – that minorities are discriminated against solely because of their race, tongue or religion. Yet imposing "corrective" methods to improve their lot tends only to make the situation worse, because it crystallizes a pattern of isolation and resentment in which the stereotypes of both groups are hardened. Racism is a terrible thing – yet its existence is only reconfirmed by the imposition of "corrective measures" which end up distorting the basic democratic equality of individuals.
It's a rather simple matter. Undoubtedly, there are some Albanians who disagree with other Albanians on certain issues, just as there are independent-minded blacks and Latinos in both major US parties. That said, Guinier's black-white dichotomy is already somewhat dated: the great equalizer of the "American dream" makes the dominance of strict "racial" voting a farce. Indeed, if elections were really the knee-jerk, racially-oriented matter that Guinier claims, wouldn't the majority of blacks have voted for George Bush, since a black man (Colin Powell) had been strongly tipped to be his Secretary of State?
In short, real democracy demands that political battles be waged by freethinking individuals – not by unified ethnic or religious groups. The advancement of democracy is only hampered by ossifying such groups into de facto political parties. One may be born into a certain race or religion, but one chooses – or should be able to choose – his political affiliation. And even here, this does not just mean a "party" – but rather the right to choose as one pleases in every case, with no stipulation to conform or be totally partisan.
In any case, the phenomenon of group agreement is a transient phenomenon, and one unique to periods of duress, war or perceived isolation. Beyond such unifying moments, harmony falls by the wayside. Kosovo is a prime example. Albanian "unity" lasted only until Milosevic gave up in 1999; since then, rival groups have been scheming, bombing, and extorting one another to win leverage. This is rather ironic, considering that NATO intervened so the Kosovars could live in peace and harmony. In Afghanistan, at least, the dueling warlords have never pretended to be concerned with the common good.
AS USUAL, A PARALLEL REALITY IN MACEDONIA
In insecure and immature countries like Macedonia, the temptation to lapse into rigid and stratified ethnic camps stems also from a common fear of institutional weakness. Yet even if in such countries political opinion is only that of the herd, it does not follow that democracy will be improved by pandering to what Mr. Raimondo dubbed the "illogic of victimology." This only fuels the resentment of the majority, and increases the laziness of minorities, who suddenly feel entitled to everything. The flip side of this in Macedonia, of course, is that entitlement quickly becomes anger if the expected "right" is denied. This is how the Albanians, despite steadily gaining increased benefits for over 10 years (television and radio stations, proportionate representation in government, a university, etc.), can still holler about "discrimination."
NATO and hostile gunmen still forbid the Macedonians large areas of their own country, and so the government stays quiet. Officials have wisely decided to delay the elections that are supposed to be held in January. In addition, NATO has not ruled out renewing its "mandate" to buy some more time in Macedonia.
NATO's presence is not the only sign that the foundations of a future colonial administration are being laid. The Macedonian state, inert and presumed dead, is being circled by vultures like Carla del Ponte, who recently arrived in Skopje to announce the expansion of her God-given moral authority. As a recent NATO press conference showed, economic coercion is still the tough threat underlying the "confidence building" sentiments of the West. America and the EU recently threatened to cancel a scheduled "donor's conference" for Macedonia, if it fails to adopt a "local self-government clause"-- in other words, the tacit recognition of Albanian semi-autonomy.
That said, it matters little what the Albanians ask for. With the status quo so fluid and so easily forgotten, any and every demand becomes achievable. It is only a matter of time. It was easy to predict, even last winter, that the affair would only end with complete and total independence for western Macedonia. That hasn't happened yet, but it will, and probably within two years. At that point, the naïve may well look back on 2001 and marvel, "but the Albanians were only asking for human rights… not autonomy!"
THE NIGHTMARE OF REDUCTIONISM, AND SELECTIVE DEMOCRACY IN ACTION
Applying the Lani Guinier model of entitlement to their own situation, the Albanians in Macedonia have attempted to cut off a rather large slice of the cake. Yet their desire for selective democracy (in Tetovo and Kosovo) just goes to show how they've tried to have their cake, and eat it too. They have espoused the ideas of Lijphart and Guinier – with a greater objective in mind. Indeed, brazen pragmatism can be the only explanation for a political movement that both disparages democracy (in the case of a country where its people are in general the minority) and embraces it (in specific areas of that country where they are a majority).
This is worth examining for a minute – but no longer. The illogic is mental torture.
If we act on the Albanians' own arguments, the Macedonian minority of Tetovo would be granted a veto power over the decisions of local Albanians. Indeed, applying this logic to Kosovo, the Serbian minority would assume de facto control over that "government." Otherwise, how could their "minority rights" be protected?
Yet with their selective love of democracy, the Albanians will not consider that they are part of a larger Macedonian state – and so will not participate in the democratic process there, unless they receive heavy helpings of special treatment. On the other hand, they argue that self-determination and the democratic rule of the many should be acknowledged in Tetovo and western Macedonia – because an Albanian majority happens to exist there.
Selective democracy, therefore, is a byproduct of this reductionist view. Like the Confederate ideal of "state's rights," reductionism is ultimately unworkable, and prone to infinite dissolution. The same arguments for an independent western Macedonia, one should remember, are just the ripple effects of the forced breakup of Yugoslavia. W.B. Yeat's dictum, that "things fall apart" may indeed express a specific phase in the historical cycle of nation-states; nevertheless, we cannot allow partisan factions to hijack reason itself. Otherwise, the vaunted Western ideals of "democracy," "accountability" and "human rights" become meaningless, and, as Western intervention in Kosovo and Macedonia has shown, dangerous, and even exploitive.
Previous articles by Christopher Deliso on Antiwar.com
Christopher Deliso is a journalist and travel writer with special interest in current events in the areas of the former Byzantine Empire – the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, and the Caucasus. Mr. Deliso holds a master's degree with honors in Byzantine Studies (from Oxford University), and has traveled widely in the region. His current long-term research projects include the Macedonia issue, the Cyprus problem, and the ethnography of Byzantine Georgia.
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