The ties that bind diaspora groups and interventionists are, very often, twisted and ugly. Sometimes, the two groups are one and the same, as with the fanatic American supporters of a Greater Albania, who allegedly seek to "defend the national cause and human rights of the Albanian people" by annexing the territory of neighboring states.
Other times, one specific target group is wooed into supporting the cause of another; take Ruder Finn's breathtaking victory during the Yugoslav wars. The PR giant successfully solicited the support of the US Jewish lobby for the Bosnian government one which was run by an Islamic ultra-fundamentalist and had even issued Osama a passport.
The third relationship between diaspora and intervention, and perhaps the most dangerous, emerges when an ethnic group attempts to assert its political and historical agenda abroad. This is usually executed through pressuring the powers that be to recognize their claims "officially" or, as sometimes happens, to negate claims made by ethnic adversaries. Usually, winning brings nothing more tangible than smug self-satisfaction.
Yet the negative effects of such interference are not nearly so banal. In fact, such solicitation lies ultimately at the root of all intervention political, military or otherwise. For in seeking to lobby foreign governments over matters of sheer emotional import, diaspora groups manufacture experts among those lobbied. Overnight, politicians who may have never heard of the country involved become masters of the subject: "thinktanks" are set up to address the problem. Countless NGO's seek to mediate, cajole and soothe. And so, in the eventuality of war, the "broad-based consensus" needed to facilitate intervention is reached. Through the testimony of "recognized experts," all of the interventionists' justifications, explanations and assurances are realized.
By empowering perfectly ignorant individuals to speak on a specific subject, however, diaspora groups ultimately dig their own graves. If this is not "blowback," I don't know what is.AH, MACEDONIA
Exhibit A involves the irritating, unceasing argument between Greeks and Macedonians over the ancient Macedonian heritage, and more specifically, Alexander the Great. This emotional subject (which is, by the way, not all that interesting for many on both sides) has recently been brought to the fore yet again through the efforts of diaspora groups in America.
Indeed, activists on both sides ceaselessly try to find supporters anyone with a pen, or for that matter, with a voice to take up their cause. Yet those who seek adjudication from the present author on this subject will be disappointed.THE GREEK PROVOCATION
The debate over who owns the name of "Macedonia," its history, culture and heritage, has long been fodder for both the Greek and Macedonian diasporas. While I would not normally comment on such a trivial subject, the recent "resolution" of the Illinois state senate cannot go unmentioned. This document's grandiloquent composition puts it on a par, to be sure, with George Washington's farewell speech and the Gettysburg Address. Yet quite unprecedented in the long annals of American forensics is the resolution's painstakingly historical grounding:
"WHEREAS, Philip of Macedonia, his son, Alexander the Great, and his tutor, the philosopher Aristotle, were born and raised in the Northern Province of Greece, Macedonia; and
WHEREAS, The language and culture of the ancient Macedonians, the ancestors of the inhabitants of northern Greece of today, were Hellenic; and
WHEREAS, The Macedonians, like the rest of the Hellenes in Antiquity, believed in the 12 Gods of Olympus and participated with their fellow Hellenes in the Olympic Games; and
WHEREAS, Pella, the palace where Alexander the Great was born, and Vergina, the burial site of the Macedonian kings, are all located in Northern Greece;
therefore, be it RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-SECOND GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that for all of the above reasons, we proclaim that the ancient Macedonians are Hellenes and that the inhabitants of the northern province of Greece, Macedonia, are their Hellenic Descendants;
and be it further RESOLVED, that the history of Ancient Macedonia has been Hellenic for 3,000 years and continues to be today;
and be it further RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution be presented to Dr. Antonios Papadopoulos, the Mid-Western 26 District Governor of the Pan-Macedonian Association, Inc."
I can only imagine how the august senators of Illinois consulted, cross-examined and otherwise coerced their textbooks to come to the conclusions Dr. Papadopoulos required. Yet that's just an amusing side note compared to this thought:
Were I an Illinois taxpayer, I would be absolutely livid right now, to see how my elected officials are spending their time. The Olympian gods? The philosopher Aristotle? What were they thinking?THE MACEDONIANS RUSH TO THEIR OWN DEFENSE
Lest anyone think that the Greeks might get away with such sly machinations, we have the subsequent petition of the Macedonian-American community of Illinois:
"WHEREAS, the Macedonian-American community, comprised of approximately 800,000 people, is one of the vital parts of our Nation, with more than 30 church communities, 50 Macedonian schools, and 100 Macedonian centers in neighborhoods across the United States, disagrees with the Illinois Senate Resolution in that its historical conclusions are inaccurate and its purpose is unclear;
WHEREAS, Ancient Macedonians were among the peoples that lived between Thessaly and Thrace in the Balkans and were considered by the classical Greeks as "Barbarians", i.e., non-Greeks, who were therefore banned from participation in the Greek Olympic Games;
WHEREAS, that the ancient Macedonian capital of Pella was never located in Greece until the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, when Greece annexed half of the territory of Macedonia and instigated a policy of ethnic cleansing and forced assimilation of the indigenous Macedonian population;
WHEREAS, the United States State Department, through the decision-making power of the President of the United States and the United States Congress, has full authority to decide United States policy towards foreign states and governments, Illinois State Senate Resolution 92_SR0446 is contradictory to United States foreign policy and undermines federal government efforts to deal with issues of national concern.
THEREFORE we the people of the Illinois Macedonian-American community propose a NEW RESOLUTION stating that:
I. The Illinois Senate respects and upholds the rights of Macedonian Americans, of their distinctive cultural and religious life, and allows them the fundamental human right to their ethnic identity and freedoms;
II. The Illinois Senate will put an end to those practices which threaten to erode the distinct cultural, religious and ethnic identity of the Macedonian American people and, in particular, to cease policies supporting the attempt of modern day Greeks to suppress the cultural and historical values of all Macedonians;
III. The Illinois Senate will advance United States policy that seeks to protect the cultural and linguistic heritage as well as the historical values of ancient Macedonians, and to encourage improved respect for Macedonian human rights.
IV. The Illinois Senate will encourage members to share complete an accurate factual analysis before advancing viewpoints that act only to deteriorate the relationships among national and local communities and ethnicities.
Submitted to the Illinois State Senate in August 2002"THE REAL ISSUE HERE
Now, there are many who will angrily object when I say that the content is the least meaningful thing in both of these broadsides. Yet their anger would be misdirected.
The point is simply this: both the Greeks and Macedonians are being equally manipulated and demeaned by appealing to a foreign governmental body for approval. Trapped as they are in a cycle of folly, trying to prove the unproveable and reinvigorate long-forgotten civilizations, both sides do nothing except empower officials who would otherwise have no reason or right to comment on the issue.
The real question here is not whether the ancient Macedonians were the forebears of today's Greeks or Macedonians. Yet this is the sort of question interventionists delight in; the more childish the debate, the better, for the interventionists who want to prove their own cultural superiority over Balkan savages.
No, instead of the question posed, we should ask: how did the conditions arise for a US state body to feel itself both capable and entitled to cast judgment on such issues?BRINGING DISASTER UPON THEMSELVES
Note that the cabal of university dons were not asked to deliberate. The diasporas probably knew that academics tend not to make black and white decisions in regards to such extremely complex issues. Then again, they tend not to start wars, either.
Fortunately, however, politicians will always tell you what you want to hear as will government's unofficial agencies. Yet besides the excitement of being heavily lobbied, both legislators and "conflict resolution organizations" have their own goals. In the case of Greece and Macedonia, the artificially-sustained argument has only harmed both countries. Their long standoff has blinded both; they do not realize they share a common threat in the voracious, expansionistic Albanians. By inviting outside forces into the argument, both countries have only harmed themselves.
For example, look at Greece. Set to take up the EU presidency in 2003, and looking forward to the Athens Olympics in 2004, Greece should be basking in optimism. Yet the Macedonia problem has brought heavy international pressure and in the process, manufactured experts and lured out antagonists.
First, in December 2001 there was the ICG initiative to "solve" the name dispute between the two countries. After a lecture in February, the infamous Richard Holbrooke declared Macedonia should be recognized under its constitutional name. Holbrooke was then recorded as saying "the Greeks will have to learn to adjust." A few months later came a Turkish Foreign Ministry broadside of questionable statistical veracity, charging Greece with mistreatment of its Macedonian minority. Then came a Wall Street Journal article (11 April), which exposed Greece's "dark secret" the existence of a Macedonian minority near Prespa Lake.
Perhaps the Americans hope that, by giving Macedonia their blessings, the easily-led little country will forget all about America's role in last year's war. They are banking on the hope that the insecure Macedonians will be overjoyed to finally win Daddy's approval and that this will eliminate whatever resistance remains to being completely colonized.
And this would not be without precedent. After all, didn't the Indians sell Manhattan to the colonists for only $24 worth of beads and trinkets?JUST DESSERTS
Whether to "bomb them out of the stone age" (Afghanistan) or "bomb them in order to save them" (Kosovo), the advice of falsely created experts is often heeded, simply because their opinion is asked. Nobody bats an eyelash at the breathtaking displays of cultural chauvinism still perpetuated by intervention's discerning intellects. What begins with a motion for gay bars in Kandahar ends up ossified in entire malevolent institutions, built around values shared by a relatively small percentage of this planet's inhabitants.
Yet there is a limit to the inanity, a final straw. When a diaspora group demands a historical verdict from a collection of Midwestern farmers and industrialists turned politicians, one cannot blame just the interventionists who after all are created, not born.
Yet perhaps there is a happy ending. With any luck, both sides in the Macedonia dispute will get what they deserve. For if Hollywood has its way, most Americans will remember Alexander the Great merely as a boyish bisexual, played perhaps by the effete Leonardo DiCaprio.
Previous articles by Christopher Deliso on Antiwar.com
Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us