combines platitudes with a glib prose style. To this he adds
an air of learning (though obviously of a rather superficial
kind) and a corny sense of humor. He travels widely but always
sees the same thing. This is because he only talks to the
people he feels he needs to talk to—people very much like
himself. They are invariably the officially sanctioned "liberals"
of any country. They see him a mile off and immediately regale
him with oodles of standard Anglo-Saxon liberal pieties. They
are not fools. They know the power of the New York Review
of Books. If you want a fellowship in some American university
or think tank or would like to be considered for a Ford Foundation
grant, or just want to get invited to a conference somewhere
then Garton Ash is the man to see.
Garton Ash version of history is very simple. The fall of
Communism in Europe had one purpose only: to bring to power
a bunch of liberal pro-Western intellectuals like himself.
They are anti-nationalist, anti-religious, anti-Russian and
subscribe to all the latest Western intellectual fads. They
talk earnestly about "free markets" and "democracy."
They welcome with open arms Western investment as well as
US Government agencies like US AID, NED, IRI, NDI and so on.
When they are on top, Garton Ash rejoices. When they are out,
he laments. If there is a strange country somewhere that chooses
not to be ruled by a Havels or a Michniks Garton Ash will
turn on it with fury.
is no surprise then that Serbia is not Garton Ash’s cup of
tea. Nor is it surprising to find that he strongly supported
last year’s bombing campaign. To be sure, he had reservations.
But—and this too is no surprise—his objections were all to
do with there being no "ground troops." In his latest
offering, Garton Ash reveals his predilections by consistently
preferring the Albanian spelling "Kosova" to the
more usual Kosovo. He begins by complacently announcing that
"It’s now entirely clear that the NATO intervention has
decisively resolved, in favor of the Albanians, a Serb-Albanian
struggle for control of this territory that goes back at least
120 years. This was neither the stated nor the real intention
of Western policymakers… Although most Serbs don’t believe
it, the representatives of the so-called international community
are genuine and even passionate in their desire to see a future
for the Serbs in Kosova." This is standard Garton Ash
guff—lots of questionable judgments, each of which is extraordinarily
flattering to our rulers. Has the struggle for Kosovo really
been resolved "decisively" in favor of the Albanians?
Since Serbia is much stronger than Kosovo and Albania combined,
the only way the Albanians can hold on to Kosovo is if NATO
stays there for ever. Will NATO stay there for ever? Perhaps,
but I would not put any money on it.
for the "stated" or the "real" intentions
of our leaders, Garton Ash has to be kidding. In 1995 the
United States launched a bombing campaign to coincide with
a massive Croatian offensive that drove out 250,000 Serbs
from Krajina. The Clinton Administration knew exactly what
it was doing when it thus aided and abetted the worst case
of "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans. The US has
known all along that the Kosovo Albanians had only one project
in mind: to turn Kosovo into an Albanian state. For the United
States to intervene so fiercely on behalf of the Albanians
and then to turn around and express astonishment that, as
a result, Kosovo is now an "Albanian" state—well,
that just begs credulity. No doubt future generations will
read Garton Ash’s nonsense and come to the appropriate conclusions
about "naïve" Americans, policies "paved
with good intentions" and "international protectorates"
in the Balkans that nobody had ever sought. As for evidence
of NATO’s passion for ensuring that Serbs go on living in
Kosovo, one need look no further than Pentagon spokesman Kenneth
Bacon’s statement delivered just prior to the arrival of NATO
troops in Pristina: "The fact of the matter is that I
don’t think Kosovo is going to be a very happy place for Serbs…
As Kosovar Albanians flow back in, our assumption is that
many Serbs will leave Kosovo."
is to be expected, Garton Ash uses one kind of language when
he refers to Albanians and quite another when he refers to
Serbs. Albanian crimes are described as "reverse ethnic
cleansing" or "revenge killings." (That Serb
atrocities might themselves have been a response to earlier
Albanian atrocities and could therefore more properly be described
as "reverse ethnic cleansing" never gets into the
pages of "official history.") Of KLA leader Hashim
Thaci Garton Ash writes: "Well-informed senior Western
sources…claim to have firm evidence that Thaci has been directly
involved in KLA racketeering and strong-arm tactics."
That’s telling them! Even the New York Times has written
that Thaci is almost certainly responsible for the murder
of his political rivals. Garton Ash makes a great show of
lamenting the ethnic separation that characterizes Kosovo
today. Yet it often seems as if his only regret is that there
are still some Serbs left in Kosovo. He talks of areas where
"Serbs still rule the roost." He sneers that in
Belgrade "the state press and television make propaganda
out of the suffering of Serbs at the hands of vengeful Kosovars….
Generally, the bombing has reinforced the Serbs’ already highly
developed sense of national victimhood." Again, he never
asks himself if there is not a lot of truth behind this "propaganda,"
if the Serbs were not indeed victims—set upon by the greatest
military force in the world.
is no surprise either that when he visits Belgrade he does
not bother to interview any member of the Government, let
alone anyone close to Slobodan Milosevic. He does not interview
anyone from Voiclav Seselj’s Radical party. Such people are
not worth listening to. He spends his time hanging out with
the same crowd of losers that Western journalists have been
hanging out with for years: Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic,
Dragoslav Avramovic. Garton Ash quotes an opposition leader
who tells him "ordinary Serbs… respect power, and the
bombing was nothing if not a crude lesson in power."
(Who does not respect power, by the way? Only the mentally
unbalanced.) And then he chuckles to himself: "The same
Belgrade intellectuals who one minute berate me for the sins
of Western policy are, the next minute, privately asking me
for a letter of recommendation or other assistance in getting
to the West." It does not occur to him that for the Serbs
the West that smashes them is also the only West there is.
What are they expected to do? Commit collective suicide?
Ash’s prose is so full of fatuous judgments that it is hard
to select one for particular foolishness. This one is as "good"
as any: "The 1980s ended with the fall of Honecker, Husak,
and Ceausescu. It would have been wonderful to end the 1990s
with the fall of Milosevic….Two major opinion polls, the NDI
one and another commissioned by the local Centre for Policy
Studies, show a large majority of respondents blaming him
for the country’s woes and wanting him to go before the end
of his term. There is much anecdotal evidence of the regime
crumbling: border guards congratulating opposition figures
on their television appearances, and so on." First, Milosevic
is in power because he has won election after election. Therefore,
he does not have anything in common with Honecker and the
others. Second, why would anyone take seriously an opinion
poll commissioned by the NDI? The National Democratic Institute
is financed by the US Government. I really love the line about
the "border guards congratulating opposition figures."
Where did Garton Ash get this information from? Doubtless,
from the "opposition figures" themselves—a reliable
Ash concludes his essay with some trite observations: "Yet
I come away from this journey feeling, more than ever, the
futile folly of it. It’s not as if these nations want to live
in quite different ways in their different houses. What you
find in each individual, small, battered, impoverished part
of the Balkans are people—especially young people—looking
at exactly the same Western advertisements, worshipping the
same Western pop stars and fashion models, watching the same
Western films and television shows, yearning for the same
Western way of life. This is true in Serbia, despite the anti-Western
sentiments, just as much as in Kosova, where the West is liberator-king."
This is the usual pap people peddle when they seek to persuade
us that everyone the world over is the same, want the same
goods, and the same benign US Government lording it over them.
Corporations eager to sell their products bleat the same message
day and night. The truth, of course, is that people are very
different. Serbs do not become Americans because they watch
"Friends" any more than Syrians become Germans because
they pick up German TV by satellite. People may wear jeans
and still want no part of the contemporary liberal world.
is the whole purpose of "official history." It is
written to persuade us that all is for the best in this the
best of all liberal worlds, that we, one and all, are marching
to the liberal world order.