A Macedonian Fantasy?
There are essentially
two types of peace agreements: those that ratify a peace that is
in place for whatever reason (conquest, surrender, war-weariness)
and those that seek to push forward a "process" that has not yet
brought anything resembling an actual peace. One may hope that the
Macedonian peace accord signed Monday is in the former category,
but it is more likely that it is in the latter, which means it is
more likely to be an illusion and another opportunity for NATO
to assert power than a genuine step toward peace.
It can be appropriate and helpful for an outside entity to
get involved in facilitating an agreement that is a done deal or
even close to completion. Sometimes a neutral party can help to
build bridges, tie up details, provide a forum in which trust can
be built when the parties involved in hostilities are actually
ready to cease hostilities. When the parties engaged in hostilities
are not really ready to stop engaging in violence and recriminations
the Israeli-Palestinian situation comes to mind a forced agreement
imposed by outside parties is not only something of a fantasy, it
is likely to damage the prospects for a genuine settlement.
THE MISSING PARTY
In the case of
the Macedonian agreement, the groups of guerrillas generally called
"ethnic Albanian rebels" in the media have been the primary
irritants, having begun insurgency operations in February. The only
way a peace agreement would have a chance of permanence would be
for those rebel groups to be a signatory, or at least to have agreed
informally to abide by the agreement.
Naturally, the rebels are not a party to the agreement. Instead,
some ethnic Albanian political groups with tenuous connections to
the rebels groups that have generally not been involved in armed
struggle in the first place signed on.
Although at least one rebel leader said Tuesday that the rebels
would respect the cease-fire and there were news reports that the
rebels would disarm, most Macedonian newspapers ranged from guarded
to skeptical to cynical in their assessments. The gaps between apparently
promising to disarm and actually disarming can be quite large; just
today the Irish Republican Army rejected another proposal, part
of a years-long process, to disarm as the British would like them
to disarm. Like most people I want to hope for the best, but I would
be astounded if even a formal agreement to disarm went forward without
caches of weapons stored in various woods and mountains.
ethnic Albanian rebels are not the only relevant parties that haven't
completely bought into the wonderful NATO-crafted peace "settlement."
The government restricted media access to the signing ceremony at
the Skopje residence
of Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski, fearing most Macedonians
would be angered by what most view as compromises to appease the
MISSING THE POINT
The US-NATO fallacy
driving this manic push for some piece of paper for somebody to
sign, Ted Carpenter of the Cato Institute
believes, is that what the ethnic Albanian rebels want is a better
deal from the Macedonian state. Carpenter notes that at least half
the rebels are not from Macedonia at all, but from Kosovo.
And what most of the rebel leaders say they want is not recognition
of Albanian as a second official language, but a Greater
That means their real desire is the utter and complete destruction
of the Macedonian state, not a few crumbs from the state's table
in response to bullying from NATO officials who want to feel important
and effectual. But the NATO and American diplomats seem to view
the conflicts in the Balkans as akin to political contests among
various ethnic groups in large American cities.
So they act as a Tammany
Hall boss might, thinking they are buying off groups by offering
jobs, patronage, respect and a place at the table to a few designated
THE GUFFAW FACTOR
There's a certain
almost charming naiveté in some of the statements from the diplomats
who assembled to supervise the signing and who were quoted without
apparent irony by the newshounds on hand.
"Clearly, there has to be a sustainable cease-fire," Lord Robertson
fantasized, "and clear indications from the insurgents that they
mean business in terms of disarming completely and handing over
their weapons and ammunition to the NATO troops when they come."
What planet does this guy inhabit? Does Lord
Haw Haw think they would calmly hand their weapons over even
if they had been at the table? Has he ever talked to anybody with
even the slightest involvement in the
Northern Ireland conflict?
Even more amusing was James
Pardew of the United States, who said, "This is the day when
we can begin an end to this conflict and take all the political
issues off the table. After this day, there should be no reason
No comment can do justice to the vapidity of that statement.
The most plausible
explanation I have seen for the determination of NATO and US diplomats
to get involved in an almost surely untenable situation in Macedonia
comes from Gary Dempsey of Cato, who served as an election observer
and has spent considerable time in the region. He thinks the reason
is to try to prevent the previous intervention in Kosovo from blowing
up in NATO's face.
The Albanian rebels in Macedonia, especially since many of
them are from Kosovo, have the capacity to do a good deal of mischief
in Kosovo. Insofar as they do, it just might become too apparent
even for NATO and the international press to ignore that the
mission in Kosovo has not only been a failure
but a destabilizing
factor. So to maintain the pretense that the Kosovo occupation is
something other than a farce NATO is willing to get even more deeply
involved in a highly volatile situation in Macedonia.
It probably won't work as a means of staving off disaster in
Kosovo, though it might divert attention from Kosovo for a while.
THE BUSH FACTOR
The almost surprising
aspect of all this is the extent to which the Bush administration
has endorsed and reinforced the mistakes made by the Clinton administration.
This is not only strategically, but politically, shortsighted.
Back when he was campaigning against Al Gore, Bush seemed to
be saying that he had reservations about open-ended "peacekeeping"
engagements and would tell NATO that handling brushfires in Europe
was almost solely a European responsibility. "I hope they [the Europeans]
put the troops on the ground so that we can withdraw our troops
and focus our military on fighting and winning war," he said during
one of his debates with Gore last October.
Once in office, however, he has told us, as has Colin Powell,
that NATO and the U.S. went into the Balkans together and they will
get out together. That means the US is in it as long as the Europeans
are, and there is no realistic prospect of turning the conflict
over to the Europeans to handle, if they can.
This is in some ways baffling. When it becomes obvious that
the Balkans resemble quicksand and that moving forward is not likely
to get us to the other side, Bush will get the blame for the ill-fated
open-ended commitment. No amount of whining that he inherited a
bad situation from the Clinton administration however true it
might be will protect the Bushies from the peoples' anger.
So a strictly political calculation even absent a sense
of history that might have informed Americans that making
peace in the Balkans has never been easy and wasn't made easier
by the long suppression of ethnic conflict by Tito
would have dictated a certain amount of disengagement and distancing
by the Bushies. But apparently the maintenance of the empire is
considered more important even than protecting the administration's
Whether the decision to get involved and stay involved in the
Balkans turns out to be as large a world-historical miscalculation
as the Japanese decision to bomb Pearl Harbor or Hitler's decision
to invade Russia, it is a decision American taxpayers and soldiers
will be paying for for decades.
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