Monday, September 28, 2009
As a former British diplomat (NB said by many to be 'pro-Serb'!) I have followed the Kosovo issue on and off for over 25 years. I was one of the first foreign diplomats into Kosovo after the state of emergency was lifted there following the 'disturbances' of 1981.
The one utterly indisputable fact in this sorry story is that for decades successive leaderships in Belgrade failed to extend a sensible hand of friendship and reconciliation towards their Albanian fellow-citizens. Instead they treated them as some sort of inferior race.
Even after Milosevic fell, President Kostunica had no policy for behaving in a positive, reasonable way towards Albanian people in Serbia, even though they were his own voters! I know because I was there and watched it all at very close quarters.
Basically, Serbia blew it, to the point of making even the KLA seem reasonable.
I have thought about this long and hard and just can't explain it to myself: how could smart and otherwise decent people take such ruinously counter-productive positions for so long? But they did.
Check out that vital Balkan 'inat' word and all will be clearer.
Plenty about all this on my own site under the Balkanic Eruptions tag:
HM Ambassador to Sarajevo (1996-98) and Belgrade (2001-03)
neil craig said...
I'll check out your site but I would dispute your claim. Milosevic came to power following attacks by the Albanian police in Kosovo on local Serbs. This was merely the end of a long era of the ethnic Albanian government running an openly racist & fairly violent & fraudulent local regime there. While ethnic tensions exist everywhere, including London, the record of the Serbs towards the Albanians is rather good. Possibly to good for their own interests since they allowed effectively free immigration from Albania.
You will not deny that there are, even now, 50,000 Albanians living in Belgrade & not eager to return to their liberated homeland. It being the only multi-ethnic capital remaining in former Yugoslavia. This itself says exactly what we did & what sort of Nazis we made use of across Yugoslavia.
Do you think that the British people would be equally kindly if Pakistani immigrants had collaborated with Germany to ethnically cleanse Yorkshire of its original inhabitants & set up a racist Moslem regime? I very much doubt it but that is what has been done to the Serbs & what they have NOT taken revenge for.
Unless you dispute that the KLA have engaged in massacres, genocide, ethnic cleansing, sexual enslavement of schoolgirls & dissecting living people for organs (both during the terrorism & after being appointed NATO "police") I simply cannot accept the KLA "seem reasonable".
If that is evidence of being "pro-Serb" in the British Foreign Service it suggests most people there indeed share the view the entire race are Untermensch.
Charles Crawford said...
I have lived in different parts of the former Yugoslavia space for some eight years and worked on the issues in London for several more. I speak Serbo-Croat-Bosnian. What exactly is your own first-hand knowledge of the region, please?
Sure, it's really complicated in many respects. But it also is quite simple.
The Serbs as the largest community in former Yugoslavia had the opportunity and the political weight to define the future of that part of Europe. Instead they fell for lumpen national-socialism led by Milosevic, a deeply disturbed man married to an even more disturbed wife.
That happened for one quite interesting and little-understood reason. Back in the early 1970s there was a Belgrade Spring, echoing the 1968 Prague Spring, when hundreds of liberal-minded communists started pushing for real reform.
Tito duly purged thousands of them from the Party, which meant that in the next two decades the Serbian Communist Party was led by dullards and fifth-raters prone to stupid repressive policies such as Milosevic started to offer in the later 1980s. This stopped Serbia offering credible modern policies when Yugoslavia started to break up. Not that weak EU/US dithering helped at that point either, of course.
The national tragedy for Serbs is that Milosevic led them into a political dead-end, and the Serbs en masse repeatedly endorsed him one way or the other. They created the context for their own misfortune, in good part from facile collective opportunism - where did all the TVs and household appliances looted from Bosnia by Arkan actually go, do you think?
All that said, I would agree that in many respects 'Western' policy was bad or worse. But the unbalanced simplifications and zany analogies you use alas do not help us get to a better outcome.
Which is all I have to say on this subject here.
neil craig said...
Basically you are pulling rank & you are quite correct that the british government never appointed me an ambassador there. I would argue that that does not prove you the more impartial.
Beyond that you are arguing that the Serbs are wrong because they are the bigger nationality, which if taken seriously would therefore make them "right" in any dispute with NATO & that Milosevic was bad because he was.
Far from being a nationalist (or even a national socialist as you, unoriginally, brand him) you will know that David owen testified at his trial that he was opposed to nationalism. Having read his speech in Kosovo you will know he was proud that Yugoslavia was, then, a multiethnic state. I note you cannot dispute that Serbia alone remains a multi-ethnic state the rest having benn "cleansed" under NATO authority by such openly genocidal ex-Nazi friends of ours as Izetbegovic, at whose court you had the experience of serving as ambassador. Alongside his other friend Osama bin Laden.
Charles Crawford said... No, I am not pulling rank. I am describing my long personal experience dealing with these issues, and asking what yours might be. I await the answer.
You have energetic views. I just wonder how far they are based on grappling in person with these problems with many of the key personalities involved.
I don't see how you can say that I say "that the Serbs were wrong because they are the bigger nationality" (sic). That is not what I wrote. My point is that as the largest community in former Yugoslavia, the Serbs had a fine opportunity to use their overall 'weight' and experience to define how it might evolve in a positive direction.
They did not take it. Indeed, it remains baffling to most experts why Milosevic did not use Serbia's advantages to pursue his goals using guileful diplomacy and normal political/diplomatic methods - it all could have been so different, and heavily in Serbia's favour...
neil craig said...
I don't accept that it is necessary to have met Izetbegovic to acknowledge that he was an ex-Nazi publicly committed to genocide any more than it is necessary to have met Hitler to be a historian of the Holocaust.
I will leave it to readers to decide whether you did say the Serbs were particularly to blame because they were the largest community.
I am intrigued by what you say about Milosevic's goals. I would be interested in what you think they were. I will also agree that I think Yugoslavia would have been served better by a more guileful & aggressive & less honest leader. However I do not see that supports the claim that NATO's participation in war crimes, genocide & dissections is justified by his lack of guile.
Now I have put all this up as it came to show that Charles is clearly not just a ranter or cliche spouter like so many, though he is loyal to the Foreign Office code. He perhaps wisely, has chosen not to elucidate on that astonishing remark about Milosevic's lack of "guileful behaviour" ".
Guileless = Innocent, NaiveSo according to a leading British diplomat who clearly enjoys the full confidence of the Foreign Office & NATO on this subject the crime of Milosevic & the Yugoslav government was that they were innocents naively trusting to western integrity, the rule of international law etc. Now let me say that I actually have some sympathy with this. Machiavelli was firmly of the opinion that it was the duty of a sovereign leader "Prince" who has the responsibility of protecting the country when it faces an existential threat, to use any tactics, no matter how dishonest & indeed bloody to protect it. Stalin, whether with philosophical thought or not, practiced the same when he signed his Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler. I think the Serbs would have been better served by leaders who were less civilised, less willing to have cease fires & negotiations whenever they were winning & who had been more willing not merely to defend themselves but to make the aggressors pay a price. Indeed Charles puts this point in his essay How To Negotiate: Inflict Pain?
However Milosevic was not charged with being innocent. More importantly Machiavelli never said that leaders should behave like this when not under threat - quite the reverse. NATO, Britain, the EU & USA never faced an existential threat from Yugoslavia. They never faced any slightest threat whatsoever. There is no such justification for their "guileful" actions. If the derivation of words means anything then Crawford is saying that it is the NATO powers that are "guile-ty" of crimes there.
This, however, goes well beyond Yugoslavia. Charles is clearly a civilised individual who would not kill children or small dogs, at least ones he had met. Such people do not convince themselves of the rightness of evil unless they are immersed in such an environment for a long time.
The most depressing of the wonderful Yes Minister episodes is Whiskey Priest in which the minister finds that the government has been supplying bombs to terrorists in Italy. This was after Italian right wing terrorists, masquerading as leftists, had set off the Bologna bomb which killed 80 people. It is not known to what extent the Italian Red Brigade was actually controlled by these same rightists but it was certainly considerable. In turn it is known that these "rightists" were actually Gladio a NATO organisation set up to carry out acts of resistance/terrorism nominally in the event of a Soviet invasion but presumably also in the more likely event of the communists winning the election. All the other Yes Minister episodes are based on known events & if this one were not unique I would expect it to be based on evidence surfacing that the Bologna or some other bomb contained parts supplied by the British Secret Service, but no such evidence has become public - as indeed it never did in the episode.
Enough background - the comparison here is that the minister finds Sir Humphrey eager to cover it up. This causes an argument in which Hacker calls Humphrey a "moral vacuum" which the latter takes well seeing it as high praise & proof of him being a successful civil servant. Nowadays the situation seems worse - Charles is not a "moral vacuum". Sir Humphrey would never have dreamt of publicly defending such things because vacuums do not do that. Mr Crawford actively defends actions which he clearly knows were genocidal & evil carried out simply because their target was innocent enough for them to get away with it. He wasn't born that way - it is a result of a governmental system, meshing perfectly with those in the US & EU systems, which has no ethical basis. These governments do not lie & murder & destroy because they feel that what is best in life is “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women” though many of their Nazi hirelings surely do. They do it because it gives government bureaucracy something to do. Something that will justify all the money spent. That will justify spending more (Kosovo being not an asset but a money hole). Something that will justify more diplomats & "N"GOs. Something that leaves NATO "respected".
This is where government action against foreigners matches with government action against us. If as Ashdown says, 500,000 were killed in the Yugoslav wars that only barely exceeds the number of people (24,000 a year) who died unnecessarily of cold because government insists on preventing us having cheap electricity because it isn't "environmental" over the last 20 years. Time & time & time again we see the workings of Pournelle's Iron Law - that the purpose of government programmes is to pay government employees & their friends & that their official purpose is, at best, peripheral. Would the world not be a safer place if all the backroom operatives of NATO & our Foreign Office & all the others in the NATO countries were carried off in wiff of brimstone? In the same way would we not be better off if all the smoking inspectors, & Health & Safety executives, & nuclear regulators & windmill subsidisers, & social workers & carbon counters & public information officers & eurocrats & planning officers were allowed to seek employment digging ditches?
At the very least would it not be better if 99% of them were.
How many government programmes can you name that have solved the problem they were nominally set up to serve; that have saved more lives than they cost; that have cost what they promised? And as Charles has proven the entire edifice is run by people who have no interest in achieving any moral ends but simply in enlarging their own bureaucracy.
Government is a colossal blood sucking parasite without even the grandeur of a barbarian invasion. With it tamed & shrunk to something closer to a mouse than a juggernaut we, of all nations, have the capability to turn this planet into Eden & to do the same with the universe.
This whole post is based (I think, as far as I can understand it) on a trivial logical fallacy: that if Milosevic was not guileful, he therefore was guileless/innocent.
It's called the Law of the Excluded Middle: if an elephant is not Big, it must be Small!
Let me put it thus. I believe that Milosevic could have achieved a far better outcome for Serbia and for himself than he did achieve.
Why did he not do that?
He was surely deranged, babbling on to himself and his wife and any passing diplomat about his central place in world history, and having a mystic/racist view of Albanian inferiority. He just made no sense on the subject of Kosovo. None. I have this from not only from UK/US colleagues but alsoi hard-nosed Russians who tried to get through to him and have a sensible discussion on Kosovo. They just couldn't.
So he was not guileful. Nor was he guileless. He was stupid and irrational and possibly mad.
We could have understood and even welcomed an attempt to drive a coherent hard bargain. What stunned everyone was that he offered no bargain at all, other than increasingly outlandish repression.
Your whole Genocide thesis as per this post therefore collapses. Oops.
PS I still want to hear what your own first-hand experience of this region might be. Maybe ... none?
PPS I suspect that we will have no meeting of minds on all this. So I do not propose to comment further here on your many and various claims. Thanks for giving me the space to do so hitherto.
He was "stupid, mad, deranged, babbling". What obvious nonsense. You know perfectly well that he took apart every element of the ICTY's "court" case against him. If a deranged babbling person can do that then not only could there never have been a case in the first place (I grant there wasn't) but everybody else in the NATO funded "court", including witnesses like Ashdown & William Walker whom he proved to be complete liars, must have been mentally subnormal too.
You know that isn't true. You know that he was a perfectly competent leader, certainly with more philosophical thought than our own beloved scum, but that is no bad thing. You know that David Owen testified, under oath, that he was no racist.
In any case if any of that weren't a lie it still wouldn't affect the case against genocide.
The case against genocide is that it is a bad thing; that NATO & our government went to war to do it; that, as our Foreign Secretary "babbled" to Parliament, they knew they were promoting genocide; & that they authorised genocide & worse while running Kosovo. You know that is true. You haven't even attempted to deny that this "guileful" policy was something our government was guilty of. If anything, since striking cripples is frowned on, if your defence were not a total lie it would just make such behaviour worse.
PS You seem to have been unable to dispute almost all of my "many & various claims". Considering that your on the spot experience is indeed so much greater than mine, if any justification of such crimes was possible, or any error on my part existed, you would clearly be among the best placed people to say so.
Now that is deranged, but it does not prevent it being evil.
I challenge you to provide one shred of documented evidence from non-NATO, non-Soros sources (including your alleged "hard-nosed Russians") that conclusively prove your assertions that:
a) Milosevic was a "racist" whom viewed the Albanians as "inferior"
b) Milosevic was "deranged, babbling on to himself and his wife and any passing diplomat about his central place in world history"
I await your documented proof in earnest.
Jewish Task Force
Fresh Meadows NY
I currently live in Belgrade. I have travelled extensively around the former Yugoslavia and can speak Serbo-croat thus allowing me direct communication with the locals - except the Albanians.
I have extensively researched Yugoslav history, and in particular the events leading to the collapse and subsequent events to date. I have had personal conversations with some of the well known 'actors' as well as numerous anonymous (to a international audiance) faces that also played their part in the events.
I am not, and have never been, employed by HMG or similar organisation. I have no agenda to push.
Your understanding and appreciation of the historical events, their meaning and their implications, is seriously flawed. Your words on the subject seem to suggest a deliberate attempt to push a particular agenda with little effort to provide balanced and objective analysis.
I am not "pulling rank". I am simply stating my opinion based upon first hand experience and second hand evidence provided by some of the 'principles'.
However I would be more impressed if you pointed out factual errors or even anything factual. Currently you are just trying to pull rank while showing less gold braid than Charles. My email is on the page if you want privacy.
Why are you censoring my posts on your blog now but never have done so before? I did not say anything rude or disrespectful to him.
Anyway, despite your censorship practices which I strongly disagree with, I am still an avid reader of your blog and wish to give you a heads up on what has been happening to Human Rights Watch and their (now former) star so-called "Pentagon Military Analyst" Mark Galasco.
If you remember, Mr Galasco was infamous for the Gaza Beach Blood Libel against Israel back in 2006.
It turns out he is a closet Nazi sympathizer who had a screen name on the internet called "Flak88" (a common call sign among neo-Nazis in Europe and the United States)
Human Rights Watch Spokesman a Genetically Programmed Nazi Descendant
HRW suspends nazi worshiper Mark Garlasco
I do appreciate & agree with your reply.