Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sic transit Slobo

Amidst all the musings about Slobodan Milosevic's passing, I'm reminded of the old adage, there are no end to lessons. is One concerns the inevitable disaster that ensues when a fake state, like Yugoslavia, loses the only thing that unites its peoples. The original Yugoslavia was created for the convenience of the Versailles peacemakers, who didn't know what else to do with the collection of small peoples in the neighborhood, namely Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, Albanians, a smattering of Greeks and various and sundry others. Some of them could understand each other linguistically speaking, and they were of similar ethnic origin, so can't they all just get along? That was the reasoning at work in l9l9. Well, of course, they could NOT get along--the Serbs dominated the state, because that's what they were used to doing, and the Croats resisted, which was what THEY were good at doing. Eventually, opportunistic and covetous neighbors became involved, and the state disappeared with the invasion of German and Italian forces in l941. The man who emerged from the fratricidal wars of l941, Tito, enjoyed genuine popularity for leading the lone multinational resistance group, the Partisans, to victory and establishing a new Yugoslavia based on "brotherhood and unity." He was popular, he was good at balancing the desires and egos of all the groups, and if anyone brought up injustices or slights done to his group--played the national card-- he just put'em in prison and threw away the key. The only trouble was that he was mortal. With him went the lone commonality among the groups.
As unscrupulous a politician as there ever was, Slobodan Milosevic raised the Serb standard in the post-Tito vacuum and in effect declared that post-Communist, post-Tito Yugoslavia would be a Serboslavia. Other groups reacted by trying to get away, sometimes resurrecting their own murderous nationalist leaders, and he was able to "intervene" in Croatia and Bosnia because Serbs lived there and they were "under threat." And the rest constitutes a new low for the late 20th century.
Remembering Slobo and the sorry history of the state known as Yugoslavia, I can only think of the latest fake state broken into pieces--Iraq. The makers of the middle east postwar "settlement" put together three provinces of the Ottoman empire--Basra, Baghdad and Mosul--essentially for the convenience of the British empire. They declared that these were the same people, fundamentally, and couldn't they get along, anyway? Saddam's rule is proof that they could NEVER get along--Iraq is not the way it is because of Saddam, Saddam was the way he was because of Iraq--he governed by manipulation and force because that was the only means of "uniting" the Sunnis and Shia, Kurds, Arabs, Turkomen, all of them.
No doubt Iraq was destined to go the way of post-Slobo Yugoslavia when Saddam passed on--descent into division, chaos, war. But because we elected to break Iraq, rather than let this happen as a matter of course, OUR NAME is on the division, the insurgency, the chaos, the civil war. We bear the blame and the ill will for the misery we have wrought on a people who had done nothing to us. It seems to me that in the future, if presented with a choice of breaking a fake state and letting it die a natural death, we should opt for the latter and then do what we can to help pick up the pieces--rather than volunteering for a "preventive" takedown.
To paraphrase Johnnie Cochran: "if a state is fake, you must not break!" once upon a time, maybe they understood this in foggy bottom. I'm not sure they do today.


Blogger nancy said...

Thanks for this instructive analogy. One just can't help wishing that the administration had taken time back in 2002/2003 to think about their path in the long term, and with reflection on what had worked or not worked in the past. I can't help believing that so many people would still be alive today if Bush and the neo-con crew had done their homework.

2:46 PM  

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