Phantom Statehood III

Coverage out of Belgrade today, on this, the ninth anniversary of the first bombs of Operation Allied Force, the U.S.-led NATO bloc’s aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999, is both depressingly and dangerously familiar.  For as the opening lines of a report in the International Herald Tribune inform us, "Belgrade has proposed partitioning the newly independent nation along ethnic lines.  The proposal to divide Kosovo between its ethnic Albanian majority and minority Serbs was published in Belgrade newspapers Monday…." ("Serbia proposes dividing Kosovo along ethnic lines," Dan Bilefsky, March 24, 2008.)

Note that, as is customary in Western reporting, indeed, as is little and perhaps nothing more than habit and reflex, language the meaning of which turns on division, partition, and separation along ethnic lines is attributed to Serbs, who, once again, are cast as the fount of ethnic hatred in the region.

This has been standard practice dating at least as far back as 1991.  And maybe even earlier.


But in what meaningful historical sense of these terms —  division, partition, separationare ethnic Serbs, whether they live in Belgrade or certain enclaves in Kosovo, proposing the partition of Kosovo between its predominantly ethnic Albanian and its predominantly ethnic Serb populations, and to divide Kosovo into two parts accordingly? 


In point of fact, the Kosovo Serbs today — exactly like the Krajina Serbs in 1991 (mutatis mutandis, of course), as the ethnic Croat majority in Zagreb declared the republic of Croatia’s independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia — are proposing to the United Nations that the UN permit them to remain where they already are — inside the Republic of Serbia, that is, rather than force them to transfer out of the Republic of Serbia and into the "newly independent" Republic of Kosovo, the very existence and legitimacy of which are what both the Serbs of Kosovo and the Serbs of Belgrade are contesting.


Looking back to 1991, every time the capital of a republic within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia opted to break away from Yugoslavia, the republic contained within its boundaries people who did not want to break away from Yugoslavia. 


In the republic of Slovenia and the republic of Macedonia, the number of people willing to contest these republics’ right to break away from Yugoslavia, and to carry people with them who did not want to leave Yugoslavia, were the smallest; as a consequence, the violence of the civil wars that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia was least in Slovenia and Macedonia.


But in the republic of Croatia and in the republic of Bosnia – Herzegovina, the numbers willing to contest Zagreb’s and Sarajevo’s right to break away from Yugoslavia were much larger — and in Bosnia – Herzegovina, they included both ethnic Croats as well as ethnic Serbs, who outnumbered the only faction that really wanted an independent state of Bosnia – Herzegovina recognized along its old republican boundaries, the Sarajevo Muslims.


The massive foreign interference aside (about which, see "The Dismantling of Yugoslavia"), these constitutional contests were what the wars over the fate of Yugoslavia were all about.  True.  Far sexier — and sexed-up — accounts of Yugoslavia‘s breakup have been circulating far and wide for something like 17 or 18 years already.  But at best they analyzed the consequences of these more fundamental contests.  Seldom their causes.


Exactly so today.  Nor can one help but notice how, in the newly independent Republic of Kosovo — "independent" in name only, of course — for all intents and purposes, Kosovo is a U.S. and NATO military base protected by the razor-wire of phantom statehood — the ethnic Serb population which, straight through the U.S.-KLA declaration of independence in February, had demanded to remain within the Republic of Serbia — itself an internationally recognized state and member of the United Nations — have been denied this right. 


Thus the same pattern as was instituted in each of the former republican units of Yugoslavia is now repeated again in Kosovo.  Just as before, ethnic Serbs who wanted to remain inside the internationally recognized state where they already lived — first Yugoslavia or a unified, federal successor state established according to the same constitutional principles, and the Republic of Serbia today — but who now find themselves kidnapped by the new Republic of Kosovo, are regarded as "rebels" and ethnic troublemakers for consistently asserting their right to remain within the Republic of Serbia.


"Serbia proposes dividing Kosovo along ethnic lines," Dan Bilefsky, International Herald Tribune, March 24, 2008

"Russia‘s Putin orders aid for Kosovo Serb enclaves," Dmitry Solovyov, Reuters, March 24, 2008
"Belgrade proposes to UN segregating ethnic Serbs in Kosovo," RIA Novosti, March 24, 2008 

"The Dismantling of Yugoslavia," Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, Monthly Review, October, 2007

"Phantom Statehood I," Z.Com, February 17, 2008
"Phantom Statehood II," Z.Com, February 22, 2008 
"Phantom Statehood III," Z.Com, March 24, 2008



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