Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Selwyn vs Kosovo

It seems most New Zealish bloggers have followed lefthandpalm's lead in welcoming the independence of Kosovo. Many even followed my lead premptively, by welcoming it before me. But my endorsement is the one that matters.

One of the few voices of dissent has been Tim Selwyn over on Tumeke! (1) who sees it as setting a precedent for dissatisfied minorities to sucede, and rewarding terrorism:

What precedent does it set for other countries with ethnic minorities who dominate certain areas? Start a terrorist group, wage war, hope for a NATO intervention when the central government launches a crack-down/suppression and hey-presto - nationhood! In some instances it would probably be desirable and right, but in others unnecessary and wrong. Very messy. (2)
This is curious stuff. Selwyn seems to have forgotten the whole history of the Balkans, and indeed of the entire world.

That is, unfortunately, a history of conquest, colonisation and liberation. States are created, states fall apart. Viewed against on this scale, the independence of Kosovo isn't an act of churlish political spite by a grumpy minority group, but part of a process that has been ongoing since the Battle_of_Kosovo in the 14th century (3) - or longer, if you care to look further back. Since then, empires and nations have come and gone. The creation of Kosovo is just the latest in a long history of ethnic and national positioning and repositioning.

Supressed nationalism - Serb in this case - sparked WW1, when Princp assassinated Franz Ferdinand in 1914. Serbia, at the time, was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. That was an act of terrorism that lead to independence. After WW1, the allied powers created Yugoslavia, and like most of the ideas of the allied powers after WW1, it was a disaster. With several major ethnic groups contained within its artificial borders, nothing to bind them together culturally, and no history except for animosity stretching back a thousand years, it was always doomed.

Selwyn's greatest error, however, is his claim that the independence of Kosovo can be attributed to the activities of terrorist nationalist organisations like the KLA. It isn't. It is a reflection of the will of a mass of people seeking self-determination. The activities of the KLA, Milosevic and the other men of violence weren't relevant to this - infact, the KLA and Milosevic were opposed to the inhabitants of Kosovo, who wanted neither Yugoslavia or Greater Albania. Terrorism, 'ethnic cleansing' and violence are means by which those who lack popular support impose their will on others.

By accepting the idea that Kosovar independence followed from the terrorism of the KLA is to buy into the myths of both the KLA, who claimed they were the only true champions of Kosovo, and the Serbian nationalists who opposed them, and who conflated Kosovar nationalism with terrorism. The same thing happens with Islam - bigots who hate Islam and Muslims conflate all Muslims with Al Queada, and the adherents of AL Queada and other primitivists do the same. In all cases, the prupose is to create the idea that the extremists speak for a larger constituency than is really the case.

Claiming Hashim Thaci was once in command of "one of the most bloodthirsty monsters ever to have disgraced the Balkans" (4) is propoganda. If it is true, he can be made to account for his past crimes. Like Gerry Adams and Martain McGuiness in Northern Ireland, he may once have been an advocate of violence. Now he is a democratically elected leader, seeking to achieve his ends through peaceful means. It is through peaceful means that nationhood has been achieved.

I'm inherenty anti-nationalist. Like Orwell, I escribe myself as a democratic socialist, in that order. You don't achieve anything by trying to impose your ideas on people against their will. The Austro-Hungarian empire, Yugoslavia in its various forms, failed because they lacked any sort of popular support, The KLA's dream of 'greater Albania' will also fail because the people of Kosovo don't want it. The Kosovars need time to work out who they are and what sort of country they want to live in, rather than having one imposed on them by allsorted outsiders. It would be disasterous if they went down the route of ethnic facism and make life intolerable for the Serb minority - that would just be another miserable echo of history, what William Golding described as

... a dead thing handed on, but dead though it is, it will not lie down. It is a monstrous creature descending to us from our ancestors, producing nothing but disunity, chaos. Disorder and war prolong in it the ghastly and ironic semblance of life. All the marching and counter marching, the flags, the heroism and cruelty, are mere galvanic twitches induced in its slaves and subjects by that hideous parody thing. (5)
The Balkans have been in the grip of the dead forces of nationalism, ethnic chauvanism and facism for hundreds of years. Ironically, the independence of Kosovo - a backwards step viewed from the lofty heights of a secure, spohisticated (sic) European up-bringing, is actually a step forward. Too much nationalism is a bad thing. Being denied national self-determination, is worse, as history has shown.

1 - '' poosted by Tim Selwyn on Tumeke!, 18th of February, 2008. (http://tumeke.blogspot.com/2008/02/kosovo-independence-russia-livideu-us.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - 'Battle of Kosovo,' Wikipedia article, viewed on the 19th of February, 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kosovo)
4 - Selwyn is quoting from Pravda here. I can't decide if he is being ironic or not. Selwyn's comments on it are avaialble on Tumeke, see note #1, above. The original article, 'Outlaws,' by Timothy Bancroft-Hincley, was published in Pravda on the 18th of February, 2008. (http://english.pravda.ru/hotspots/terror/17-02-2008/104088-outlawskosovo-0)
5 - Golding, discussing the Lord of The Flies, in an essay called 'Fable,' contained in the collection The Hot
Gates
.

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