Perspective: America Must Grasp World's Complexity; the Post-War Struggle to Rebuild Iraq Is Getting Bogged Down Because of the Coalition's Failure to Understand the History, Culture and Faith of the Country. Dr Gezim Alpion Argues This Is Nothing New, but This Time the US and UK Have to Get It Right for the Sake of the Whole World

Article excerpt

I t was a telling moment. During a recent broadcast James Rubin, former American assistant secretary of state, struggled to explain to a largely sceptical audience that America did not employ a doublestandard foreign policy, especially not towards Muslims.

When challenged, poor Mr Rubin produced quite a gem. He retorted that no one could accuse his country of being unfair to Muslims or Muslim countries and he was keen to mention the case of Kosovo.

'In Kosovo,' as he put it, 'we attacked a Western state to protect Muslims.'

As an academic and a writer I don't necessarily expect politicians, no matter where they come from, to have read widely on or be thoroughly informed of 'trivial' and 'light-weight' subjects such as history and theology.

As a British citizen, however, I am disturbed when our politicians employ the same hypocritical rhetoric.

In all fairness to our sensible politicians, they are hardly as outspoken as their unelected American colleagues in preaching and defending the West's moral crusades to 'protect' Muslims in the Balkans, especially those in Kosovo and around the world. And the reasons could not be more obvious.

Such a blunder would not only undermine our newly-born 'ethical foreign policy' but also unearth some rather embarrassing facts about our not so ethical foreign policy in the past in some corners of the world, especially in the Balkans. There in the wake of the demise of the Ottoman Empire we played our part in carving up the region much at the expense of Mr Rubin's voiceless Muslims of Kosovo and Albania.

As someone who believes more in humanity than in nationalism and religion, like many others in this country and throughout Western democracies, I had the impression that when Nato attacked Yugoslavia in 1999, it was not attacking a 'Western state' but Milosevic's brutal regime which had surpassed even the Nazis in its ethnic cleansing policy in Croatia, Bosnia and especially in Kosovo. Likewise, I thought and hoped that the year 1999 would mark a much welcome turningpoint in the way we in the West would handle from then onwards cases of gross violation of human rights, both on our doorstep and in the far corners of the world.

No-one in his right mind would deny the crucial role the US played in bringing to an end the sickening brutality we witnessed day in, day out, over the last decade throughout the former Frankenstein state of Yugoslavia.

But the fact that we and the Americans helped the peoples in the Balkans to gain their freedom does not give us the right to keep them hostage for our favours to them.

In referring to Milosevic's version of Yugoslavia as a 'Western state' andKosovans as merely 'Muslims', Mr Rubin is obviously unaware that the Serbs arrived in Europe less then 12 centuries ago and that their victims, Mr Rubin's Muslim beneficiaries from Kosovo, happen to be the descendants of one of the most ancient European nations, the Albanians.

Mr Rubin obviously has no idea that the forefathers of today's Albanian Muslims (by the way, Mr Rubin, not all Kosovans, certainly not all Albanians, are Muslims) were among the earliest Europeans to welcome Christianity and five centuries before the pagan Serbs were convinced by Greek missionaries to follow the teachings of Christ.

In dubbing the Kosovans 'Muslims', Mr Rubin is preaching a patronising attitude towards those 'outsider' Europeans who, for various reasons, happen not to share at the moment the West's 'official' religion.That the ancestors of the present day non-Christian Albanians struggled for decades in the latter part of the 14th century and throughout the 15th century to defend their country, their Christian faith and Catholic Europe from the invading Turkish hordes who (like all invaders) used the religious card to justify their wars and sanctify their gains, apparently is of no importance to Mr Rubin. …