The Balkan Mirror; What It Says about the Middle East

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Balkan Mirror; What It Says about the Middle East


Byline: Michael Djordjevich, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Together with the Middle East, the border lands of southeast Europe known as the Balkans have been a region of the world where seminal events and trends in human history have taken place. It has been called many names, including "the powder keg of Europe" or "the graveyard of empires." The conflicts in the region have also been a mirror of history.

Long before Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations," in the period between the 14th and 19th centuries, the incessant ebb and flow in the conflict between Islam and the West took place in the Balkans. Early in the 20th century, Serbian gun shots in Sarajevo ushered in World War I, Communism and Nazism. At the end of the century, Bosnian Muslim fundamentalists fired gun shots in Sarajevo, killing several Christian Serbs at a wedding party and began a bloody war in Bosnia among Christian Serbs and Croats and Muslims. This war may have well reflected in earnest the renewed clash of civilizations.

The Berlin Wall fell at the end of 1989. The Soviet Union imploded and the end of Communism as a global force followed. Balkan countries joined the trend. However, the pivotal and largest state, Yugoslavia, rapidly descended into a bloody civil-religious war and dissolution. This decade-long war at the end of 20th century mirrored a number of important political, legal, religious and geopolitical precedents for the post-Communist world. Of particular significance are those involving America, the European Union and the United Nations.

At first, the United States favored the preservation of Yugoslavia, or at least its peaceful and orderly dissolution. Changing this position abruptly, America did not oppose Germany's drive for the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and then sided with Islamists in Bosnia. Secretary of State James Baker said "we have no dog in this fight" but in the end America was the top dog in the fight.

The international community's engagement in the Balkans have so far been a textbook illustration of the dangers of contradictory policies, chronic indecisions, confusion and ignorance about historical forces in play, double standards and flawed precedents. America was not prepared for the peace and the role of the only superpower in the world. Our leadership has failed in this task so far.

Apparently, not much has been learned from this experience. We could replace the location, inserting Iraq instead of the Balkans, and the aforementioned assessment would be similar today.

The Balkan mirror also shows the impotence and irrelevance of the United Nations. …

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