27 November 2011

State Serbia

USAF F-16 and crew on a 'goodwill visit' to Serbia military base (2006)

Last month, days before KFOR would launch its most ambitious string of attacks against the roadblocks in the north of Kosovo, the president of Serbia told the embattled communities in the north that "Belgrade was firmly at their side, but that a solution must be found to allow KFOR to pass past the barricades". What can be made of a head of state who, at the height of a crisis involving his citizens and an occupying army, has as his driving objective to ensure privilege for the latter?

What has happened to make such an unnatural state of affairs a reality? Did some years prior American tanks roll into downtown Belgrade and install a pliant regime? Well, not quite. Serbia was subjugated, but not by force. It was defeated by subterfuge, without having fired a shot in its defense.

How in turn was it possible for a people as freedom-minded as any to lose it so easily? It turns out because they have a state set above themselves that can be used against them they can be checkmated with little expense. A people that could not be broken in war in 1999 were brought under Imperial domination a year later with suitcases of cash. Since 2000 the Empire has been able to make sure successive governments of Serbia would be, in whole or in part, made up of its clients.

What is more, Empire's position in Belgrade has never been more assured. Impressed with the ability of Washington to see patriotic parties thwarted — election results be damned — a part of oppositionists have sought its favor, so that now the Empire has in its pocket not just the government parties, but also the largest opposition party. Where 2008 elections were anticipated as an event that would finally rid Serbian government of Imperial influence — which they would have, but for US Embassy engineered defection of the Socialist Party of Serbia from the ranks of patriotic parties to the ranks of State Department clientele — it is apparent in advance the 2012 elections will change nothing.

What best illustrates just how far gone official Serbia is, is how utopian the eminently reasonable calls of the Serbs under occupation for the Serbian police and army to make a return to Kosovo sound in the present climate. With Serbia in the grip of collaborationists it would be beyond absurd to hope for it to deliver on the central promise of the nation-state — to defend its people against foreign threats.

It was not always so. Founded in rebellion against an empire, Serbia is the model national state. Initially it encompassed only a small portion of the Serbian people but had tasked itself with a mission to liberate all of them. It would end up warring half a dozen times until there were no longer any Serbians under the Ottoman or Habsburg Empires. Serbia in 1914 and 1999 and Yugoslavia in 1941 and 1948 showed remarkable firmness in refusing Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Soviet Union, the USA — all far greater powers than they. It seems if anyone should be expected to be able to make independence for a smallish nation-state a reality it should be the Serbs, yet the Serbian state in 2011 is effectively an instrument of the Empire.

As established, historically Serbia is on its own terms a successful state, its rise coincided with freedom for the Serbian people from the empires they had ben subject to. There is the question as to whether this was because its organization as a centralized nation-state or perhaps despite it. Svetozar Marković, the famous Balkan agrarian socialist and fierce anti-statist, for one railed against the 19th century Serbian bureaucratic state including because it, in his opinion, made the Serbs less agile and active in the struggle for liberation than they should have been. Considering that a few years after his death Serbia under king Milan accepted the suzerainty of Austria, sparked an internal rebellion by attempting to disarm its populace and wasted blood and treasure on starting a war with brotherly Bulgaria it would seem he had a point.

Nonetheless even if the nation-state in the past struggles for freedom was not an asset, but a ball and chain as Marković believed, it was not so heavy that it could not be made up for with greater effort. It was possible then, in times past to be a nationalist and be able to say with a straight face to be motivated by passion for freedom. In an era where the nation-state increasingly serves as a magnificently effective shortcut for establishing of foreign control that should no longer be the case.

Anyone interested in their nation's freedom should see from the Serbian example what a liability the centralized state is. Organizing in a manner where there are no means for defense, but those under the absolute control of one government, just about invites able foreign powers to buy off the people at the top of the pyramid and paralyze a nation's ability to offer resistance. In a world grown so small that a nation can potentially fall prey, not merely to its neighbors, but to a power anywhere on the globe it is a fatal weakness.

They should likewise note the contrast between the lethargy of the people in nominally unoccupied Serbia and the alertness and the resolve of their countrymen in the north of occupied Kosovo. Since they are a part of a single nation what explains the difference? Is it that one of them are stateless and the others can be thwarted with a strategically placed suitcase of cash?

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