Someone at the Cleveland Plain Dealer is paying attention:

Serbia’s best efforts to please the West go largely unacknowledged (Elizabeth Sullivan, Sep. 27)

The perplexity of Serbia’s leaders is understandable.

More than eight years after they hustled Slobodan Milosevic off to the Hague to face war crimes charges and the end of his life in a jail cell — a middle-of-the-night act with questionable legal authority that met with much applause from the West — Serbia’s “democratic reformers” remain smeared with the tar of Washington’s former policy delusions.

They get no respect, even after holding democratic elections, remaking their economy on a Western model with more vehemence than most of the rest of the Balkans combined and slavishly doing almost all that the West has asked of them.

That disconnect in turn imperils the democratic experiment and makes regional stability all the harder to achieve, Serbia’s president said in an interview last week.

“If I’m going to put something on the table — on Serbia’s political table — without a consensus, that is not going to be our contribution to consensus, that is going to be our contribution to the instability of the future,” President Boris Tadic said in Cleveland last week before traveling to New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. “That’s why we need a very careful and very patient policy from the United States.”

What he’s getting instead is a U.S. cold shoulder on Serbs’ biggest issue - the unilateral partition of Serbia last year, spearheaded by the United States, to grant unilateral independence to Kosovo.

Possibly even more troubling, many of the same U.S. policy-makers who mangled policy in the Balkans when Bill Clinton was president now are busily applying to Afghanistan and Pakistan some of the same “tenets” of armed nation-building and nanny statedom as dictated from Foggy Bottom.

And while the challenges and security implications of the Balkans in the 1990s and Central Asia in the 2000s are more dissimilar than alike, it’s troubling to realize how much of Washington still prefers delusion to reality — especially when it can be spun into black-and-white, good-versus-bad terms.

…Serbia’s aggrieved leadership team deserves attention — if only to parse out exactly how deluded policy becomes bad decision-making over time.

Objectively, Serbia has done most everything “right” since 2000, when voters in the most populous and geographically largest of the ex-Yugoslav republics ousted Milosevic. It’s held a string of successful democratic elections largely untainted by fraud; made peace with its neighbors; apologized for Serb atrocities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo; and prosecuted perpetrators (albeit with mixed results). It’s busy building a shiny, new superhighway into the heart of the rest of Europe — a physical statement about how the majority of Serbs see their future.

Unlike the old Serbia, which stoked the fires of war among fellow Serbs [it did not] as the former Yugoslavia began to dissolve, this Serbia hasn’t gone to war over Kosovo, but continues to advocate dialogue and diplomacy.

“Serbian democracy has reacted to the Kosovo declaration of independence in a way that nobody had ever reacted to anything of that sort in the history of the Balkans,” said Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian foreign minister.

“This is the first time in the history of the Balkans that a thing like this happens and nobody goes to war with anybody,” Jeremic added.

But because Serbia has been unable to capture two of the 46 people wanted by a U.N. tribunal in the Hague for war-crimes prosecutions — the rest were handed over or turned themselves in — the idea that it’s stonewalling continues.

“The United States administration knows very well what we are doing in order to capture Ratko Mladic, because we have cooperation in that,” said Serbian President Tadic. He said the lack of public acknowledgement of that cooperation continues to drive a misperception that Serbia is not doing its best to snare the Bosnian Serbs’ wartime general, accused in the Bosnian war’s worst atrocity [sic], at Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys may have been slaughtered. [Not.]

“Why would we avoid arresting Ratko Mladic when we already arrested Milosevic and [Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan] Karadzic?” Tadic asked.

“When you underestimate the nuances and the convoluted history of a complicated place like Bosnia, you pay a certain price,” Jeremic said. […]

A few days earlier, President Tadic gave a very respectable speech at Columbia University, while in New York to address the General Assembly. He exemplifed the measured approach that Ms. Sullivan, above, attributed to him:

Serbian President At UN Balances Outreach To West, Anger On Kosovo (Sep. 25)

…[Tadic expressed] a desire to reengage with the West after so often being isolated by it over conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

Speaking on September 23 at the World Leaders Forum 2009 hosted by Columbia University, Tadic said U.S. companies, and their investments, play an important role in Serbia’s economic life.

And he said those economic ties could provide a basis for renewed political cooperation with Washington.

“This could set the stage for the formulation of a new American policy towards Serbia and the rest of the western Balkans, one that will hopefully take into account more than at present the interests of Serbia as the central strategic factor of stability in our region,” Tadic told the forum.

But Tadic also stood firm on Kosovo.

“Let me make it clear that Serbia will never, under any circumstances, implicitly or explicitly recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence,” he said.

Repeatedly asked by students whether a partition of Kosovo would be an acceptable solution to Belgrade, Tadic restated his “no” again and again.

“But I am suggesting no partition,” he said. “No partition anymore. We are suffering very much because of attempt of partition, attempt of secession. This is not sustainable solution in the Balkans region [or] everywhere else.”

Tadic’s effort to strike a new balance with the West needs a name to help explain it, and Tadic gave it one. He told the Columbia University forum his approach is cooperation with “divergence” of views.

The question now is whether that approach is enough to bridge the many deep differences between Serbia and the West over Kosovo.

Tadic has told Serbian media he will use his UN address to stress Serbia’s “fundamental political principles and its defense of national interests” regarding Kosovo.

He also said this year’s assembly session is of great importance to help prevent further countries from recognizing Kosovo.

A day earlier, Tadic spoke in Cleveland in similar tones, and one can see that Serbia is not yet ready to give up on the U.S., but at the same time it will not give up its identity in the process:

Serbia not to give up defense of sovereignty

‘Serbia shall continue to lead the policy of peace, understanding and integration with the EU, but shall not give up its legitimate national interests in defending its sovereignty, territorial integrity and identity’, Serbia President Boris Tadic said in Cleveland.

Blic Online | Author: E. B. | 22.09.2009 - 08:34

At [a] reception organized for representatives of [the] Serbian Diaspora attended also by Senator George Voinovich and Ohio National Guard Commander Gregory White, Tadic pointed out that ‘Serbia shall not lead a policy that would expose people to risks’ but ‘a policy that defends national and state interests in a rational and dignified manner’.

‘We want to join the EU with our identity and culture. I see no alternative to such policy’, Tadic added and asked the Diaspora in Ohio to deliver that message to all Serbs living in the US.

‘We are leading a policy of peace and we are defending Kosovo with diplomatic and political means. Today Serbia is a democratic country wanting to become the EU member. Serbia wants to be a strong partner of the USA. We have to solve some problems, but I am positive that we shall be real allies in the end’, Tadic pointed out. […]

My point about Serbs being asked to give up their identity — something I’ve called de-Serbifying in the past — is illustrated by an analogy that Jim Jatras put forward in terms of what we and the EU are asking of Serbia. We’re telling them, “You can join the club. You just have to cut off your right arm and cut out your heart first.”

Another way that the de-Serbification plan works is thus, according to blogger William Markiewicz:

Serbian society today is divided; they follow Europe because they see how well it served their enemies but they don’t understand that now it doesn’t matter any more. They are dispensable. They are brainwashed by the demagogues and don’t understand that once they become part of the European community they will remain pariahs with a poison that penetrates deep into the soul. They already believe too much in Serbian guilt. In the future they may deny their Serbian origins and even stop being Serbs. This is what I meant when I wrote, ”Sixty years later the Second World War brought destruction of Serbia.”

Indeed, a friend who was about to publish a Serb’s Kosovo diary has been asked by his family to hold off. Because his brother has now joined a “pro-Western,” anti-Serb political party. And this is nothing new; all of George Soros’s anti-Serb NGOs, foundations and news organizations in the Balkans are staffed with Serbs who sold out their nationhood.

As I quoted Nebojsa Malic before about Serbia’s “European future”:

No way those Islam-appeasing, welfarite [European] cowards would ever want ornery cusses like the Serbs anywhere near them. Serbia’s territory, yes — but its people? Hell no.” Malic explains that the plan is to figuratively “kill off” the Serbs, that is to “make them stop being Serbs, and become ‘Europeans’ or some such nonsense,” all the while killing off as many as collaterally possible. “Without Kosovo, the whole Serbian history stops making sense. And if one accepts the 1990s lie about the Serbs as genocidal aggressors, then the youth can be indoctrinated in being perpetually ashamed. Give it a decade or two, and the Serbs that remain won’t be any more Serb than their kin who adopted Catholicism or Islam in centuries past.”

As I’ve said before, moving closer to Russia is not where Serbia saw itself being in 2009; it’s not what it ever wanted — it’s what we forced it to do. This is apparent even to those whose mission isn’t to ask why, but to do or die. Herewith, a July 2007 letter that I was forwarded by American Thinker, from a National Guard soldier whom I’ll call “T” (this is a different soldier from the one whose letters I was publishing that year):

I am a Kosovo Veteran and I tried in vain to convey the debacle of Kosovo. But if there is any question in her [Julia’s] mind as to why Kosovo happened, I have boiled it down to this;

A general officer without a war is like a astronaut without a mission patch.

A general who is part of the “cult of Clinton” will get the war he wants.

A war waged under the “cult of Clinton” is always right no matter the cost or failure; witness Somalia, witness the Balkans, witness Tomahawks smashing sand.

It is just politics and in the end, the general got his war and the world became a much more dangerous place.

After I wrote a note to T thanking him, he wrote:

I remember the first time I started having a cognitive disconnect with the party line and reality; I was driving through the province between Urosevac (Farazai) and Pristina and I noticed lots and lots of new mosques. Having just redeployed from Iraq, I was pretty sensitive to the appearance of mosques and I started asking questions and began to hear the other side of the story.

I saw much anger on the part of the Serbian interpreters in Gilane [Gnjilane/Gilan] and their questions for me like, “Don’t you see where this is headed?”, then the realization that the French were actively and aggressively protecting Serbs in Mitrovica. The list goes on and on and on, but what really got to me was the notion that under UN control Kosovo has turned into the largest trans shipment point for drugs, people, guns, gas, wood, cigarettes in Europe. 70% of the province is unemployed but everyone drives a nice car and [can] afford gas??? The Serbs are always bad and the Albanians always good, even when they are trying to kill a couple of little old ladies in Urosevac who then had to seek asylum in the Greek camp for years. The pinnacle of this was the fact that the US KFOR Commander was always afforded an Albanian Cultural Advisor but I never saw a Serbian Cultural advisor.

I started getting very concerned when I actually read UN 1244 and the UN charter and started to realize that there were serious legal implications and perhaps breaches of law if independence were pursued. At that point I began to feel that I was likely party to an illegal action; fortunately final status was not determined before I redeployed. If I were called to return under the same circumstances I might feel very inclined to obtain a US Federal Attorney for review of the lawfulness of the deployment order.

It was far too easy to vilify Milosevic and throw the Serbian baby out with the bath water. If we are to believe the Serbian Orthodox Church then some 150 churches have been destroyed and 300 Mosques built in the time since the war. When I was there it was estimated that to fix the canal system for their agriculture would have cost $40 million USD, we didn’t do that, but we spent $12 million USD on the gravel at Camp Bondsteel alone.

Oh I could go on and on and on. Suffice it to say that I spent every month that I was in Kosovo wishing that I was back in Iraq. Iraq made far more sense to me.

Kosovo left a very poor taste in my mouth as a soldier and an American Taxpayer.

After I emailed the soldier this week, he wrote back that he would like to make it clear that his opinions are his own and that he does not speak for the US Army. He added:

The fact of the matter is that we are living in treacherous times and I would never want to bring shame to my service, my fellow warriors or my nation.

I am not a Serbophile but I do see their point of view and the bottom line is that we had an opportunity to open very clear channels into eastern Europe by backing the Serbs in a better fashion. As it is we turned our backs on a nation that wanted to enter NATO’s sphere and sent them packing right back into the arms of the Russians.

Once again, let’s recall that Yugoslavia was known by us to be the most “pro-Western” country in all the Communist bloc, perhaps second to only Poland. But we easily forgot that, just as we forgot its usefulness to us as a buffer against Soviet Russia. Yet another hole in the “traditional allies” oversimplification about Serbo-Russian relations.

I’ll close by quoting a relevant letter intended for the Seattle Times by author Chris Deliso, which he penned in response to some typical hack job the paper printed days after the independence declaration, titled “Europe Must Confront a Thug“:

…Finally, it [has] frequently been stated that the Albanians are the ‘pro-Americans’ of the Balkans. That, however, has never been put to the test. In actual fact, the Albanians love America to the extent to which America will gang up on their own local enemies. [Were] America to suddenly change its policy and oppose Kosovo independence, would the Albanian love affair continue? Would they still wave the [S]tars and [S]tripes and name their streets after American presidents? I think not.

On the other hand, the Serbs, who have suffered since the early 1990s a succession of US-enforced aggressions — crippling economic sanctions, a NATO bombing of mostly civilian targets, and now, the forced seizure of their historic Kosovo province — still remain open to investment, engagement and cooperation. Can one possibly imagine a similar situation, had the shoe been on the other foot and the Albanians been the ones to suffer NATO’s wrath? Highly unlikely.

However, what you have succeeded in doing in this poisonous and ignorant piece is to make sure that unknowing Americans continue to fear and demonize the Serbs. It will be a real pity if such uninformed comment prevents otherwise well-meaning Americans from knowing who their friends in the Balkans, both historically and in the long term, truly are. If you do not believe me, I invite you to visit Serbia and see for yourself. Provided you go with an open mind, you may well be in for a pleasant surprise. In any case, you owe it to your readers to not demonize an entire nation before you have done so.
Christopher Deliso, Director
Skopje, Macedonia

As Chris emailed me further to the point:

I don’t know if you caught a detail that seemed highly revealing to me. A Spanish news crew in Kosovo was turned away by an Albanian because the latter said something like ‘Albanians only talked to people from countries that had recognized them.’ If we apply this to the case of America, and what if American policy was somehow different, we cannot believe that they are truly pro-American deep down, now can we?

The Albanians are not ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ any third party based on that third party’s merits, they are pro or anti based on what that group does for them… So they love America to the extent to which America bombs their enemies (the Serbs). American policy is actually driven by fear (esp. for the guys on the ground), precisely, that they had better keep them happy… we could just as easily end up like those poor Spaniards nobody wanted to talk to because of a decision their government made.

This is the baffling thing: Serbs, like most people, can judge between an individual and a government policy… they might not like US policy, but if I as an American don’t do anything to piss them off, they won’t hate me just for being American. The media presents it as exactly the opposite, of course, because they are suckered by visible external displays of flags and so on.

“Kosovars will love either candidate as long as they continue to love us.” — Shpend Ahmeti, economist with Institute for Advanced Studies, Pristina, on the 2008 U.S. election

Indeed, let’s be honest. Wouldn’t this kind of worship suggest something a little more than “pro-Americanism”?

Clinton wall

Clinton street

Clinton statue

Clinton cake

Clinton eating himself up

Clinton in the palm of Albanian hands

Future battered Albanian wives grateful to the man who’s keepin’ it primitive

Clinton in a burqa

So let’s be honest. Is this really pro-Americanism for Americanism’s sake? Especially given that until Barack Obama, Bill Clinton had been the most anti-American president in history, rivaled only by Jimmy Carter.

Then again, America in the Balkans exhibits decidedly un-American behavior.

Stay tuned for the next chapter: Albanian Town Plans Statue of Bush

TIRANA (Reuters) - The small Albanian town of Fushe-Kruje plans to erect a statue of former U.S. President George W. Bush to commemorate his June 2007 visit, when he was feted as a hero in an outpouring of love for America.

Mayor Ismet Mavriqi said seven Albanian sculptors had entered the competition for the statue he plans to unveil in Bush Square in the town center on June 10 LINK, 2010, the third anniversary of Bush’s visit.

“If [I] had the final say, I would very much like a three-meter statue, probably in bronze, that captures his trademark way of walking with energy,” Mavriqi told Reuters on the phone.

The municipality has already finished the blueprints for rebuilding the square where the statue will stand, he added.

A cafe in Fushe-Kruje and a street in the capital Tirana are already named after Bush.

When Bush visited Fushe-Kruje, he dived into a throng of waiting Albanians and enjoyed a rock-star reception — a stark contrast with the noisy protests that dogged him elsewhere on that European trip.

The bakery and the cafe where Bush stopped to talk with the owners and a barber, a shepherd and a tailor whose businesses were funded by U.S. micro-loans, have become landmarks visited by Albanians, ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and foreigners.

Albanians have a special affection for the United States, which they credit not only with ending their Cold War isolation but also with leading NATO in 1999 to rescue the Kosovo Albanians from ethnic cleansing [sic] by Serbia.

Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia last year, set up a giant statue of former U.S. president Bill Clinton to thank him for his role in NATO’s 1999 air war.

Bush, on the first U.S. presidential visit to post-communist Albania, backed independence for Kosovo and urged Kosovo Albanians to be patient. The United States was one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

FLASHBACK: May 7, 2007:

Text of report by Serbian independent news agency FoNet (via BBC Monitoring)

Strasbourg, 11 May: Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic today said that threats by the United States of America to unilaterally recognize Kosovo independence in case of Russian veto at the United Nations Security Council were part of “pressure play” and nothing more than that.

Draskovic told a news conference at the Council of Europe that the USA was the greatest democratic country in the world which could not undermine international order and the UN Charter.

“I cannot even imagine that the USA would undermine the foundations of the Statue of Liberty in New York,” Draskovic noted.

He stated that the whole US tradition was against “the law of the jungle”. […]

So much for that.

Part of a letter from reader Dragan:

Serbia was never really American enemy. On the contrary. Under communist regime of Tito, Serbs were always eager to adopt the example of American democracy, which once really existed. Even today after the 78 days of NATO bombing there is a great deal of Serbs who prefer USA to Russia. Yes, Serbia is making huge efforts to please the West, showing that way that it is closer to it then to China or East, and yet America prefers those whose leader shook hand with Adolph Hitler, and those who fought Yanks during two World wars.