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Diverse Notes (on Obama’s `anti-Israel’ positions, on the independence of Kosovo).

February 19, 2008
tags: ,

`Developers? They’re even worse than drug dealers’ from `The Wire’ Season 3, Episode 4.

`Colorado lasses with their asses bound in leather, fancy vests upon their breasts and nothing on their minds’…from Mary McCaslin `Oh Hollywood’ (slightly revised)

1.

A friend told me a story yesterday worth sharing of the kind that would be funny but for the fact that it was true. He happened to be having dinner at the home of one Denver’s most prosperous Jewish families, one of those that made their fortune through land development and now – along with a few others of the same sorry ilk – live a life of sumptuous vapidity, smug in the illusion that somehow their wealth is contributing to the common good. Picassos on the walls, golden handles on the toilets and not much in their brains – although their face lifts were exquisite, etc etc. `Way down deep, they’re shallow’, as the song goes.

In any case, it should be no surprise that the contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination between Clinton and Obama came up during dinner with the relative merits and shortcomings of both being considered in some detail. But a difficulty of great intellectual import struck those present: it seemed that after much discussion that no one could distinguish the policies of the one from the other. Hillary and Obama seemed pretty close on the issues although one touted experience, the other made the vague promise of change.

Such a dilemma.

Then one of the more brilliant participants in this discussion found a path through this political road block.

`But then Obama is anti-Israel’.

A heavy and knowing silence filled the room. Now people could decide for whom to vote.

The crisis, over, the tension lifted, the issue seemed resolved until my friend asked the innocent question: What does that mean, to be anti-Israel?

Once again, a heavy silence fell over the room as it seems that no one present could answer the question. And they thought to have resolved the issue. A short discussion ensued. Honesty did reign however. In the end they weren’t sure what being `anti-Israel’ meant but whatever it was, it was quite serious.

2.

Kosovo’s declaration of Independence

A friend sent me an article on Kosovo’s independence. It was written by one Chris Marsden on `the World Socialist Website’…web home of the Fourth International. I wasn’t sure the Fourth International was still around and I’m glad to know they’re still gracing us with their vision – impractical then, impractical now – of worldwide revolution. A few days ago I just bored a class stiff going through the history of the first, second, third and fourth internationals and I could see from the glaze which came over their eyes that they cared about as much about the subject as when I went through, in sadistic detail, all the Protestant splits off of the Catholic core beginning in the early 16th Century.

Still it was a decent piece, good enough to copy and reprint in its entirety. (Click here for it) that captured some of my own concerns – although I approach it from a somewhat different angle. Still it’s main point – that this independence will enhance regional instability and could lead to an outbreak of war – I agree with. I’m not saying that the people of Kosovo shouldn’t have the right to self-determination, nor that the Albanian population of Kosovo ever enjoyed anything close to equal rights either under the Communist Yugoslav or later Serbian rule – all of that is true enough. It’s too bad that all this could not have been resolved in some other form other than a complete break.

Beyond what Marsden writes here – no need to repeat his analysis – I would add the following:

1. Although the political agreement reached with the EU specifies that Kosovo will not link up with another nation in the region – a way to try to allay Serbian and Russian fears of Kosovo unifying with Albania sometime in the future – this clause is as empty as the day is long. Kosovo has no future from what I can tell on its own, no serious independent possibility to develop as a nation state given its poor economic potential. If it breaks its economic ties with Serbia or downplays them significantly, it will have to turn elsewhere, elsewhere almost certainly being Albania. Defacto unification with Albania is in the offing. It is only a matter of time, another decade? before the de facto unification becomes de jure.

2. The independence of Kosovo will put great strains on the weakest and smallest of the post-Yugoslav new nation states – Macedonia, itself with a large Albanian population in its western sector. Kosovo independence will in short order greatly encourage Albanian separatism in this fragile state which also must contend with territorial claims from neighboring Greece and Bulgaria. It is not unlikely that this combination of pressures will result in the collapse of Macedonia as a short-lived national experiment in the not too distant future.

3. Almost 20 years after the collapse of Communism, what is that the post Communist era has accomplished. True, countries gained independence and a degree of economic and political self-determination from what was an oppressive Soviet overlord. But if life in someways improved, in others it has resulted in economic trauma (the shock therapy of the 1990s) and has been replaced by great uncertainty for the future. It is highly debateable that life `improved’. If one looks from the Baltic to the Balkans across Central Europe in the aftermath of the collapse of Communism, one sees a fracturing of the entire region into small, somewhat ethnically cleansed units from Lithuania to Albania. Not a pretty picture.

Tiny states – none of which can survive economically or politically on their own without major economic and political support from some stronger neighbor, either east or west. True some are dong better than others (Estonia, Hungary, Czech Republic come to mind), but the overall picture is one of an uncertain, unstable future for most of them. And in all of them the dangers of narrow ethnic nationalist responses to crises are very real.

4. Add to this that Kosovo nationalism – in part as a result of the nature of long term Serbian oppression – most especially that variety which has come to power on the shoulders of the KLA – has a bitterly narrow ethnic extremist edge to it – nothing like the more tolerant, moderate forms that first emerged with collapse of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s. The moderate phase of Kosovo nationalism did not last long.

Who knows where it will go but whever the Europeans have created a mess, one that could easily undermine the project of European integration and although it is not written in stone yet – lead to war. Balkan wars have, when they happen, an extraordinarily ruthless character to them. Not only that which transpired in the 1990s. Getting back to the Fourth International, pick up Trotsky’s `Balkan Wars’ – from my perspective, perhaps the best stuff the guy ever wrote – about the Balkan Wars that preceded `the big one’ (WWI) from 1910-1912. Gives a nice taste of what could still lie ahead in this still chronically unstable region of Europe.

I can find no reason to cheer.

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