27 September 2011

Drawing Blood

American soldier on Serbian land: taking down a Serbian flag

Recall how the government of Serbia in early August justified its agreement with the NATO ocupiers that was really a surrender, by pointing out it at least barred KFOR from using force to try change the circumstances on the ground again? As predicted it turns this reassurance was groundless. The way the occupiers figured the deal only obliged them not to act unilaterally until September, for when a new round of talks was envisioned. Seeing the pro-Imperial government in Belgrade has always capitulated before an onslaught of forces behind the NATO occupation, these in turn have came to think of "talks" as using threats, deception or force to "create facts on the ground", then having Belgrade sign under them.

It may have worked once again except that another predictable thing happened. September 16th, when KFOR moved to install the personnel of the US sponsored Albanian government in Priština on the two crossings between occupied and unoccupied Serbia in the north of Kosovo, the imperiled Serb communities lost the last of their faith in Belgrade negotiators. Albeit the regime in place in Serbia would like nothing more but for Kosovo Serbs to stand down and accept the fate Washington has in mind for them, its one betrayal of them too many has deprived it of the means to influence their actions.

Without the Serbian government in position to sign under a capitulation on behalf of the Kosovo Serbs and bail out KFOR, the occupiers have found themselves in a difficult position. Everywhere in the north they are blocked in. Wherever they set up a control point to curtail the movement of the imperiled communities and cut them off from unoccupied Serbia they are in turn blockaded themselves. The locals have become expert at speedily constructing makeshift roadblocks, which they then man around the clock to prevent them from being dismantled and to monitor the occupiers from. As a consequence the only new meaningful "fact on the ground" is that KFOR can move about freely only in the air.

Today KFOR lashed out. Early in the morning German soldiers moved against a barricade near the Jarinje crossing and took it over with the help of tear gas. They tied up several people on the scene and destroyed the barrier. As word spread hundreds of people gathered on site to protest. After noon the occupiers demanded of protesters to disperse. When they did not, KFOR struck again using stun grenades and live rifle ammunition. Six people were wounded by live fire. NATO troops on the scene, a mix of Americans and Germans, did not refrain from firing at medical workers and ambulance vehicles extricating the wounded. Attempts to film the aftermath of the carnage were met with warning shots.

Two week ago, when NATO redoubled its efforts to bring the Serbs of northern Kosovo under the control of its client government in Priština it further imperiled their communities, but by creating distance between the pliant government in Belgrade and the resolute Serb communities it actually weakened its enterprise. Today NATO inflicted further grief on these people, but it did not do itself any favors.

22 September 2011

A Must Read

A paper from Dražen Pehar, a Croatian intellectual from Bosnia and Herzegovina, on his land under the tyranny of the 'international community'. He explains what the High Representative is:
"BiH with today’s High Representative is quite a pertinent example of a tyranny, or dictatorship, practiced in a very sophisticated form. BiH is endowed with a single sovereign, the HR, who, by his key marks and his status and origins, represents a sovereign in a pre-modern sense."
Unlike a modern sovereign who can be deposed by a free people, HR is a pre-modern sovereign, a 'Divine King' albeit in a sophisticated, up-to-date form:
"He is the sovereign who cannot be questioned, contested, or invited to respond before the tribunal of the people; his word is ultimate regardless of its inherent quality, of the question of its rationality, plausibility, morality, fairness… He is the sovereign one cannot negotiate with, or influence."
Pehar gives the background on how this came to be:
"In a period of time, in the second half of 1997, the Peace Implementation Council – PIC (for the implementation of the Dayton Framework for Peace in BiH) decided to interpret Annex 10 of the Framework in a way which transformed the HR to BiH into a body with unlimited legal powers. The Council has decided to interpret the powers of the institution in an infinitely wide fashion, or fully arbitrary, i.e. as the HR, or somebody standing behind him, deem convenient."
And why this represented a blatant power grab:
"If you read carefully Annex 10, which enlists the powers of the HR, you will soon realize that the institution should play the role of a benevolent assistant, a mediator in the best case, to the process of implementation of the peace in BiH. For instance, the Annex says that the HR is brought into being because the very parties to the Framework, the representatives of the BiH peoples primarily, have invited him to assist them. Legal existence of the HR is due to the will of the original parties to the contract, not the other way around (Annex 10, I.2)." 
The paper goes on to give further arguments why this situation is indefensible, to name some of the effects it has had and to propose methods of resistance. It is well worth a read for anyone interested in Bosnia and Herzegovina or the various shapes of modern imperialism. Read it here.

18 September 2011

Libya: Cowards' Bloody Hands

The civil war in Libya is not over. Former regime loyalists remain in control of a few towns, which the rebels are trying to take over. NATO strikes continue. There have even been clashes among rival rebel factions. The extent of the fighting is not too great, but the extent of hardship it continues to impose on civilians is. The regime of Moammer Gaddafi has been deposed, however, ending one phase of the war.

Intervening powers took the overthrow of Gaddafi as a vindication of their actions, but they really should not. It has not been forgotten that in the months when the rebels did not seem to be going anywhere their anxiety and self-doubt were plain to see. Literally within days of their bombing campaign the aggressors' bravado fizzled out. It quickly became apparent none of the intervening powers was willing to take center stage and take on the expectation it would take on whatever burden it took to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Even the three major powers involved told their domestic audiences they were merely one cog in a wide coalition and that they really were not doing all that much.

Furthermore Gaddafi's regime did not crumble under the weight of NATO bombs, it was brought down when Berber rebel fighters organized by an Al-Qaeda linked jihadist captured Tripoli from Gaddafi forces. Indeed they had NATO air support, but then nobody ever doubted effectiveness of aircraft when used as flying artillery in support of ground forces. It is using aircraft as strategic assets that has never failed to produce only dubious results. What can justify all those bombing raids against Tripoli when it was still far behind the front line, raids which certainly killed many civilians, when in the end the city was taken by a few hundred Berber fighters, some Al-Qaeda organizing skill and a little NATO close air support? Even if we were to accept an idiotic a premise that Libya under the NTC will be a land of milk and candy, and an utterly amoral premise that this is worth a certain number of civilian deaths, those civilians killed in pointless raids against cities hundreds of miles from where the fighting was still died for nothing.

16 September 2011

Russia in Ossetia and America in Kosovo: Not Quite the Same

Lines of control in South Ossetia 1992-2008

Russian patronage of independence of South Ossetia and Western patronage of independence of the Albanian state in Kosovo are two relationships which are often compared. Sometimes they are compared by Western interventionists who are looking for a way to show that the two relationships have nothing in common (for example here and here). And at other times they are compared by opponents of Western interventionism who insist that the two are analogous (for example here).

Opponents of the Empire are right to point out that having done its utmost to detach Kosovo from Serbia the West has no grounds to complain about anything that Russia does in regard to South Ossetia. Western interventionists, however, are right when they say that there are important differences between the two relationships, albeit they are wrong about what those differences are.

Whose protégé is independent?

The most important difference is that South Ossetia is de facto independent, but the Albanian state in Kosovo is not. This is not hyperbole. In Kosovo many of the functions normally performed by a national government are performed by officials from the UN or the EU. The Albanian state in Kosovo is not a sovereign state, it is an international protectorate.

Who intended to go against international law since the very beginning?

Another difference is that Russia had nothing to do with the South Ossetian declaration of independence from Georgia. When South Ossetia in the early 1990s declared its independence Russia refused to recognize it. For more than 15 years Russia maintained a principled position where it did not recognize any of the post-Soviet breakaway states. Had Georgia not launched a military invasion of South Ossetia that killed Russian soldiers that would still be the case.

This is a far cry from Western attitude to independence for Albanians in Kosovo. In 2008 when the Albanian government in Priština declared independence, it did so in coordination with the United States and its major allies, who had been laying the groundwork for this move since the onset of their occupation of Kosovo in 1999.

National Defense in the Great Patriotic War

In the Second World War the Soviet Union suffered an incalculable number of war death that is usually put at 27 million.i It was the largest death toll suffered by any country in any war. The war razed 1,710 cities and towns, 70,000 villages and hamlets and 100,000 collective farms on Soviet territory.ii In terms of protecting its citizens against other states the USSR can only be judged an utter failure.

The failure of the Soviet Union was all the greater because it was not a power that was simply powerless to do so. On the eve of the Second World War the USSR was larger by land mass than any other political entity in the world exempting the British Empire. It ranked third in the world by population size and by gross domestic product. It could boast the largest, most mechanized army in the world, an enormous heavy industry output and highly competent weapon designers.

To be sure the Soviet Union was also faced with its challenges. It had a very long border to secure. It had to contend with a two-pronged threat emanating from Tokyo on one side of the world and Berlin on the other. Enormous distances and subpar infrastructure impeded transport and communication. Most of its populace had little education and rarely handled modern machinery. What was to be its chief opponent, the German military, was experienced and proficient in the conduct of war.

These difficulties, however, were hardly insurmountable given the aforementioned strong points of the Soviet Union. Yet it would suffer a series of military defeats so catastrophic that at the greatest extent of Axis advance 68 million of its citizens would be subject to a deadly foreign occupation.iii What was the cause of Soviet military debacles that paved the way for suffering on such a scale?

No Sleeping Giant

When the National Socialists took power in Germany
the Soviet Union was sufficiently alarmed to come out of international isolation and move closer to France.iv It interfered in the Spanish Civil War to stop a speedy defeat of the Republicans, hoping to in this way drive a wedge between Paris and London and Berlin and Rome.v It provided military aid to Chiang Kai-shek attempting to blunt Japanese expansionism in the Far East and offered itself as an ally to France in the Sudeten Crisis.vi It finally sought security by concluding non-aggression pacts with Germany (1939) and Japan (1941). The Soviet Union was not oblivious of international events, but was conscious of potential outside threats.

Between the years 1938 and 1940 the Soviet Union fought a war with Finland, an undeclared border war with Japan, forcefully annexed Bessarabia, the Baltic States and Ukranian and Belarusian areas of Poland. In 1930s it begun throwing much of its industrial capacity into armaments production so that by June 1941 it possessed 15,000 aircraft and 18,000 tanks — more than all the rest of the world combined.vii
The Soviet Union was pouring vast resources into its military, which had already fought to defended its borders as well as to expand them. It was anything but a complacent power that had not given thought to war.