... a presentation of JURIST: The Law Professors' Network
Pittsburgh | Cambridge | Toronto | Canberra

Necessary Foes: Slobodan Milosevic and NATO in Pursuit of Power

Professor Milan Popovic
University of Montenegro Law Faculty
Podgorica, Yugoslavia

Discrepancy between words and deeds belongs to the very essence of politics. Discrepancy between rhetoric and realpolitik of the ongoing NATO bombardment of Serbia and Montenegro is just the most recent and vivid case of the same. There is a clear difference between the proclaimed objectives and real effects of the bombardment. Cataclysmic series of its lethal effects i.e. counter-effects is quite evident. Suffice it to mention acceleration of the process of mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, rapid rise of civilian casualties of any ethnic origin, weakening of nascent democratic forces, strengthening of the main source of chaos and violence in the region i.e. of Slobodan Milosevic's aggressive nationalistic regime.

The gap between words and deeds provokes a host of competing explanatory models. Error mythology is one of the most popular and dominant among them. It is dominant on liberal, "blue" wing of capitalist spectrum. It is developed and spread in the West as well as in the Balkans. According to that mythology, the so-called collateral damages are just a mere and unavoidable mistake in otherwise superior Western policy. But we know that it is not quite so from the very beginning. "Too little, too late, inadequate", this is one old and correct critic of that policy at its outset. This critic is still valid. However, it is not sufficient any more. It is only descriptive and superficial. Chaotic rise of the number of errors calls for some deeper explanation. To put it in William Shakespeare's famous phrase, there must be some system in this chaos and madness.

Conspiracy mythology is dominant on radical, fascist and communist, "brown" and "red" wing of the spectrum. The post-Cold War Balkan crisis, and particularly NATO bombing phase of the crisis, is its privileged domain. Especially tempting and seducing is a series of above-mentioned effects i.e. counter-effects. Hysterical propaganda of Slobodan Milosevic's regime has no dilemma about that. According to that propaganda, the whole world is in a great and unjust conspiracy against Serbs and their state. It goes without emphasizing that hysteria fabricated by this propaganda has been the main fuel of protracted war. Ironically enough, complexity of the crisis breeds the opposite versions of conspiracy as well. According to one of them, the mass expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo, one of the so-called counter-effects, presents, in fact, a hidden objective of the ongoing NATO bombardment. According to that version, the last two months of the bombardment may be interpreted as a final phase of ten years lasting genocidal conspiracy of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians against Balkan Muslims, or, in other words, as a kind of tacit alliance between Slobodan Milosevic's regime and Western powers. Close to this is one Marxist version of conspiracy theory. According to that version, what we are witnessing in the Balkans in last decade is simply the most recent issue of a very well known alliance between the international real-capitalism and neo-fascism in their predatory conspiracy and war against the working class and people in general.

Many or at least some of error and conspiracy theories contain certain fragmented and isolated parts of truth. But the point is exactly here. The truth is in the whole, not in any of its parts. The part has to be explained through the whole, not vice versa. Theory becomes mythology when it forgets this basic rule. Error and conspiracy are only the top i.e. the two elevenths of the iceberg. Both error and conspiracy are deeply rooted into a social complex that has concrete though less visible totality, structure and logic. In chemistry, this totality, structure and logic is a valence, structural predisposition of chemical elements, which explains their mutual attraction, indifference or repulsion. There is neither error nor conspiracy, just a valence. Analogously with valence in chemistry, there is interest in politics. Interest is a valence, chemistry of politics. Interest is what most deeply explains and enlightens a complex and complicated relationship between the international real-capitalism and Balkan neo-fascism or, in the most recent phase of the relationship, the connection between the ongoing NATO bombardment and Slobodan Milosevic's regime.

After long ten years of diabolic cooperation, in the spring of 1999, the West and Slobodan Milosevic, two main actors of the post-Cold War Balkan drama, have finally entered the stage of lethal confrontation. In some deeper sense, however, the very confrontation has been a kind of perverse cooperation. To be more precise, the two processes, cooperation and confrontation have been just the two sides of the same complex. Those who are familiar with modern history have no problem at all to recognize the old Cold War root and pattern of the complex. As a matter of fact, the ongoing matrix of cooperation and confrontation between the West and Slobodan Milosevic is the main post-Cold War successor of the Cold War politico-military complex. Slobodan Milosevic and NATO are not pure and unambiguous enemies, but a couple of bizarre and mutually necessary enemies. They are not the two absolutely separate and antagonistic worlds, as it is pictured in everyday political propaganda of both NATO and Slobodan Milosevic, but just the two sides of one, single and unique post-Cold War politico-military complex. After all, let us look at the two sides of the complex more closely. And let us do that from a firm and stable terrain of objective political valences i.e. interests, not from a slippery surface of arbitrary errors and conspiracies. In other words, let us rise the most important question, who and what has got and lost in this diabolic ten years process.

First and foremost, let us see what Slobodan Milosevic's regime has gained from international real-capitalism and realpolitik in these ten years. This side of story is much better known than the other one. During the first, cooperative phase of the story, it was a very special cocktail mixed of the two equally inadequate and counter-productive elements, negotiation for dictator and isolation for people, which decisively contributed to the rise and consolidation of new authoritarian power. Willingly or unwillingly, no matter how, newly imposed system of nondiscriminatory international sanctions most directly paved the way for new pathological type of smuggling economy, warlike society and semi-fascist politics. On the other hand, permanent and exclusive negotiation with dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, "Balkan butcher" personally, importantly contributed to the legitimization and stabilization of his dictatorial power. What we are witnessing today, during the second, confrontational phase of the story, however, is not any essential change, but, on the contrary, continuation and even escalation of old pattern and its lethal counter-effects in a new, bombing way. Only we now know for the real nature and origin of this pattern. It is neither error nor conspiracy, but political valence and interest, which explain this strange phenomenon.

Let us now see what the West i.e. its politico-military complex has gained from Slobodan Milosevic in return. It has been less visible but not unknown side of the story. If it was not perceivable at the very beginning, today it is quite clear. The post-Cold War Balkan turmoil has served as an ideal opportunity and testing ground at first for mere political survival and then for necessary political adaptation and redesign of the post-Cold War politico-military infrastructure. Plainly and picturesquely speaking, Slobodan Milosevic has mercilessly rented his own country, territory and people to the West to be used for the deadliest exercises and tests of new post-Cold War political, security, weapon and technological systems. Current NATO bombardment is just the most horrible chapter of this cynical story and lease.

Of course, to blame only and exclusively Slobodan Milosevic and his regime for such a tragic development would be an inexcusable oversimplification. There is a multitude of very different historical, economic, social, cultural, geopolitical, international and other factors, which have together made the Balkans become a privileged terrain for the ongoing post-Cold War politico-military exercise. Let us remind just of semi-peripheral position of the region in the modern world-system, its location on one of the most dangerous European fault-line, consequent and permanent warfare, resulting authoritarian and violent political culture, and last but not least, lack of nuclear weapon encouraging the exercise. However, all these and other similar factors have been only potential and passive elements of the scene. Slobodan Milosevic's aggressive nationalistic regime has been the one and only active and activating factor or, metaphorically speaking, trigger of the crisis and war. No dilemma, if there had not been all those potential factors, Slobodan Milosevic's aggressive nationalistic regime would not have been able to fabricate the war alone. More importantly, however, if there had not been such a regime, the war would not have broken out at all. Finally and most importantly, if this war had not broken and spread out, NATO as well as the entire western politico-military complex would have never come into the Balkans and would have possibly lost its overall raison d'ętre.

Return to JURIST's Kosovo & Yugoslavia: Law in Crisis

JURIST: The Law Professors' Network is directed by Professor Bernard J. Hibbitts, Associate Dean for Communications & Information Technology, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, in consultation with an international Advisory Board. E-mail JURIST at JURIST@law.pitt.edu.

© Bernard J. Hibbitts, 1999. All rights reserved. These pages may not be copied, reposted, or republished, in whole or in part, electronically or in print, without express written permission.

JURIST regrets that it cannot provide legal advice. For assistance with specific legal problems, please consult a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.