Friday May 11, 2018
Any time two prestige think tanks in Washington issue a report calling for US “action” in any region of the world, hold onto your hat – you can be sure that trouble is a-brewing. That’s doubly true if the call relates to the Balkans, the place where in the 1990s the post-Cold War pattern was set for American wars of choice and then taken on the road to Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
On May 1, the über-establishment National Committee on American Foreign Policy and the East-West Institute jointly issued a report, “Time for Action in the Western Balkans.” As stated in the summary:
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been engaged in the Western Balkans to ensure a Europe that is 'whole, free and at peace' and a reliable partner for dealing with global challenges. Our goal has been to stabilize the Balkans, and to enhance security throughout Europe, through the integration of the Western Balkans into trans-Atlantic structures. We have succeeded only in part. Although the Western Balkans are better off now than they were in the 1990s, they are stagnating and risk instability as a result of three factors: deficient internal governance and weak economies, continuing tense relations between ethnic groups and neighboring states, and the malign influence of outside forces.One is reminded of the famous quip by Mary McCarthy about Lillian Hellman: “every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’
Perhaps that’s too harsh. Not every word in the summary paragraph is false. There is indeed a region in Europe known as the Balkans, and as the report notes, some countries lie in the western part of it: “Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.” (Wait, there’s some fibbing here too. Kosovo is not a country, it’s an occupied province of Serbia. Nobody is quite sure what exactly Bosnia-Herzegovina is supposed to be. Why no Croatia, is it located in another part of Europe now?)