Western intervention in Yugoslavia has nothing to do with Serbia
and all to do with the great power rivalries.
Western intervention in the Balkans has never been a consequence
of any direct interest in the region on the part of the imperialist
powers. That is as true today as it was in the past. A piece of
the Balkans is probably the last thing that any Western power
Historically the Balkanisation process - the disintegration of
the Balkans as a result of imperialist intervention - has been
the product of great power rivalries. The same process is at work
today in the Balkans, as the region becomes the focus for the
acting out of rivalries among the great powers. The only difference
is the form taken by those rivalries.
Today, the issue at stake is which imperialist institution is
going to call the shots in Yugoslavia. Who will wield the most
authority and who will be the decisive influence on the situation?
Will it be the US-dominated United Nations or the German-dominated
The absence of a coherent Western policy in Yugoslavia is symptomatic
of the absence of an ordered balance of power in the world. The
imperialist hierarchy in the 'new world order' created by the
end of the Cold War has not yet been settled. There is no single
power which has the undisputed authority to dictate what happens
in Sarajevo or anywhere else for that matter.
The struggle for dominance explains the constant jockeying for
position among the imperialist powers, with each Western leader
trying to get one over on his rivals. French president Francois
Mitterand's high-profile dash for Sarajevo has been the most dramatic
move so far in the great power poker game. Every major power is
bluffing about military intervention, not necessarily because
they have any intention of doing anything, but because they want
to assert their authority at the expense of their rivals.
The shift in America's position is the most graphic example of
how Western interference in Yugoslavia is being driven by rivalries
in the imperialist camp rather than by the internal dynamics of
the conflict. A year ago, when Germany was leading the Western
intervention in Yugoslavia, and demanding that Europe recognise
Slovenia and Croatia, America refused to join in the campaign
against Serbia. Today, however, Washington is leading the moves
to isolate Belgrade. It was America which pushed the UN into imposing
sanctions and threatening military action against Serbia in order
to reassert its authority at the expense of Germany.
Where does all this leave the Serbs? America's about turn shows
that Western policy in Yugoslavia has nothing to do with Serbia
and everything to do with the international balance of power.
There is no conspiracy on the part of the West to demonise Serbia.
The Serbs just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong
time. They were a convenient bogey against whom the various Western
powers could assert their authority.
For the moment the Serbs are public enemy number one. They have
been elevated into the biggest threat to civilisation since Saddam
Hussein because it suits the purposes of rival Western powers.
But in six months time somebody else could easily have become
the next victim of rivalries between the great powers.
After the Serbs, it could just as easily be the Muslims. In fact
it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the West could
come to an accommodation with both Serbia and Croatia at the expense
of the Muslims in Bosnia Herzegovina. Indeed, there has already
been a de facto partition of Bosnia between Zagreb and Belgrade. And if the focus
of conflict moves elsewhere in Yugoslavia, to embroil the Muslims
in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo, it may suit the purposes
of the West to turn the flak on a new enemy.
The Western powers care nothing about what happens to the people
of Sarajevo or to the people of Yugoslavia as a whole. Their only
concern is about how they can exploit the situation to their own
advantage. In the cause of bolstering their own positions in the
imperialist hierarchy they have turned the Balkans into a powder-keg.
'Hands off the Balkans' is our response to the growing demands
for Western intervention in Sarajevo. Twelve months of Western
intervention is responsible for creating this mess, and further
Western interference can only make things worse. At every stage
of the war in Yugoslavia, Western intervention has served to polarise
the conflict and exacerbate ethnic divisions. The EC's plan to
cantonise Bosnia - divide the republic into ever smaller ethnic
units - expresses the logic of the disintegrative process which
started with Western support for the secession of Croatia and
The liberal and radical intelligentsia in the West is also implicated
in the Balkanisation process. It is ironic that all those British
liberals who supported the secession of Croatia and Slovenia are
now up in arms about the prospect of cantonisation in Bosnia Herzegovina.
They want to have their cake and eat it.
By signing up to support Croatia and Slovenia, Western liberals
supported the disintegration of Yugoslavia. They were happy to
see Yugoslavia go down the tube if it meant that Croatia and Slovenia
could go it alone. But now that disintegration has reached the
grotesque proportions of cantonisation in Bosnia, they hold up
their hands and say it's all got to stop. Some nerve.
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