Marvin Chester
May 1999

These political events form the premise for the essay:

As of 1999 Kosovo is a region within the nation of Yugoslavia. Kosovo's population is predominantly muslim, 90%. They come from Albania and speak Albanian. The Serbs, who speak Serbian and are in the majority in the nation of Yugoslavia, are Greek Orthodox Christians. Serbs have historical monuments in Kosovo but had largely emigrated north from there over the course of centuries.

Kosovo had had local autonomy within Yugoslavia up to 1989. The Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, had then limited its autonomy and sent Serb troops into Kosovo. He had risen to power on a Serbian nationalist platform and was antipathetic to the muslim Albanians in Kosovo. In the fall of 1998, agitated by the guerrilla activity of the Kosovo independence movement, these troops began a program of "ethnic cleansing" against the Albanian speaking muslim Kosovars. Forcibly expelled from their homes something like 600,000 Kosovo Albanians fled to bordering Albania and Macedonia in a massive exodus from where they had lived for generations.

In March of 1999, NATO, led by the United States, attacked the Serbian forces in Kosovo. It also bombed Belgrade, the Serbian capital city. The stated purpose was to stop the ethnic cleansing; to stop the mass expulsion, by the Serbian dominated Yugoslav government, of its muslim Albanian citizens, from their homes because of their ethnicity. By June of 1999 this purpose was achieved.

How can we see the present Kosovo conflict as a moment of history? What is its meaning? Its significance?

I believe it is this. We are witnessing an event of cultural natural selection: the spreading of dominant values. By our actions, we, in the West, are consciously imposing our values by force. What values are these? To contrast them with tribal values one might call them plural values. Their essence is succinctly packaged in a phrase from the U.S. Declaration of Independence: that all have the right to the pursuit of happiness!

To pursue happiness is the quintessential expression of permissivness. Let all pursue their aspirations without interference. This idea necessarily embraces plurality. You let me pursue my happiness. I let you pursue yours. The credo encourages originalty and inventivness. And therein lies the power of the idea. It has created great material wealth. Economic well being derives, in large measure, from the world view a society holds. The detailed defense of this thesis is laid out meticulously by David S. Landes in his monumentally beautiful work entitled, "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations" (W.W. Norton, N.Y.,1998)

We of the West want this blessing to be granted to all. To the Kosovars for example. Let them be delivered from oppression. The Western World pours its might into this impertinence - to impose plurality where only tribality has thrived.

The bombing of Serbia by NATO to insure the human rights of its Albanian population is unprecedented in history. It is the interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state on humanitarian grounds. The humanitarian grounds are to prevent the Serbs from oppressing an ethnic group in their midst - the Albanian Kosovars. The Albanians were deprived of their right to pursue happiness - many deprived of their liberty and life also.

Genocide - the killing of an ethnic identity - became a crime only after the Second World War - in 1945. Had Hitler's Nazi Germany not invaded other sovereign states in 1939, contenting itself merely with murdering the Jews within its borders, the dictator would never have been stopped. The right to pursue happiness was less universally accepted then.

Consider this precious value: the pursuit of happiness. Many - even within Western society - would call it self-indulgent, permissive, materialistic. It is precisely all of these. It is naked selfishness! Tribal values are quite the opposite. Tribes revere selflessness. What is important is duty. Duty towards ones tribe or clan. A clan may take many forms: a religious community, a cultural heritage. It might embrace a geographical region or be a familial clan. Those cultures where duty and loyalty dominate over the pursuit of happiness are the tribal ones. They form strong cohesive units. Their members act out of spiritual calling. Out of passion.

It is a matter of tribal passion that Kosovo should be so dear to Serbs. The Ottoman Turks ended the Serb Empire in 1389 at the battle of Kosovo. The Empire had been created only some forty years earlier. Over the centuries the population of Kosovo evolved to become predominantly (90%) Albanian Moslems. But modern Serbs - even those antipathetic to their current leader, Slobodan Milosevic - are quite intransigent regarding Kosovo. It is the Jerusalem of Serbia. The West says that the Serbs do not need to possess Kosovo to be Serbian. The Jews do not need to possess Jerusalem to be Jewish. These passions express the dominance of tribal values over plural ones.

Contrast the two philosophies. The tribal one is spiritual and passionate. It holds authority in high esteem: religious authority, political authority, cultural authority, familial authority. The strength in a clan resides in submission to authority. That is what is needed for fighting battles. A mob of men must be molded into a tribe before, as an army, it is fit to do battle.

The plural society is practical and materialistic. Its members revere novelty over tradition. They challenge authority readily. People who pursue happiness are not easily mobilized. Loyalty to the group is not one of their virtues.

What is remarkable is that Western pluralistic values should have become such a mighty force as to dominate the world! Tribal values collapse because of the naked material power of pluralism. It is that phenomenon that we are witnessing - an assault on tribalism by pluralism.

Both tribal values and plural values have their virtues. They coexist even though antithetical. Nature is a symbiosis of incompatibles. The battle between the virtues is riddled with contradictions.

The principle of sovereignty - that outside nations refrain from interference in internal affairs - is itself a precious principle of plurality. It acknowledges the right of self-determination. Recognizing the right of self-rule without external interference is an aspect of plurality.

The tribes of the world see the contradiction in the process. The motivation of the West is to impose their virtues on those who don't value them. They are imposing 'good' by force. The motives are impeccable - compassionate tolerance for fellow human beings. But many focus not on our ends - justice - but on our means - force. Where force is used to impose noble ends it can just as easily be used to impose ignoble ones.

NATO may very well succeed in propagating Western values. Eventually people of the Balkans will see virtue in granting neighbors, even of foreign ethnicity, the right to pursue happiness. Of course that may necessitate NATO policing for a long time.

No culture is monolithic. Among the Serbs and Kosovars are many who do not share the tribal values motivating the conflict. Many hold Western values. These are our allies in the values war.

What political policy is suggested by this analysis? For partisans of pluralism it is this: Make clear to the Serbs what the fight is about. Offer them the pursuit of happiness. Offer them Western values!

Bombs demonstrate our might but not our virtue. Bombing is not conducive to winning the minds and hearts of those on the ground. Especially since it is done without comment. There is no dialogue with the citizens. Bombing, by its nature, reenforces those in power, the enemy. Partisans of plurality must see to it that some large fraction of the budgeted military action be devoted to communication: to using the real power of the West, media. The West must mobilize technology to deliver a message to the citizens of Serbia. Here is the message.

1. Your sons and brothers in the army are being ordered to commit crimes. Their commanders are engaged in genocide. They have caused thousands of people to be killed and have made a million people refugees. Ask your sons at the front in Kosovo if it is not true. Ask your brothers whether they are making Kosovars homeless. Call on them to stop it. What they are doing is not defending Serbia. It is shaming Serbia. Some Albanian Kosovars are, indeed, terrorists. But not all of them! Neither are all Serbs genocidal killers. Let peace reign between Kosovars and Serbs.

2. NATO's bombs are not meant for the Serbian people. They are to stop the genocide of your criminal leaders. NATO is not threatening to enslave you. It will not expel you from your lands. Its aim is not to conquer Serbia but to free it; as the West liberated the German people from the Nazis. NATO's aim is to bring about free and open elections and self-rule where all are gaurenteed their human rights. Serbs as well as Kosovars.

3. How did modern Germany attain its greatness; by capitulating to the Western democracies. Take defeated Nazi Germany as your model. After its genocidal escapade it was nurtured back to greatness by the West. It benefitted by a Marshall Plan of economic recovery. It is now autonomous with free elections. It prospered as a member of the Western community of nations. Let Serbia achieve honor and respected place in the community of nations. Tell your sons and brothers to desist. Let the criminals who lead you be brought to justice.

How can this message be brought to the Serbs? With the technological arsenal at our disposal the delivering of messages can be arranged at least as easily as the delivery of bombs. What might be necessary is the concentrated crippling of Serbian telecommunications facilities and its replacement by powerful NATO transmitters. Perhaps a parachute bombing of the streets of Belgrade with small personal battery powered receivers for any Serb to pick up and to use. The message must be directly delivered. It must be labelled 'to the Serbian people'. It must come from the lips of the leaders of the Western world; from President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair and especially Chancellor Schroeder of Germany. And it must be delivered with regularity. During announced bombing cessations for the purpose of communication.

Its evident purpose is to incite insurrection - the overthrow of a despot. The West has already interfered in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. It did so to unburden the citizens of their oppression. But the action taken - bombing Serbian territory - can only insure that the despot remains in power. We will end up negotiating with the oppressor. The action is not directed enough. It should be directed to toppling the values the despot represents.

Plural societies are strong in armed might but weak in armed battle. They believe in consensus. That is what tribal societies count on: the splintering of consensus among free societies. The lesson for the partisans of pluralism is this: rely less on armed might and rely more on essential might. Rely on the power that lies in Western values.

Time-line synopsis following 1999.

March 1999
Serbian President Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) begins ethnic cleansing - the expulsion of muslim Kosovars to Albania. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) responds by the bombing of Belgrade. The NATO bombing of the FRY is effective but it does do considerable collateral damage - killing civilians in a hospital, a market, on bridges and even bombs the Chinese embassy by mistake. Fighting continues through 78 days.

May 1999
International War Crimes Tribunal indicts Milosevic

June 1999
FRY agrees to Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo and NATO bombing stops. NATO peacekeeping force enters. Refugees return - 600,000 from Albania. But 200,000 ethnic Serbs and others, fearing reprisals flee their homes in Kosovo to go north.

Sept 2000
Milosevc resigns presidency amid large street demonstrations in Belgrade

March 2001
Milosevic arrested by Yugoslave authorities. He is sent to The Hague to stand War Crimes trial. This lasts for 5 years.

March 2006
Milosevic dies of heart attack in his cell.

2006 October
Voters in a referendum in Serbia approve a new constitution which declares that Kosovo is an integral part of the country. Kosovo's Albanian majority boycotts the ballot and UN sponsored talks on the future of the disputed province continue.
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