Let’s have a look at the alternative policy offered. We may call it the policy of dignity or the policy against blackmail and humiliation.

The first element pertains to not refraining from the use of force. Some say that no country refrains from the use of force, and consequently Serbia should not, must not, refrain either. Others are wondering – if Pristina authorities can do it, why can’t Serbian? Some have an explanation for the alleged pacifism of Belgrade – quisling regime, colonial mentality, turncoats.

To assess the meaningfulness of the policy of force, one must consider two issues: the amount of force at one’s disposal and the goal one wants to achieve. Some proponents of this policy reiterate the arguments used by ideologists and followers of Milosevic, but it seems that they believe this time such policy need not necessarily yield the same results as before.

Firstly, it is being suggested that the threat to use force should suffice, and that force itself need not be used. However, in order for this not to be a bluff, it is actually necessary to have this force at one’s disposal, and only then can one count on the threat alone to be sufficient. Secondly, force is a relative concept. How much force should one have at one’s disposal in order for the threat to be sufficient? Because, those towards whom violence is directed may not be helpless, and will retaliate with force. Thirdly, if the balance of powers is uncertain, the threat will not be sufficient, because a violent answer may appear to be the best option, and force will have to be used.

Thus, the proponents of the policy of force must prove that the use of force would be efficient – that the Serbian government would prevail over their opponent in case of a possible real conflict. Although, this road has already been traveled, both in thought and in reality, from the late eighties until 1999.

Besides, the use of force does not have a point if it is aimless. As, for example, the bombing and siege of Dubrovnik, or, even worse, Sarajevo. Or as the policy towards Kosovo during the last twenty years. What is the political outcome of the use of force? If we look at the example of Milosevic’s regime in Kosovo, it is easy to see that prevailing is one thing, while securing legitimacy is a whole different issue, because it requires the political consent of those who are ruled. And later, in all the negotiations with Kosovo authorities, Serbian representatives did not present a single political offer which would, at least, resemble a legitimate and stable political system, regardless of whether it would be acceptable in Kosovo. Today, the situation is the same, because not a single person advocating that Kosovo should remain a part of Serbia ever said how the political integration of Kosovo into Serbia should look like?

Thus, the proponents of the policy of force should by all means explain to what political end would force be used? If that goal is not defined, then we cannot be sure whether sufficient force is available to reach this goal.

The conclusion that can be drawn from the texts of certain proponents of the idea that the use of force should not be excluded, is that they actually do not have in mind some specific political goal. The narrative is more about the necessity to restore self-confidence, about lost dignity, even about preventing the loss of identity. It appears that all of them have understood the pearl of wisdom that “nobody respects those who don’t respect themselves”, and this self-respect can be gained only by those who are not afraid to use force; pacifists have no self-respect, hence, others do not respect them. This manifestation of self-respect is perceived in burning down foreign embassies, violence against homosexuals and ethnic minorities, and, in the most recent case, burning down a border crossing. The perpetrators of this violence actually perceive themselves as victims, because they would loose their identity, their dignity, self-confidence and other similar values, if they refrained from using violence to protect them, the stronger the more convincing. And indeed, if we take a look at everything that prominent Serbian intellectuals and politicians have written and are still writing, all this violence during the last twenty years is, actually, such a form of self-defense.

The policy of force is thus being advocated as a way to secure national self-respect, to preserve dignity, to prevent the loss of identity, or, as one poetess said back when everything was starting: “If I were a man, I would know what to do.”

The second element of alternative policy –also known as national, statehood and patriotic – was also very popular about twenty years ago. Some well-known economists distinguished themselves in advocating this policy, some writers and philosophers, even more. One writer criticized the short-lived government led by Ante Markovic when he saw that imported cheese was being sold, because “we at lest know how to produce cheese”. Others tried to prove that the exploitative economies of Croatia and Slovenia would crumble if the Serbian market was closed to them, and if they were prevented from investing in it. This carried a message: if you want to do business with Serbia, you have to support Serbian policy towards Kosovo.

Once again, protectionism is being advocated, or economic nationalism, as it was called several years ago, and with the same political conditions. You give us back Kosovo, and we will allow you to invest. Otherwise, you have the rest of the world to open your factories and build infrastructure. This would, at least, have an impact on Croats and Slovenians.

Once again, all that is necessary is to deliberate the effects of such policy, for example, at the very beginning of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and later, in all the periods when patriots were in power. The so-called transitional recession in Slovenia lasted between one and two years, depending on the periodization, and in Croatia until the stabilization in 1994 – hence around four years. Even more importantly, during the first several years after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the Serbian economy was practically devastated. The expenses of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the insatiable war profiteering were most responsible. Many well-known patriots and fighters for the national cause participated in this devastation.

Maybe it does not have to be this way, maybe the policy with national and state interest as the goal can yield better results. As, for example, in the period between 2004 and 2008, when the policy of economic nationalism was the official ideology, not to mention the strong relation between this policy and the policy towards Kosovo. During that period, when national leaders and entrepreneurs in conjunction with patriotic government played a significant role, the national external debt significantly increased. Not after the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union was signed, but before that. The truth is that there were no investments in the industry and the infrastructure, something that should now depend on the support to the policy towards Kosovo, while the lack of such investments was by far the biggest problem of the Serbian economy.

Thus, all of those in favor of patriotic economic policy should explain what would be different this time, and how would patriotism be financed? What if, for example, they refuse to give back Kosovo in order to invest into Serbian economy?

The third element of alternative policy is the partial answer to the question – who to rely on, politically and economically? On Russia and China – is the most frequent answer. However, the question remains as to why China or Russia would increase their economic and political obligations towards Serbia? One answer, when Russia is concerned, can be found in the recent letter written by Serbian intellectuals to the Russian Prime Minister Putin. The letter offers at least three reasons: anti-Nazism (EU includes former Nazi states which support Shqiptar Nazism; consequently, EU is some kind of Nazi creation); defense against the NATO Phalanx (thus, anti-Americanism) and the return to the philosophy of panhumanism (which Putin should be familiar with, along with the hidden meaning of Solzhenitsyn’s prophecy about the Spirit of Munich). As to China – so far, no explanation has been offered as to why this country would accept any serious obligations in the Balkans, especially in Serbia.

Some other proponents of the policy of relying on Russia offer differently formulated arguments why Serbia should only be willing, and Russia will take over the responsibility of fulfilling Serbian economic and political goals. However, all these arguments, in one way or another, can be reduced to the former three. Even when they veto certain draft decisions of the Security Council on Kosovo, the Russian government is not led by these arguments. However, as far as one can conclude from Russian foreign policy, there is no readiness for more than that, regardless of the reasoning the Russian government might follow.

In this case one can also learn from experience. Suffice it to read what had been expected from, initially, the Soviet Union, and later on, Russia, twenty or twenty five years ago. In fact, probably the greatest delusion of the ideologists and followers of Milosevic, which they might have shared even more strongly than Milosevic himself, was their conviction that the Soviet Union was stable and that its global interests were identical to Russian, and, later on, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, that the renewed Russian state would aspire to dominate Europe the way the Soviet Union did, that it would confront the US and would not be tempted to embrace capitalism. Maybe because the favorite band of the future potentates of Russia was and remains to be – Deep Purple.

Thus, Serbian intellectuals might view the solution in Serbia becoming, as one would say, a client country of Russia. What we lack is the explanation of reasons why Russia would be ready to take over such a responsibility?

This is how the alternative policy of dignity and self-respect looks for the time being. For some reasons, its authors believe that the people see it in the same light, voters in particular. The voters who have no employment, no money, no perspective, and, essentially, no country or state – all thanks to the nationalists and patriots.

Translated by Bojana Obradovic

Peščanik.net, 22.08.2011.


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Saša Ilić
Saša Ilić, rođen 1972. u Jagodini, diplomirao na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu. Objavio 3 knjige priča: Predosećanje građanskog rata (2000), Dušanovac. Pošta (2015), Lov na ježeve (2015) i 3 romana: Berlinsko okno (2005), Pad Kolumbije (2010) i Pas i kontrabas (2019) za koji je dobio NIN-ovu nagradu. Jedan je od pokretača i urednik književnog podlistka Beton u dnevnom listu Danas od osnivanja 2006. do oktobra 2013. U decembru iste godine osnovao je sa Alidom Bremer list Beton International, koji periodično izlazi na nemačkom jeziku kao podlistak Tageszeitunga i Frankfurtera Rundschaua. Jedan je od urednika Međunarodnog književnog festivala POLIP u Prištini. Njegova proza dostupna je u prevodu na albanski, francuski, makedonski i nemački jezik.
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