May 6, 2008

The Real Moderates

by Michael J. Totten

I'll have a proper-length dispatch published here shortly, and in the meantime here's a short one for you to chew on over at Commentary.

Lee Smith laments that American Muslims have to read almost exclusively about scary Muslims and slightly less scary Muslims in the mainstream American media. “One can only sympathize with American Muslims,” he writes,

those who may or may not be religious, but surely have no attachment to the obscurantist fanatics that drove them from the region, and must now be wondering what is wrong with the New York Times that the only Muslims that register with the paper of record are very scary ones, and less scary ones.

I have noticed and been annoyed by this tendency myself, and it goes double today: I'm writing this from the capital of Kosovo, the least “scary” Muslim country on Earth. I've grown accustomed to moderate Muslims after living in and traveling to places like Beirut and Istanbul, but Kosovo is surprising even to me. Islam in this country is so thoroughly liberal (“moderate” doesn't quite cover it) that, if it weren't for the mosques, there would be no visible evidence that Kosovo is a Muslim country at all. I've been in Prishtina, the capital, for four days, and I can count the number of women I've seen wearing a hijab on one hand. Aside from the conservative dating culture, women here are as liberated as Christian women in the rest of the Balkan region.

A large number of Kosovo's Muslims are Sufis--the most peaceful and the least fundamentalist of all the world's Muslims. Sufis can be found in many parts of the Islamic world, but here in Kosovo they proudly proclaim that they are the most “progressive” of all.

Soft-imperial Wahhabis are trying to export their brand of Islam from the deserts of Saudi Arabia to this fertile green land. They have their work cut out for them with this crowd. Bosnia notoriously welcomed thousands of Salafist mujahideen fighters from the Arab world during Yugoslavia's violent demise. But the Kosovo Liberation Army brusquely told them to stay the hell out of their country--even while they faced an ethnic cleansing campaign directed from Belgrade.

Read the rest in Commentary.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 6, 2008 2:35 PM
Comments

but the Kosovo Liberation Army brusquely told them to stay the hell out of their country--even while they faced an ethnic cleansing campaign directed from Belgrade.

Sure, but that has nothing to do with religious beliefs. The KLA is, like the IRA, first and foremost an organized crime gang. Hardly likely they should want a rival gang on their turf, is it?

I also think it's kind of silly the way you keep contrasting Bosnia with Kosovo. You clearly didn't spend enough time in Bosnia - it's really no more religious than Kosovo, and it's less dangerous (there's less street crime). If Bosnians aren't as pro-American as Kosovars it's because they blame the US for waiting too long to act, which is understandable. The bigger problem Kosovo faces long-term is that it has no economy to speak of, it's a welfare state subsidized by the US, the EU and the drug trade.

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at May 6, 2008 3:11 PM

A large number of Kosovo's Muslims are Sufis—the most peaceful and the least fundamentalist of all the world's Muslims.

I think this is a really big misconception. Sufism is not innately liberal, peaceful, conservative or aggressive. It's a spiritual view of human beings that isn't related to outward actions. In practice however most sufis are very traditional and I imagine would make Tariq Ramadan look like Irshad Manji on issues like women. True, they aren't likely to be revolutionaries but likewise there's also quite a large subset of Wahhabis who are also totally apolitical but who would still be considered fundementalists.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 6, 2008 5:20 PM

I forgot to add. I think this misconception of sufism comes from western New Agers who've tried to group it in with other traditions as just another form of spiritualism. In this way they tend to disregard the connection of sufism to orthodox islam and also ignore the more authoritarian aspects of buhddism, confucianism etc.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 6, 2008 5:28 PM

I understand that the Kosovars drink liquor even though they are Muslims. I wonder how their nightclubs and bars compare to those elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at May 6, 2008 6:23 PM

Daniel: Sufism is not innately liberal

Here it is. Like Solomon said, they drink alcohol, etc.

In practice however most sufis are very traditional and I imagine would make Tariq Ramadan look like Irshad Manji on issues like women.

On issues like women, this place looks like New York, not Riyadh.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 12:47 AM

Vanya: The KLA is, like the IRA, first and foremost an organized crime gang.

No it wasn't. It might be now if it still existed, but it doesn't. 90 percent of Kosovars were displaced, either internally or externally during the war. No one cares about organized crime in that kind of environment. It was all about survival.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 12:53 AM

Here it is. Like Solomon said, they drink alcohol, etc.

On issues like women, this place looks like New York, not Riyadh.

I 'd guess both of those issues are connected with it being a former communist country rather than the type of sufism or general islam they practice.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:52 AM

Daniel,

It is not so much because of Communism, although that shouldn't be discounted. It is also because of the Christian and folk heritage of Albanians, and also because Kosovo was a refuge for Islamic liberals who fled the authorities in Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:56 AM

It is not so much because of Communism, although that shouldn't be discounted. It is also because of the Christian and folk heritage of Albanians, and also because Kosovo was a refuge for Islamic liberals who fled the authorities in Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire.

I agree that it is a mixture of having been strongly Christian not that long ago and having been forcefully secularised under communism more recently. In other post-communist muslim countries Islam has managed to assert itself slightly more so than in the Balkans despite still being secular to a large degree. Chechnya would be a case in point which had a pretty loose animist identity before they became muslim a few centuries ago.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 5:29 AM

Yugoslavia as a nation was arguably less communist than Berkeley is trying to be right now. I clearly remember visiting Yugoslavia, and it was nice, clean, and vibrant. The heavy hand of regulation and political autocracy was not present in the parts of Yugoslavia I saw in 1969. There probably was some oppression of ethnic groups, and in retrospect that seems like a very good idea. To me, Yugoslavia felt less oppressive and constrained in its culture than much of Italy, with the possible exception of Venice.

I would not attribute much communist influence to Yugoslavian culture. It is more accurate to describe the political influence as "Titoist" than communist.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 10:34 AM

Patrick Lasswell: The heavy hand of regulation and political autocracy was not present in the parts of Yugoslavia I saw in 1969.

Sigh. I'm almost getting tired of busting Patrick for these kinds of falsehoods. His nose must be touching his computer monitor by now.

Patrick said he was 43 a few months ago. That means he was four or five years old in 1969. Quite politically aware for a kindergarten kid, I'd say.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 10:47 AM

As I said in the other section, it wasnt the jihadis that made Bosnia more conservative, it was the Gulf NGOs and their large pots of cash. They are at it in Kosovo now.

Give it ten years and head back and see the changes.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:05 AM

Edgar,

Yes, I have exceptional recollection. Like the time you won "Dancing with the Stars: Fallujah", for instance.

You don't have to be twenty to recognize the heavy hand of fascism. The quantity, quality, and diversity of products available on store shelves are easy to remember, especially for a child interested in toys, or in my case skin diving equipment. I learned to swim in Yugoslavia, outside Dubrovnik. I was so excited that I threw my facemask in the air and it landed on a rock. After extensive admonishment, my parents took me out to a dive shop to get another. They had several sets of diving gear my size on the shelves.

At this point in history, people in the Soviet Union were lined up around the block to buy shoes when a shipment came in. The idea of abundant quantities of specialized sports equipment for children in a communist country is ludicrous.

Later that year, I spent six months in Francoist Spain, and I have clear recollections of that. The level of authoritarian influence was much greater in Spain than Yugoslavia.

Also, my father was an activist in the 1960s, so yes, I was a lot more politically aware than most people. Some people get to live exceptional lives, I've been lucky that way. Don't try to crap on me for it.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:05 AM

Well Edgar beat me to the first point, but here's another.

P.Daddy:There probably was some oppression of ethnic groups, and in retrospect that seems like a very good idea.

Oppression of ethnic, religious, or any other identifiable groups is the complete antithesis of free, liberal democracy. While Yugoslavia isn't exactly a bastion of liberal democracy, last I checked Portland was part of the US (what I'd consider a free, liberal democracy). With that in mind I'm somewhat shocked that you'd advocate opression of people based on their cultural class.

Just look at how this statement appears; There probably was some oppression of blacks, and in retrospect that seems like a very good idea.

Pretty ridiculous.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:13 AM

>> Oppression of ethnic, religious, or any other identifiable groups is the complete antithesis of free, liberal democracy.

John,
in many countries you need "a strong hand" for a while until the issues are worked out between groups. It's not ideal, but think of Saddam's Iraq and the Iraq with no Saddam about a year or so ago, with a bomb exploding every 5 seconds. Choose one. Most people would have chosen Saddam in a heartbeat.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:30 AM

I've just realised an error I've made. Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't most Kosovar Albanians recent (relatively) immigrants to Yugoslavia from Albania. If this is the case then the policies of communist Albania would be more significant in explaining Kosovar culture than Tito's policies.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:45 AM

Patrick Lasswell: They had several sets of diving gear my size on the shelves....the idea of abundant quantities of specialized sports equipment for children in a communist country is ludicrous.

Another chapter written in Lasswell's Book of Lies

Diving (and here I'm talking scuba diving, which requires more equipment than skin diving) was a popular sport during the Soviet era. Not only was it accessible, but the government actually encouraged young people to do it (they saw it as a kind of military preparation).

There were large diving clubs in Moscow and St. Petersburg (as well as in the Baltic states) more than 30 years ago, with thousands of members. And the membership was not expensive at all or hard to get.

As for Soviet-era diving gear, it was abundant enough that you can still buy it today. It's generally quite robust and well-made, and it lasts many years.

Ok, I'm ready for more bullshit now. Send it over.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:53 AM

Nameless-fool:

Yugoslavia was not like Iraq is now or a year ago. Nor would I suggest that Iraq under Saddam is preferable to the budding democracy, no matter how violent it is.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:57 AM

Nameless-fool;

Sorry about the double post, had to help a student here.

Anyway the point isn't about if dictatorships or other opressive forms of government serve purposes in unstable countries. The point is that someone living in a free liberal democracy would advocate that particular identifiable groups be opressed. That's tantamount to racism and other forms of bigotry.

The question as to if opressive governments serve good purposes under particular environments is another issue all together. I'll be clear with my position that I do not agree with them. I feel that the period of unrest budding democracies go through when transitioning from opressive regimes is worth the pay-off of freedom.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 12:07 PM

Patrick, "I clearly remember visiting Yugoslavia, and it was nice, clean, and vibrant. The heavy hand of regulation and political autocracy was not present in the parts of Yugoslavia I saw in 1969."

From your recollections as a five year old? Please.

To say that your statement strains ones credibility is being polite.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:26 PM

If the religious inclinations of Albanians are any guide, half of Kosovars are atheist and the other half go to mosque as often as Europeans go to church.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:32 PM

rsnyder;

Patrick may have been aware of relatively complicated religious, ethnic, and class issues at 5 years of age. Children of that quality typically grow up to be very insightful individuals, who are amazing at whatever they choose to do in life. If Patrick could actually identify these issues at that age, then he must be the cream of the 'lighting solutions' crop.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:45 PM

Heh.

It's especially funny that Patrick is always complaining about the mainstream media's dishonesty and lack of responsibility.

Now he himself gets caught with a ridiculous fabrication of his own.

The difference between Patrick and an "MSM" reporter is that Patrick doesn't have to answer to an editor. If he were a reporter and wrote that, he'd get canned right away.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:47 PM

Daniel: Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't most Kosovar Albanians recent (relatively) immigrants to Yugoslavia from Albania.

Not even remotely. They have been here for prett much ever. They are indigenous. The Slavs have also been here for an extremely long time. No one in Kosovo can be called an immigrant.

If this is the case then the policies of communist Albania would be more significant in explaining Kosovar culture than Tito's policies.

If they had just moved here, you would be correct. Very few people in Albania are religious. Religion was all but completely destroyed by Enver Hoxha, who was one of the most oppressive rulers in history.

I briefly visited Albania on the way here. What a mess. It is totally different from Kosovo, shockingly so. Kosovo feels like Europe. Albania (at least the part I went to) feels like a cross between Mexico and Iraq.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:48 PM

Edgar,

You have a link for that? Or is this another of your Fallujah dance-hall stories?

I find it excruciatingly difficult to believe that people stepped out of the bread lines to go diving in Moscow. Perhaps you can tell us about the scuba enthusiasts in Leningrad (back when there wasn't a St. Petersburg. It was difficult and expensive to get a good, properly fitting wet suit twenty-five years ago in the US. I got a second-hand one here in Portland that was barely suitable for diving in the area.

How many people are you claiming had the disposable income to purchase dive equipment suitable for immersion in the Baltic during the Soviet era?

Where exactly did the Moscow diving clubs find clear water? How did they afford the gas to get there? Where did they get cars large enough to haul dive gear?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:52 PM

Anyway, more than half of the people of Kosovo are not religious. It is an atheist or at least non-religious majority country. Serbia is even more so.

The majority of Muslims here are "Muslims" in name only. Most of the rest look and act like the atheists.

the other half go to mosque as often as Europeans go to church.

That is correct.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:53 PM

Edgar,

Maybe his genius stature put him at odds with his editor and that's precisely why he's working in 'lighting solutions' now.

Now the question is, what exactly is 'lighting solutions?'

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:53 PM

I visited Tijuana as a six year old and was horrified by what I saw. I will never, ever forget it. If Patrick was not horrified by Yugoslavia as a five year old, that doesn't mean nothing. Obviously he did not have an astute awareness of the politics, but I was utterly oblivious of Mexican politics as a kid yet still realized that I was in a very dysfunctional place. I learned later why it was dysfunctional, but what I learned matched what I saw and can clearly remember.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 1:58 PM

Diving (and here I'm talking scuba diving, which requires more equipment than skin diving) was a popular sport during the Soviet era. Not only was it accessible, but the government actually encouraged young people to do it (they saw it as a kind of military preparation).

..and they taught junior high school kids how to assemble and fire Kalashnikov rifles. Those guys were tough.

In any case, I visited Yugoslavia in 1983, and, compared to other countries I'd recently visited, it was in very good shape. The shelves were well-stocked, no one was spitting at their neighbors (as Greeks did during a traffic jam in Athens), no one cheated us (as they did in Rome) and we weren't harassed by gypsies, as we were in Ireland.

Even the police were unusually polite. I ran a yellow light (which was illegal there, which I didn't know at that time) and saw that I was being chased by some guy in a motorcycle. Since I didn't recognize their somewhat low-key uniforms and he had no flashing lights, I figured he wanted to race and I drove faster. He drove for miles following before I finally slowed down. When he realized that I was a clueless American, he just shrugged and got back on his motorbike. I didn't even get a ticket. If I raced a cop like that in New Jersey, I would have at least gotten a ticket and some shot-out tires.

We visited friends, university professors, who showed us around a town that was as scenic and pleasant as any town we visited in German. They were going to spend a holiday at their seaside dacha. That was the hell of life under Tito.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:04 PM

Michael,

Thanks for the backup. I still think you should show Edgar and JohnDakota the door. What they add isn't worth what they subtract, and you will never hear from the people who walked away instead of confronting them. You will never miss them.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:08 PM

MJT,

That's all fine and good but unfortunately Patrick isn't claiming that. He's claimed he perfectly understood what was going on then as a 5 year old. For most people this would slide, but Patrick's prolific allusions to personal grandeur beg to be called on on this sort of 'bullshit.'

Just to illustrate I'm not pulling things out of context.. these were all written to mean he undertood the concepts at 5 years of age.

Patrick:
1)"Yes, I have exceptional recollection..."
2)"You don't have to be twenty to recognize the heavy hand of fascism...."
3)"My father was an activist in the 1960s, so yes, I was a lot more politically aware than most people."

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:10 PM

Give it a rest, guys. If you don't like Patrick, don't talk to him. I'm not here to host a fight.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:13 PM

Patrick Lasswell: I still think you should show Edgar and JohnDakota the door. What they add isn't worth what they subtract, and you will never hear from the people who walked away instead of confronting them.

Nice try, Patrick. You know you're about to get busted again, don't you?

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:15 PM

MJT: Give it a rest, guys. If you don't like Patrick, don't talk to him. I'm not here to host a fight.

Didn't see your post until afterwards. Yeah, no problem. I just didn't want to let his original statement go unchallenged. I still think Patrick has the credibility of a Saddam-era information minister.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:17 PM

Fine, John, you've made your point. No one needs to read more about it. Really.

Anyway, I've been to severely repressive places, and children CAN feel it if it's bad enough. What they can't feel is relaxed oppression, which is how Yugoslavia was.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:18 PM

Patrick: Michael...you should show Edgar and JohnDakota the door

Or you could just admit you fibbed a little and converse like normal people.

Opposing viewpoints do not, as you say, subtract from the experience of this discussion community. A monoculture of opinion would, and that's what you're trying to generate by begging Michael to censor Edgar and myself simply because we called you on your BS.

And I'm sorry my CV of contributions to this forum has not been extensive in the last few months. I've been occupied with completing my graduate thesis.

Patrick, you have amazing personal experience that exceeds most people's. You don't need to make yourself out to be some kind of superhuman superhero that's all knowing immediately out of the womb.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:18 PM

Sorry Dad... I dont want you to pull the car over.. the ride is so fun =P

Anyway.. back to the scheduled programming I guess.

Thanks for the great reads Michael.. I just caught up on what you've written the last few months.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:20 PM

Edgar and JohnDakota,

I told no lies in this thread. The substance of my argument had been supported by two others, one the site owner. You made statements that are unsupportable and do not match other known facts. You lose.

I am willing to ignore you if you just ignore me. This site does not need our bickering.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:37 PM

Not even remotely. They have been here for prett much ever.

Probably propaganda then. I may have read it from that Serb guy who writes for American Paleoconservative publications.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 2:52 PM

Patrick,

Thanks so much for proving mine and Edgars point. Evidence, and plausability clearly has no dominion in your realm.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 3:01 PM

Patrick Lasswell: You lose.

If you consider that a victory, I'd hate to see what happens when you get defeated.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 3:03 PM

Edgar, John, what is the point of arguing about someones memories of being five years old? How does debating the evidence and plausibility of a five year old's swim lessons add to our aggregate knowledge of the former Yugoslavia and ethnic rivalries in the Balkans? Either you believe it or you don't.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 3:13 PM

Daniel: I may have read it from that Serb guy who writes for American Paleoconservative publications.

Be careful with that. "Albanian immigrants" is a ridiculous lie, but some people believe it and don't know it's a lie. Most Americans know little or nothing about Serbia except that it's the country that started four wars in a strange and rough corner of Europe.

Every group in the Balkans can be full of crap to a certain extent, but Serbian nationalists have turned it into a science. Serbian nationalists are downright Palestinian with their disinformation. (It's no surprise that Hamas sides with the Serbs while Kosovo sides with the Israelis.)

Some Serbs really were treated terribly by Croatians, Bosnians, and Albanians. (Especially by Croatia. There was real ethnic cleansing there by the Tudjman regime.) There is no need for them to make up a bunch of crap that isn't real except that they are desperate to reconquer Kosovo. The only way they can do it is by starting a fifth war, which they almost certainly will not do at this point. I didn't come out here to write articles against them, but to explore what's happening now in 2008. I have to shoot down the bs, though, when it comes up.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 3:14 PM

Mary,

Yeah, I'm done with that.

The original question was about communist influence on secularity. While Yugoslavia wasn't as strongly communist as Russia or Belarus, it was certainly a socialist entity.

Many western European countries were not run by hardline communists either, but became secularized largely because of post-WW2 political developments (i.e. socialist parties in power).

That's what happened to the Yugoslav republics. Somewhat different way, but basically the same.

Or look what happened in Armenia. It used to be much more religiously Christian than it is now. Communism stifled a lot of that.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 3:26 PM

I think Edgar is right. Religion wasn't suppressed under Tito the way it was elsewhere in the communist world. Nationalism, however, was suppressed until Slobo barged into the scene and turned its volume up to eleven.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 3:58 PM

It's no suprise that Hamas side with Serbs

What time period are you refering to?

On the whole question of secularism and Albanians, my basic point is, doesn't their history make them pretty much irrelevant as a role model to the rest of the muslim world? I have a similar attitude when people try to use Turkey for the same purpose. Using an example of a nation that's been forcefully secularised isn't going to hold much appeal even though that process is being reversed presently.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 4:14 PM

Daniel E.: Doesn't their history make them pretty much irrelevant as a role model to the rest of the muslim world?

Exactly right. It's ludicrous to expect Muslim countries in the Arab world to want to emulate the Kosovars, in the same way it's ludicrous to think Ayan Hiri Ali is a personal role model for Muslims.

If we want the Arab world to become more secular, they need to see how mixing religion and politics gets disastrous results. Right now, they prefer the religious extremists to the gangster dictators (who are secular).

Most Arab countries need some sort of transitional phase, like a semi-honest military government. If that brings good results, society will probably become more secular naturally.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 4:25 PM

Daniel: What time period are you refering to?

Today, and also during the Milosevic era.

Daniel: On the whole question of secularism and Albanians, my basic point is, doesn't their history make them pretty much irrelevant as a role model to the rest of the muslim world?

Kind of. I asked that very question of a professor of Islamic Studies here a few hours ago. He basically thinks the answer is yes.

What I find encouraging about this place is that it's possible. What is discouraging is that fanatics from somewhere else are trying to reverse it. They haven't made much progress, but that have made some. Muslim countries like Kosovo, Turkey, etc., might want to deploy the same strategy right back at them.

If we want the Arab world to become more secular, they need to see how mixing religion and politics gets disastrous results.

Edgar: Pretty much, that's what it will take in the worst places. Some countries will have to go through this period. Hopefully not all of them will.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 5:12 PM

"There probably was some oppression of ethnic groups"

My Slovenian friend claims there was far less of that than is popularly believed. If you want evidence, just consider how it was that Yugoslavia had all those ethnically-mixed areas in the first place. I'm pretty sure he'd also agree with Michael's statement that "nationalism. . . was suppressed until Slobo barged into the scene and turned its volume up to eleven."

Posted by: kparker Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:36 PM

Just to clarify, I should have written "My Slovenian friend (who still lives there) claims there was far less of that than is popularly believed in the West".

Posted by: kparker Author Profile Page at May 7, 2008 11:38 PM

Dear Michael

I would love to see pictures of Muslim women without their head scarves (burkas?). I've seen some pictures of Iraqi Christian women at Micheal Yon's site and I was struck by how natural they appeared.

Posted by: lee Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 1:38 AM

Today, and also during the Milosevic era

What's Hamas's motivation now for supporting Serbia? Just being part of the Russian sphere of influence? I know they got a lot of flack from non-Brotherhood Sunni radicals for meeting with Russian diplomats.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 2:58 AM

In my experience, most Israelis side with the Serbs on Kosovo. There are a number of reasons many Israelis support Serbia:

1. The obvious historic parallels - Kosovo is historic Serb land the way Israel is historic Jewish land

2. General distrust of Muslims

3. The shared history of WWII - other than the Jews, Serbs arguably suffered more than any other ethnic group (including in Kosovo where Albanians fought on the Nazi side and carried out ethnic cleansing).

4. The large number of Russian immigrants in Israel, who culturally feel closer to Serbs than Kosovars.

Clearly not all Israelis feel this way, but it is a dangerous simplification to say that "Hamas is pro-Serb, Israel is pro Kosovo)", there are significant pro-Serb factions in the Israeli government (and Israel, thank God, is not an ideological monolith the way Hamas is).

Another thing, Michael - didn't you notice this discrepancy in the information you're being fed?

At 1:56 am Michael says Kosovo was a refuge for Islamic liberals who fled the authorities in Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire.

At 3:14 pm “Albanian immigrants” is a ridiculous lie, but some people believe it and don't know it's a lie.

Actually it's not a lie. Albanians have always lived in Kosovo, but most of the Albanians there today ARE descended from fairly recent immigrants, they are not indigenous, except in the sense that a Russian Jew is "indigenous" to Israel. To be fair, most Serbs in Kosovo are also recent immigrants. The indigenous Albanians and Serb populations have long been decimated by centuries of warfare and mutual ethnic cleansing. You're too eager to see everything in black and white. Milosevic is the scum you say he is, no question, but Kosovar nationalists are really not much better. The Albanians did their best in the 1980s to provoke the central Yugoslav government, and it worked, and helped put Milosevic in power in the first place. There aren't many saints in the Balkans if you look closely, it's all tribe vs. tribe. The best solution would be to kick the Albanians and the Serbs out and hand the place over to Greece.

And just for fun here's a link to a report drafted by the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee discussing some of the alleged KLA ties to drugs, organized crime and muslim terror groups:

http://www.senate.gov/~rpc/releases/1999/fr033199.htm

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 4:36 AM

Half of Kosovars are atheists and half go to the mosque about as much as Europeans go to church?

No wonder they are "good Muslims". It is exactly because they pay so little attention their religion. Let them head to the mosque, drop the drink and say some prayers, their "good Muslim" status will go right OUT the window.

The mainstream media that fosters ideas like this sucks.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 6:22 AM

Marc,

Are the only good Muslims in your book the strict fundamentalists?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 7:24 AM

Daniel: What's Hamas's motivation now for supporting Serbia?

Anti-Americanism.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 7:25 AM

Vanya: At 1:56 am Michael says Kosovo was a refuge for Islamic liberals who fled the authorities in Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire.

At 3:14 pm “Albanian immigrants” is a ridiculous lie, but some people believe it and don't know it's a lie.

There is no discrepancy. As I also wrote above, most of the Turks were expelled long ago. There are a few in the Prizren area still, but that's it. And their moving there was not "recent."

In my experience, most Israelis side with the Serbs on Kosovo.

Israel is divided on this. I don't know which point of view is predominant on the street. I do know that Israel and Kosovo have excellent relations. Israel will recognize Kosovo, but not before Arab countries do so. (See Hamas propaganda on this and you'll understand why.)

Albanians have always lived in Kosovo, but most of the Albanians there today ARE descended from fairly recent immigrants, they are not indigenous, except in the sense that a Russian Jew is “indigenous” to Israel.

What do you mean by "recent"? During what exact time period are you suggesting they up and moved here? And how are you substantiating the word "most."

Please provide sources from outside Serbia. I am aware that every group in the Balkans can be full of crap, and I'd rather not swat down propaganda all day. There is as much bullshit coming out of Belgrade right now as there is out of Palestine. The Radical Party, which is ahead in the election polls, is saying that Milosevic did not go far enough in Kosovo even though he displaced 90 percent of the population. The Radical Party's position is "go all the way" instead of part-way, which is an obvious call to outright genocide. It's probably just rhetoric, but it goes to show where they're coming from.

My view on this is not black and white. It appears that way because I'm arguing with you instead of an apologist for the KLA and the revenge attacks from Albanians against Serbs in 1999 and 2004. No one is innocent in the Balkans. That's obvious.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 7:38 AM

Marc: Let them head to the mosque, drop the drink and say some prayers, their “good Muslim” status will go right OUT the window.

Nah, that's bullshit too. I just had dinner with a practicing Muslim and a professor of Islamic Studies who studied in Tripoli, Lebanon, and Medina, Saudi Arabia. He's a great guy, very intelligent, liberal. He is horrified by what Hezbollah is doing in Lebanon and did all he could to excommunicate them from his religion. HE is the good Muslim, Marc. They are the bad ones. This should be obvious.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 7:52 AM

Dyadya Vanya,
that senate report is written by James Jatras, a KNOWN hater of all things Albanian and lover of all things Serbian. Google "James Jatras" and than "James Jatras Larry Craig." The wonderful James has a $100K a month contract from Serbia to make Albanians look like the Taleban. I am not sure if you knew that, or not.

Regarding no economy: True, but what can they do? It was an extremely poor province even in 1980. Now with Serbs burning down all their houses and looting everything hasn't helped the cause.
The drugs pass through there...to Serbia...to EU. Kosovo does not have a port, and when it comes to Mafia, Kosovo is no where near that of Russia or Serbia, but Serbia's PR machine is running on triple speed and Serbs here are parroting them on 1000's of sites.

The difference between Bosnia and Albanians (IMO) is that Albanians have an extremely strong national identity. They are Albanian first and foremost, and it has "always" been that way. Albanians never ask each other "what religion are you?" Serbs and Greeks tried to divide the country to get the North and South, it didn't work.

Regarding Albanians being recent immigrants: it shows that Serb propaganda is working. The only demographic change was the mass killing of Albanians in 1878, 1912, 1918, (major Serb colonization in 1920's with land confiscation to give to Serbs,) Albanians struck agaisnt the recent settlers in 1944 (10K were forced out) and in 1945 some 45,000 Albanians died in revolt over being lumped in with Serbia (Tito lied, Albanians joined the Partizans, and he reneged when war was over) and 10's of thousands of Albanians were sent to Turkey.

Go here http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/kosovo/contents.htm

Albanians have been there since "time began," and DNA shows that Greeks and Albanians came at the same time sometime after agriculture began (7-8000 years ago) Google "Albanian DNA."

Serbs may have been a majority in 14th century just as Americans were a majority in US in 1900 here, by bringing hordes of people, but then many Serbs moved to Vojvodina and Albanians came down from the Kosovo mountains, grew in population, just as Serbs grew in their (went from 1 million in WWII to some 8 million now)

Kosovo was always poor, some 200,000 Kosovo Serbs went to Germany. No one cares about their "Jerusalem" that much to live there when they have better options.

"All we want is to reduce the Albanian population to a manageable level" — Zoran Andjelkovic, former Serbian governor of Kosovo

"The Albanians cannot be dispelled by means of gradual colonization alone...The only way and only means to cope with them is through the brute force of an organized state, in which we have always been superior to them" written in 1937 by Serb minister in "The Expulsion of the Albanians: Memorandum"

The took over the land, tried to assimilate the local population (didn't work, Arbereshe in Italy speak Albania even after 500 years) and they tried apartheid and expulsion. You can see what they really think of us, by looking their Radical Party's comments. Go ahead, live under them.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 8:46 AM

>> The shared history of WWII - other than the Jews, Serbs arguably suffered more than any other ethnic group (including in Kosovo where Albanians fought on the Nazi side and carried out ethnic cleansing).

once again, Serb lies. Tito fought while Chetniks were selling Jews out, and killing them, and fighting Tito too. Albanians did not join the "Nazis." A few 1000 illiterate peasant formed a group that lasted...8 months as all deserted. By the first week, 3500 were gone. Mutiny. It was called "military useless" a "fiasco." They did it after the Chetniks wanted a "pure serbia" and to expel the recent settlers. "Attrocity" or "getting your land back to feed your family," is up for debate.

Serbia is not exactly a "Jew heaven" as Stromfront Srbja will tell you. Albanians are surrounded by 300 million slavs and Orthodox who always wanted to throw them into the see and Serbia = Israel? Regarding the "Jerusalem": Those are myths, invented by Lazar's widow and the church. 14th century is a little too late to have a "Jerusalem," especially in a land that someone else claims. Albanians fought much more against Turks, as Gjegj Kastrioti http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skanderbeg will tell you. He won 13 battles against turks. Even Beat the sacker of Constantinople. And Serbs didn't change religion because those who are disowned or killed (as in Bosnia.) Albanians are Albanians, hatever religion. Serbs were great vassals, fighting against everyone who opposed the Sultan (Hungary or Albania) too. History is what it is.

Serbs had all Chetniks eventually cooperating with the Nazis, Nedic Govt and it was the first Judenfrei in Eu "thanks to local cooperation." Yes, Serbs were killed, and that's because the Croats got to them first. Chetniks did kill some 100k (Bosnian) Muslims though.

Albania saved it's Jews and 60 Jews were taken from Kosovo to Albania where they could get papers. Do not read sites on Balkan History, read books or scholarly papers.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 9:11 AM

nameless-fool: Do not read sites on Balkan History, read books or scholarly papers.

Dude, you yourself just cited `Wikipedia' to back up one of your claims.

Hmmm...come to think of it, our resident Pinocchio cites Wikipedia a lot, too.

If you had a name, what would it be? Something Irish, maybe?

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 9:30 AM

The wonderful James has a $100K a month contract from Serbia to make Albanians look like the Taleban.

I don't know about that, but I do know that NO ONE who has been to Kosovo could possibly believe such hysterical propaganda. (Plenty of people in Belgrade believe it.) This place looks more like California or Tel Aviv (if you look past the communist architecture) than anywhere within even three time zones of Afghanistan. There are more hijabs in Seattle than there are in Prishtina.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 10:48 AM

Geez, Edward. I come here on occasion because I've grown to greatly respect Michael's insight. Normally I don't follow blog comments because they're filled with people like you but Michael often responds to commenters and gives further insight.

You have like 10 comments here and, from what I can remember, all of them are smart-ass responses to try and show how smart you are and make other people look dumb. Here's a tip: you're not as important or as smart as you think you are. How about starting your own blog? You can be as condescending there as you like there. Or, at the least, leave the self-inflated snarkiness at the door and be civil. We come here for insight from Michael, not you.

Posted by: Roy Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 8:14 PM

Roy,

You're an idiot. :-)

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 8, 2008 8:38 PM

I think that the wars in Kosovo and Bosnia resulted in a more "Islamic" tint to their national outlook in large part because of population movements.

Country dwelling folk tend to be more religious and conservative the world over than their metropolitan cousins. When the Balkan wars broke out, intimidating the rural populkation off their land was a major part of the strategy and this cause large refugee (or IDP) flows into the larger towns and cities, changing the demographic make up of said urban centres and bringing to the decision making areas large constituencies of people who were more religious, more angry and more prone to cultural traditions like blood fued.

Meanwhile, those who were educated enough (ie. speak forewign languages, have connectiosn overseas) and had money, fled places like Bosnia and Kosovo, leading to a "brain drain" of the more open minded and tolerant. The net result is a more religious or conservative population in the power centres.

But I think this is due to conflict inspired populationdrift: the countryside coming to town, rather than Iranian or Saudi meddling.

Wars which result in large displacements of rural populations tends to have this effect everywhere.

Ask Luan Berisha what he thinks of "the village peoples" !!!

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 5:15 AM

Roy,

Firstly there's no 'Edward' here. So we have no idea who you're talking about.

Secondly.. You have like 1 comment here and, from what I can remember, it's a smart-ass responses to try and show how socially superior you are and make other people look like mouth breathers. Here's a tip: you're not as important or as elite as you think you are. How about starting your own blog? You can be as condescending there as you like there. Or, at the least, leave the self-inflated snarkiness at the door and be civil. We come here for insight from Michael, not you.

Lastly.. If having intelligent, logical and informed positions comes across as "smart-ass" by virtue of them being smart, then maybe the people offended should inform themselves better. What you're proposing is the 'smart' people dumb themselves down. Sounds like highschool to me.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 9:33 AM

Michael,

I guess we are not going to be able to agree even as to what a "practicing Muslim" is. You seem to think that anyone who describes themselve as a Muslim is practicing.

As to Muslim "fundamentalists" all being good, that is a misnomer as well. A a "Muslim fundamentalist" is, is a Muslim who believes in the basics, ie "fundaments" of Islam.

Being a "Muslims fundamentalist" does not make one an extremist any more than being a "Christian fundamentalist" makes you some right wing neo-con whack job.

It is clear that those Muslims who throw out part, or even all of their faith, are favoured by the Western media.

This leaves out 90% of the Islamic world that practices Islam, keeping their prayers, not drinking and eating halal who are not extremists.

This has, rightly in my opinion, created an impression on Muslims around the world that those that practice their faith are automatically considered extremists of one sort or another. As if driking or other such behavior is somehow proof that one is not an extremist.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 10:22 AM

Marc: Being a “Muslims fundamentalist” does not make one an extremist any more than being a “Christian fundamentalist” makes you some right wing neo-con whack job.

Correct. It just makes you a right-wing whack job minus the "neocon."

At least the Christian whackjobs aren't blowing up coffeeshops and setting off car bombs and sending armed men to take over my old Beirut neighborhood. They're a heck of a lot easier to live with.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 12:43 PM

Before I say anything, I would like to point out one interesting sentence from Dyadya Vanya:

"There aren't many saints in the Balkans if you look closely, it's all tribe vs. tribe. The best solution would be to kick the Albanians and the Serbs out and hand the place over to Greece."

Hello! How did that statement get this far without being addressed? http://youtube.com/watch?v=U0VuqEiQUs0

...it's sad how easily and pathetically your motivations can be summed up, Dyadya Vanya. Yes, "hand the place over" to the only saint in the Balkans.

Whereas Patrick, the wunderkid above who at 3-5 years of age could distinguish among the various hues and flavors of authoritarianism present in Spain vs France vs Italy (and of course among those of the various regions of Italy as well: Venice vs the rest of the country) vs Yugoslavia, has even more pearls:

"There probably was some oppression of ethnic groups, and in retrospect that seems like a very good idea."

What is shocking to me is that there is still freedom today reigning on some lucky spots on Earth, that there exists an amazing country such as the United States of America, while so many of its most educated citizens are so Ethically Autistic and wouldn't know a dick from a thumb in terms of freedom and political philosophy. Some even display weird unhinged allegiances to degenerate Balkan countries like Greece.

Michael,

To read your words on Kosovo swells my chest with joy: I am so glad that someone like you is finally pointing a fair spotlight to Kosovo.

I am disturbed by how willfully many Americans seem to buy Serbian/Greek propaganda. I feel vindicated by your treatment of Kosovars/Albanians. They don't deserve to be pawns in an international setup of bigger conflicts where the players seek a distorted mirror or a clown in this small nation that has been through so much already.

What parts of Albania did you visit? Tirana does indeed look like a grotesque amoeba of paint and concrete, something between Iraq (from what I have seen of Iraq from your pictures) and Mexico. It's an awful city, but somehow amazing in many ways. If you pass through it in transit, the mess and filth is all you can see, but its most genuine core is something that takes some time to explore (by fractal analogy, many of those decrepit communist buildings are also unexpectingly different on the inside).

Tirana is the only city of Albania that looks like that though. There are some amazing historical sites across the country I wish you had time/opportunity to visit.

If you get stranded in Tirana for some time, my offer still stands: my parents would be honored to host you in their apartment.

The country is of course deeply dysfunctional, and no one seems to have learned since communism what a market economy is or ought to be. Albania has been in limbo between anarchy and thuggoracy for almost two decades now. Albanians have serious problems and face dreadful challenges, no doubt about it, but being Muslim is not in their list of troubles. I'm glad you are setting the record straight with that respect.

Regards,

Kejda

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 12:50 PM

Thanks, Kejda.

I hopped over to Shkoder briefly on my way to Kosova from Montenegro. I didn't have time to stay very long, but I wanted to see at least something of Albania.

I would like to visit Tirana, but I don't know if I will be able to do so right now. If I can, I will contact you about your offer. Can you send me an email so I have your contact information? Many thanks.

michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 2:54 AM

Hello! How did that statement get this far without being addressed?

I didn't respond to Dyadya Vanya's statement "kick the Albanians and the Serbs out and hand the place over to Greece" because the idea was so absurd, I thought it was a joke.

Thanks for the link to the video (and the comments following it) medaura. It does explain some things..

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 3:44 AM

Shkoder

Oops. That would be Shkodra.

Sorry about the Serbian spelling. I bought my map of the region in Belgrade.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 2:48 PM

Actually Shkoder and Shkodra are both in Albanian and both correct: they are merely different inflections of the same noun, like "a chair" vs "the chair", applied to a city name.

I am sending you an email right now with the contact info.

Thanks

Kejda

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 2:59 PM

Mamoun Fandy

The images of the Muslims in Kosovo raising the US flag, coupled with the scene of the Christian Serbs burning the US flag on the day the United States announced its support for the independence of Kosovo was an amazing sight.

The Christian Serbs not only burned the flag, but they also tried to burn down the US embassy. On the other hand, the Muslim Albanians were demonstrating in the streets raising the flags of the "infidel" Americans.
This event does not please those who would like to simplify international politics, and reduce it into the US absolute hostility to the Muslims everywhere and at any time, and into the theory of the inevitable clash between all Muslims and the Christians in general. The fact is that international politics is governed by interests of countries and higher policies in which religion could be an effective factor, but not the only factor.

In international politics religion might be used as a means for propaganda, but it scarcely is one of its principal movers. Students of international relations know that behind the religious slogans lie worldly interests that in most cases are not as idealistic as its promoters claim. In the Balkan war in the second half of the nineties of the last century, Europe and the United States stood against the Serbs during the Bosnia crisis; at that time, Europe and the United States fought on behalf of the Muslims.
It is also naïve to imagine that a society that is mostly Christian, such as the United States and Europe, would stand by the Muslims 'out of the goodness of its heart." The fact is that the United States, as a country, together with its European allies used the Bosnia issue in particular, and Eastern Europe in general, to liquidate what was called the Soviet Union and its influence in the old continent.

Today, the US and European stance toward the Balkan Muslims is similar to their stance yesterday toward the Afghan mujahideen in their war against the same opponent in Asia, namely the Soviet Union. Today, the United States and Europe are on the side of the Albanians, but tomorrow they might or might not turn against them according to the interests of the United States and not of the Albanians.

There are some people who erase these details from history in order to present a picture of a world in which the Muslims and Christians are fighting each other. The Middle East in one of the pictures of its many conflicts, but what applies to the Middle East might not necessarily apply to all the regions of earth. Some people might think that the Crusades or even the Islamic conquest are the clearest pictures of religious conflict.

This is true, but we must not forget that one of the most important differences between the Crusades and the Islamic conquests on the one hand, and today's wars on the other hand is that today's world of countries is different from the world of the giant entities (the empires) when these battles took place. Moreover, the Peace of Westphalia [the Treaty of Osnabruck and the Treaty of Munster] in 1648, which put an end to the two great empires, the Roman Empire and the French Empire and their allies, was the deciding event between the emergence of the modern states and the old empires with their distinctive characteristics. International relations, as we know them today, are the world of post-Westphalia and not of pre-Westphalia.

Therefore, in the light of the above, it is possible to expect in the foreseeable future a scene similar to this in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, i.e. to see the Palestinians raising the US flag, while the Israelis are burning it? Naturally, such a scene is not expected soon; however, the idea that it will never happen, and it cannot happen at anytime or anywhere, as some people say, is some kind of excessive pessimism, and allowing the world of feelings and emotions overwhelm the world of interest and logic that controls the relations between countries. A moment might come in which the US and Israeli interests contradict each other in a way that serves the interests of the Palestinians.

This is quite possible in international relations. In fact, one of the reasons of the absence of any contradiction between the US and the Israeli interests is the insistence of the Arabs for along time on distancing themselves from the United States on the assumption that it is an absolute, continuous and permanent enemy regardless of Israel's insistence at the same time on getting closer to this superpower.

It is logical that the interests of the United States and of the Arab countries should be closer together, because the natural, manpower, energy, and gas resources of the Arab countries are hundreds of times larger than those of a small country, such as Israel with its small population, resources, and markets. However, contrary to what the Arabs do, Israel, which announces that it is an ally and a friend of the United States, makes the US Government and people completely convinced that Israel is their only ally in the region, and that the interests of Israel are their interests, and hence any danger that threatens Israel is a danger that threatens the United States.

Most of the Arab talk about the United States is a talk of hatred. Egypt might be the clearest example here. In Egypt there is a campaign of hatred against the United States that is led by large sectors of the Egyptian society. If we read in an impartial way the Egyptian scene in this special case (the US-Egyptian relations at both the government and popular levels), the situation would look strange. To begin with, there are no common borders to make the conflict necessary, and there are no previous battles between Egypt and the United States. Egypt is the second largest receiver of US aid. Egypt regularly conducts joint military exercises with the United States. In the Middle East, the second largest US embassy after the one in Iraq is in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, a fact that reflects the volume of the interests between the two countries. If we have all these positive indicators and all this cooperation between the two countries, from where has the hatred come? The ready answer is that the Egyptians, in their sympathy for the Iraqis and Palestinians, have hated the United States "en passant!"

Naturally, hostility to a superpower the size of the United States satisfies the pride on the basis of the principle, "If you are to steal something, steal a camel, and if you are to love someone, love a beauty queen." Therefore, if you are to be hostile to someone, be hostile to the United States, because some people want a great enemy that is worthy of their status! It is not worthy to be hostile, for instance, to Nicaragua, or the small domestic opponents, because playing with the children belittles the status of these people. As the proverb says, "Some like to be high up, even if this is achieved through sitting on a stake."

What applies to Egypt applies to many Arab countries. We want to curse the United States every day, but the United States has to ally itself submissively with our interests.

The US relations with Iraq during the eighties of the last century were indicating that the United States would be on the side of Iraq if the latter were to get entangled in any conflict. Indeed this was the US stance in the Iraq-Iran war, which continued for eight years. The US relations with Iraq were much stronger than the US relations with Kuwait, because Iraq was a bigger and richer country than Kuwait. However, when Saddam Hussein crossed the redlines of the US interests in the region through his invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the US calculations changed completely to the extent of addressing a strong US military strike against yesterday's ally, a strike that evicted him from the Kuwaiti territories, and 13 years later it addressed another strike that evicted him from the entire world.

If the United States were dealing with the other countries on the basis that they are permanent allies, or permanent enemies, it would have supported Saddam's invasion of Kuwait on the basis that he was its ally. This is particularly true as there was no strong Kuwaiti "lobby" at that time to exert pressure on the US Government. However, the United States stood by Kuwait against Iraq and Saddam, and we saw a scene similar to the one we see in Kosovo and Serbia today. The Kuwaitis raised the US flag, while the Iraqis burned it.

The US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans might seem inexplicable, as there are no understandable links between them. However, anyone who looks into the situation from a strategic viewpoint will see that the US wars and alliances during this transitional period of the international order from a bi-polar system to a mono-polar system are wars that aim at gathering and cleaning up the remnants of the cold war. Most certainly, these are calculations into which religion does not come.

Posted by: reality222 Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 4:32 PM

Reality222 is an astute observer of American foreign policy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 5:20 PM

MJT: Reality222 is an astute observer of American foreign policy.

Not as astute as Patrick when he was four years old, though.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 6:20 PM

Michael,

There are some that would contend that "Christian nutjobs" have been killing people all over world recently.

Heck, even George W says he speaks to God and God tells him what to do. He is an end of timer, seems he is doing his best to kick it all off.

As for me, I hate extremists of any stripe, whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish and reject them all. I will not take one over the other as you suggest you would.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 8:18 AM

As a former punk rocker I'd say the Subhumans song sums it up best. It explains why I reject ALL extremists. None are better than the rest, they all end up at the same place:

Religious Wars

Do you believe in the afterlife
Termination with a rusty knife
Religious wars no reason why
What a glorious way to die

In the name of God they left you to die
Religious wars there's no reason why
They left you to die

The ultimate excuse is here
Die for a cause, religion is fear
Fear of the threat of something unreal
Abdicate the way you really feel

In the darkness of death
There's no light in your eyes
A cross in your grave
Your time has arrived

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 8:22 AM

I didn't respond to Dyadya Vanya's statement “kick the Albanians and the Serbs out and hand the place over to Greece” because the idea was so absurd, I thought it was a joke.

Yeah, it was a joke, of course it should really all be Italian. But that video is just sad. Greece has fallen about as far as a civilization can.

Maybe I am being too harsh on the Albanian role in WWII, if so than sorry, my real point wasn't so much to blame Albanians but to explain what I think is a fairly widely held point of view in Israel, even if it's completely wrong.

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 12:24 PM
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