Civilization’s Fragility IV – Whither Serbia, now that Slobodan Milosevic has died?

Note from November 2007: This was originally posted on a blog of mine that was hosted on Blogger. I’ve since imported that blog over here to C Good’s Things on WordPress.

Gareth Harding, a UPI correspondent, has an excellent article titled “Analysis: Will Serbia die with Milosevic?”, dated March 14, 2006, at

There’s actually not a lot in the article that is fluff. But here are the parts I found the most meaningful & concise:

The fates of Kosovo and Milosevic are intricately entwined. In June 1989, the communist boss addressed hundreds of thousands of people on the plains of Kosovo Polje to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, a defeat that ushered in five centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule in the Balkans. Milosevic, who never missed an opportunity to wrap himself in the Serb flag, warned of the battles they were likely to face. “They are not armed battles, though such things should not be excluded yet.”

A decade of bloodshed followed in which the tyrant dubbed the “Butcher of the Balkans” sent Serb troops and paramilitaries to subdue Slovenes, Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians. Milosevic lost every one of the wars he wars he started and two-thirds of the territory he once controlled in the process.


Milosevic used hysterical nationalism to grab and cling onto power, saw extreme violence as an extension of politics and brought ethnic cleansing and concentration camps back to a continent that thought it had escaped such barbarities half a century earlier. The European Union, founded to put an end to war in Europe, on the other hand is reluctant to use violence to project its power and views the nation state as “so 19th Century.”

It is clear which vision ultimately triumphed. Over the weekend, foreign ministers said that despite the current enlargement fatigue in the bloc, “the EU confirms that the future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union.” What remains of Serbia will, probably within the next decade, join the Union along with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and an independent Montenegro and Kosovo. Many of the same countries will also join NATO, which only seven years ago was dropping bombs on Belgrade.

By trying to bind together Yugoslavia’s republics into one state under Belgrade’s rule, Milosevic and his allies ended up creating five countries, with another two likely to see the light of day soon. “Had we had a different leader we might have seen a united Yugoslavia enter the European Union in 2004,” says Nicholas Whyte, director of the International Crisis Group’s Europe program. “Instead what we witnessed was 15 years of conflict in the Balkans.”

Whether looked at politically or militarily, Milosevic — and the policies he espoused – was an abject failure. The only thing he succeeded in was causing destruction on a scale not seen in Europe since the Nazis. An op-ed in Slovene daily Dnevnik Monday perhaps best sums up the banality of the former president’s demise: “The man who dreamed of a Greater Serbia met his death in a cell no larger than 15 square meters.”

What was once Yugoslavia is now divided up into Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia, with Kosovo & Montenegro also likely to leave Serbia and become their own countries if separatists can muster 55% percent of the vote in upcoming national referendums.

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