The Irrepressible Rothbard
Essays of Murray N. Rothbard
Edited by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
HANDS OFF THE SERBS!
I used to think that the ultra-left, not the Social Democrats
or the Commies, but the "independent-radical" left, a floating melange
of left Trotskyites, pacifists, and left-anarchists, while hopeless
and evil on "domestic" questions, were at least sound and consistent
in opposing American war and intervention abroad. (I also used to
think they were good on free speech, but that's all gone
with the rise of the Hate Crime and Sexual Harassment movements.)
After all, they proudly called themselves. "the anti-war movement."
But there's no "anti-war left" left anymore. So either they've changed
radically without even realizing it, or I was naive and they were
Commies all along. (I suspect the latter, otherwise how could a
"dedicated anti-war" movement become pro-war so darned quickly,
that is as soon as the Cold War against Communism was over?)
It started with the Gulf War, when lifelong anti-war warriors,
people like the Red troubadour Pete Seeger and the Reverend William
Sloane Coffin, suddenly whooped it up for war. Even Noam Chomsky,
left-anarchist and always a gutsy battler against American war,
supported the Gulf War. The argument given by these people was that
this was the holy "United Nations" conducting the battle and not
really the United States. In short, that the cause of a war-making
world government is more important to them than anti-war principles.
Showing that these people were not really against imperialism or
foreign military intervention (they were always, of course, in favor
of foreign economic intervention such as foreign aid), but
in favor of world government imperialism, and war-mongering.
Well, I like to say that everyone is entitled to one deviation.
Maybe it was an aberration. Maybe the full moon was out.
But there are no excuses left anymore. The entire "anti-war left"
has now joined the rest of the rotters on the Respectable Spectrum:
liberals, Establishment centrists, Official Conservatives, neoconservatives,
and virtually everyone else, in hysterical calls for intervention
against the Serbs in Bosnia. This time, it's not because
the United Nations is behind the war; on the contrary, the UN is
getting as much flak as the U.S. from this "international community"
of war-mongers. Why have they "sat it out," they charge, in the
face of "Serbian aggression" and expansionism against the poor Bosnian
As usual, there are disagreements about the extent of military
intervention demanded; but as usual, the "moderates" are either
liars or self-deluders, since timid and moderate first steps will
obviously not work, and then the precedent being set and intervention
begun, the pressure will become irresistible for ever more accelerated
steps, until the maximum pain is inflicted. No-fly zones, air strikes
against artillery, all will fail; and now, the war crowd is beginning
to call, not yet for bombing Belgrade the only Serbs
they can find and target but for bombing the "bridges" near
Belgrade where supplies are being sent to the Serbs in Bosnia. Bombing
Belgrade itself will follow, and when that won't work, which it
won't, the Unthinkable will be voiced: nuking Belgrade, using "clean"
nukes of course to avoid the fallout's harming other peoples. And
when that doesn't work, American ground troops under
a UN cover, of course, with half a dozen Brits, Canadians, and Indians
thrown in will be next.
And one of the reasons none of these measures will work, is because
the Serbs are a magnificently gutsy people, a "primitive" folk who
don't give a tinker's damn for "world opinion" the "respect of the
international community," and all the rest of the pretentious cant
that so impresses readers of the New York Times. What do
the Serbs want? It's very clear what they want, and there is no
need for the sort of eternal kvetching that Freud indulged
in about "what do women want?" The Serbs want all the Serbs in former
Yugoslavia to be part of a new Greater Serbia being carved out of
the ethnic mess in the Balkans. They want a Serb nation, and they
don't give a rap for any of the considerations that so intensely
motivate Establishment World Opinion, and God bless them for that.
World Opinion, in turn, doesn't give a rap for a Serb nation. But
why should World Opinion hold sway anywhere?
Before dealing with the Serbs in depth, let us focus a bit more
on the pro-war anti-war movement people whom Harry Elmer Barnes
bitterly used to call "the pro-war pacifists." This gang has just
written an open letter to the UN, President Clinton, and the U.S.
Congress (published in In These Times, April 19-May 2). Of
course, they are "moderate"; no call, yet for nuking Belgrade. Also,
there are the usual Marxoid obeisances to the "democratic opposition
in Serbia," and "opposition" generally confined to Belgrade, and
virtually non-existent on the Bosnian front. What they want is the
supposedly "even handed" approach of lifting the arms embargo on
the Bosnians, so that the Bosnian Muslim government can "defend
itself." Sounds fine and balanced on the surface, except that these
and similar groups egregiously omit the fact that the UN, prodded
by the U.S., has been cruelly imposing an embargo, not just on arms,
but on everything else, on the Serbs for many months. I would
be all in favor of lifting our arms embargo on the Bosnians provided
that all international sanctions against the Serbs were lifted
as well. But, of course, our pro-war anti-warriors say not a peep
about this. Instead, they demand: "vigorous prosecution of war criminals"
(who? where? and who's going to do all this, and who will kidnap
these "criminals," and how will they get a fair trial and on precisely
what ex post facto charges?); and "air lifting humanitarian
aid, under military protection, to all civilians in need." (You
mean like dropping those food mounds?) Furthermore, in addition
to denouncing "aggressive Serb expansionism" these bloodthirsty
"anti-war" warriors also have the nerve to demand that the U.S.BUN
insist that "the Croats cease their aggression in Bosnia." (What
aggression? The Croats have only occupied Croatian areas in Bosnia,
notably Herzegovina in the southern part of that province.) This
attack on the Croats shows what these ex-anti-warriors are up to:
shilling for the Bosnian Muslim government, which presumes to speak
for a non-entity called the "Bosnian nation" and its alleged "territorial
integrity," a "nation" that sprang into existence only a few short
Let us emphasize: there is not, and never was, anything called
a "Bosnian nation." There was and is a Serbian nation, a Croat nation,
and a Slovene nation, each with identifiable longtime national,
cultural, and ethno-religious characteristics. There is no more
a "Bosnian nation" than there is a "nation" of North Dakota. Bosnia
is simply a geographical entity, in which have lived three very
different, clashing, and mutually antagonistic nations: the Serbs,
the Croats, and the "Bosnian" Muslims. These are three nations slugging
it out in one small territory.
But first let us name these traitorous ex-anti-warriors, now shilling
for global military intervention on behalf of the Muslim government.
The signatories include: Israeli Hegelian political theorist Shlomo
"vineri; Noam Chomsky; Christopher Hitchens; CUNY shrink Robert
Jay Lifton; Michael Lerner, editor of the "pro-peace" Tikkun;
Michael Foot, dotty guru of the left-wing of the British Labor Party;
Bogdan Denitch, of CUNY and long-time socialist; Chilean pest Ariel
Dorfman; Berkeley sociologist Todd Gitlin, participant-historian
of the old New Left; Joanne Landy, of the "Campaign for Peace (sic)
and Democracy," former leader of the Draperite "Third Camp" wing
of international Trotskyism; Phyllis Jacobson, of New Politics
magazine, another spinoff magazine of "independent Marxist-Leninists";
Peter Weiss, long-time financier of leftist causes in New York;
and Columbia University's lionized moderate Palestinian Arab and
literary deconstructionist, Edward Said.
May they all wind up in Srebrencia to greet the Serbs as they come
But what about us at Triple R? Haven't we, too, flip-flopped
in the opposite direction? Aren't we former anti-Serbs now born
again as pro-Serbs?
Not quite. To recall those dear dead days of only a few months
ago: the United States, along with the UN, and all Received Opinion,
including leftists/liberals/Centrists/Official Conservatives/and
neocons, were all fanatically pro-Serb, calling for the old Wilsonian-Rooseveltian
"guarantee of the territorial integrity of 'Yugoslavia,'" and therefore
bitterly hostile to all national secessionist movements, including
the Croats and Slovenes. The Croats, in particular, were constantly
smeared by Received Opinion as being "Nazis."
We at Triple R, on the other hand, always Out of Step with
Received Opinion, recognized from way back that "Yugoslavia" is
not, and never has been, a nation, that it was born of the rotten
Victor's Peace imposed by the Entente Powers (redubbed the "Allies"
Britain, France, and the U.S.) at Versailles, and in other dictated
settlements after World War I. Yugoslavia was a geographical expression
which served only as a mask for Serbian imperialism and dictatorship
over the other peoples incarcerated into that expression: notably
the Croats and the Slovenes.
For the problem with the Serbs was, and still is, that while yearning
for the perfectly acceptable ideal of a Greater Serbia, that they
have not been exactly reticent or scrupulous in avoiding expansion
of the Serbs' unwelcome embrace to the Croats, etc. in the Balkans.
So we at Triple R were always, and still are, staunchly
opposed to "Yugoslavia" or any of its pomp and works.
But now that Yugoslavia has fallen apart, and has collapsed into
its constituent peoples and nationalities, the situation is very
different. The Serbs seem to have abandoned the goal of a Greater
Yugoslavia, and have moderated their demands into the perfectly
reasonable one of a Greater Serbia. And the guerrilla warfare on
the ground has, more or less, sorted it all out, as it always does:
with each nationality getting more or less its own ethnic areas.
Much of Croatia in the hands of Serbian guerrillas and incorporated
into the Republic of Krajina is ethnically Serb; the Slovenes have
ethnic Slovenia, etc.
Bosnia, with its ethno-religious mixture of villages and population,
is particularly difficult to sort out, but even Bosnia now enjoys
rough ethno-religious justice with the Croats running the Croatian
areas of Herzegovina, the Serbs running their areas and so on. The
Bosnian Muslims have less territory than the others because most
of the Muslims are concentrated in the large Bosnian cities, such
And so rough ethnic justice has come to Bosnia, and it will sort
itself out provided that the blankety-blank U.S.BUN combo keeps
its hands off. If the Bosnian Muslims get a bit less than their
quota, so what? The main problem now in former Yugoslavia is not
the Serbs but the pretensions of the Bosnian Muslim government to
run and dominate all of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is the Muslims
and their shills in "world opinion" who keep bleating about the
"territorial integrity" of this non-existent nation, an "integrity"
that didn't even exist before 1991. It is the Muslims and their
shills who refuse to agree to the "cantonization" of Bosnia, a process
that that area sorely needs. The Vance-Owen plan was only a feeble
step in that direction, for it insisted on preserving the powers
of a central Bosnian (Muslim) government. Instead, the only hope
of genuine peace and justice is to destroy "Bosnia" and to allow
this non-country to be divided completely into its constituent parts.
What is really incomprehensible is the intensity of the flip-flop
on the Serbs from the serried ranks of Received Opinion. The Serbs...are
Serbs, and always have been, with their vices and virtues. The Serbs
are a constant factor; they want a Greater Serbia, as much as they
can get, but are willing in the end to settle for Serb lands. And
so are all the other nationality groups in the area. But what about
the dread term "ethnic cleansing," repeated like a mantra in every
news item in the West for months? Well, in the first place, the
Serbs didn't say "ethnic cleansing"; they used some Serbo-Croat
phrase that doesn't sound so bad. Serbs have recently claimed mistranslation;
that what they really meant is "ethnic transfer." And it makes sense:
the Serbs don't want to exterminate clashing peoples; they just
want them out of predominantly Serb areas, out of Greater
Serbia. And let us not forget that it has been the sainted Bosnian
Muslim troops who have done their darndest to prevent UN workers
from getting Muslim civilians out of Srebrencia and other Muslim
towns; they want the Muslim civilians staying there in mortal danger,
to keep world pressure on for these towns to become part of Muslim
Bosnia. All these clashing groups perform ethnic transfer
cleansing when they can get away with it.
And what about the mass rapes, which have brought left feminists
screaming into the kill-the-Serbs camp? Well, I don't want to disillusion
any tender souls, but almost all victorious troops through history,
commit systemic rapin' and lootin' of the vanquished. It's called
the "spoils of war," and will continue to exist, despite received
opinion, so long as war exists. Trying to expand the war, as the
Establishment is doing, will only prolong and expand the looting
and raping. And yes, it hasn't only been the Serbs who have committed
these crimes, believe me; all the groups do it and it's just that
the Serbs have been better fighters in this civil war and so have
had more occasion to indulge in this time-honored practice.
American meddling is made even more futile by the fact that it
is impossible for Americans to understand, not only these fierce
rivalries, but the tremendous sense of history they all possess.
How can Americans, who have no historical memory whatever and scarcely
remember when Reagan was president, possibly understand these peoples
of the Balkans, to whom the great fifteenth-century battle against
the invading Turks is as real, nay more real, than yesterday's
dinner? To the Serbs and the Croats, the Bosnian Muslims are not
the "gentle people" lionized in Western propaganda. The Bosnian
Muslims are not only still reviled as traitors selling out to the
hated Turks, but in addition, the very quality of their devotion
to Islam is in question. For the Bosnian Muslims were once the hated
Bogomil heretics, a Manichaean heresy with horrifying implications,
and there is much evidence that the Muslims still practice their
Bogomil rites in secret, engraving its symbols on their tombstones.
The Bogomils were what Ayn Rand followers wrongly believe all Christians
to be: believers that the world of matter and the flesh are pure
evil created by Satan, whereas the spirit is good and created by
God. As for the Nazi question, the Serbs tried to be as much "pro-Nazi"
as the Croats (a minority) but weren't trusted by the Germans, whereas
the "gentle" Bosnian Muslims enlisted in proportionately far greater
numbers in the Waffen SS than did the Croats or Serbs. So let's
stop romanticizing the Bosnian Muslims. Let them take their chance
on their own.
So what to do about Bosnia? What to do about the Serbs? The answer,
as repugnant as it is to this meddling age, is to stay the Hell
out. Let the peoples of Bosnia and the Balkans slug it out and sort
U.S. Out of Bosnia and the Balkans, hands off the Serbs, and let
these people sort it out among themselves. If any of our host of
desk-bound warriors, from Abe Rosenthal to Mrs. Thatcher to Christopher
Hitchens to Noam Chomsky, want to fight the Serbs, let them parachute
into Krajina or Srebrencia and slug it out, mano a mano. Frankly,
in any kind of a fair fight, my nickel is on the Serbs. Every time.
And, by the way, if you were caught in an ambush, wouldn't you love
to have a few Serbs on your side?