My Political Journey Part 2: The Implosion of Yugoslavia and Bush's New World Order
The New World Order, Rotating Communists in Europe, The First Gulf War, a Diaspora Community Mobilizes For War, the Wars in the ex-Yugoslavia
Madrid December 2021
What’s it like when the most important political goal of your life has been achieved when you are young?
This is the question that I continue to ask myself and that I view all developments through as I cruise through middle age. Croatia won its independence in 1991, and then found itself whole in 1998. The “900 Year Dream” of my people having their own state, not ruled by anyone else, came to pass. This happened in my teens and young adulthood, so all the rites of passage are intimately bound to this conflict. It was the greatest time of my life, the scariest time of my life, the most memorable and real time of my life. It was also the most important time of my life politically. Nothing since can compare to it or dares to.
This conflict will also dominate this entry, but first we have to step back and take a look at what was happening in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
The first chink in the armour of the new global liberal democratic paradigm was visible immediately; almost all the new leaders of the former Eastern Bloc were communists themselves who overnight become instant democrats. “Okay”, one thought to himself, content that a period of transition had to happen in which multiparty democracy will effect a Lustration at some point soon, removing these communist fossils and criminals from public life.
Joke was on us, as these communists, able to sense the direction that the wind was blowing, simply repurposed their centres of power to maintain control in this new democratic era. Some became nationalists overnight, others stayed in now socialist/once communist parties, still others joined parties in between those two poles. Police chiefs largely remained in place, as did spymasters. Other than Romania, which saw a small amount of bloodletting between Ceausescu diehards and the new team, these transitions were seamless. The notion that exiled figures in the diaspora would return home conquering heroes and be elevated to power, or that those imprisoned for decades would ‘do a Mandela’ almost never happened.
Why was the West, and in particular, the USA, allowing these ‘commie butchers’ to maintain power? In hindsight, it’s rather obvious that stability was prized for fear of stoking conflicts in these countries…..but more importantly, the USA quickly learned that these reconstructed communists made for great servants; where once The Boss resided in the Kremlin, the new one resides in the White House. How hard would it be to transfer allegiances?
The answer: not hard at all, for almost all of them.
Why would the West back nationalists in these countries when they had a mind of their own as to how their state should pursue their own interests, when instead it could simply re-purpose the willing agents of its former superpower rival?
Those with minds of their own, like Georgian nationalist Zviad Gamsakhurdia, were troublesome and easily discarded. (Gamsakhurdia sought a Georgia free from both Russian and American influence, reminiscent of Sinn Fein (Ourselves, Alone), or the famous line from the Father of Croatian Nationalism Ante Starcevic, “Croatia needs only God and the Croats”. Wonderful ideals, but it’s tough for small nations in a globalized and modern world). Remember this part for later in this entry.
American Flex and Russian Weakness
Many of us couldn’t believe our luck with just how impotent post-Soviet Russia appeared. Their power projection, once in touching distance of Frankfurt, was reduced to small-scale conflicts in places like Abkhazia or Transnistria in Moldova. A superpower, greatly humbled, collapsing in on itself politically and economically.
On the other hand were the Americans; victorious, self-confident and assured. President Bush declared that a ‘New World Order’ had come onto the stage and wasted no time in making an example of Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein as what would happen to those that challenged this order.
The Vietnam War was described by many as the first televized war, as Americans would gather for dinner in their homes and watch Walter Cronkite and other anchors present on-the-ground dispatches from reporters in the on the front lines against Vietcong or NVA. These unvarnished scenes of brutality and terror did a lot to turn public opinion against the conflict.
The First Gulf War was the First Cable TV War in that coverage was 24 hours per day, each day. CNN became an institution thanks to this conflict. Daily press conferences with General “Stormin’” Norman Schwarzkopf showed us ‘precision’ strikes, as teams of journalists scoured the Iraqi and Kuwaiti countryside for stories, in competition with one another, as others hunkered down near hotels while reporting from the other side, American bombs and missiles coming in and obliterating the scenery. This constant TV barrage led French philosopher Jean Baudrillard to provocatively declare that “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”.
Saddam Hussein gave the USA an easy causus belli by invading and annexing Kuwait, thus not only violating the sovereignty of an independent kingdom, but also tipping the balance in the Middle East. Iraq claimed that the Kuwaitis were engaged in ‘slant drilling’, in that they were drilling for oil under Iraqi soil, with the drills being located on Kuwaiti soil. There is also the claim that Hussein believed he had been given a green light by American diplomat April Glaspie to invade Kuwait, or at least a yellow light.
What we did learn is that the USA was able to mobilize overwhelming force (Powell Doctrine) and send it half way around the world. We also learned how quickly the USA could pulverize and neutralize a rather large army. The US Armed Forces were one fuck of a machine!
It took us some more time, though, to learn that April Glaspie may have tricked Hussein into invading Kuwait to provide that causus belli, and that the Kuwaiti girl crying on Capitol Hill during testimony about Iraqi ‘crimes’ in Kuwait (such as killing babies in incubators) was pure propaganda, created by a PR firm to boost public support for the war. It took people even more time to learn that the USA, after urging the Shi’a of the south of Iraq to rebel, were abandoned and left to slaughter by Saddam Hussein’s returning forces.
The Collapse of Yugoslavia
Imagine being a teen with pockets full of cash from mom and dad and being told to go out and party to help save your people and free your country that is under attack?
That was my life for a few years in the early 90s.