After three weeks of bombing the likes of which Europe has not seen in half a century, on one side we see wounds - horrible wounds - but no signs of a split. That is the Serbian side. On the other side, there are no wounds but the schisms are deeper than the San Andreas fault which threatens to destroy San Francisco.
The Americans don't care about dead Serbs, and they aren't overly concerned about the cost of war. What is giving them grief, as can be seen from the ever increasing number of articles by their best media commentators, is the search for an answer to the question: where did Clinton go wrong in calculating that 600 planes would force the Serbs to heel and bring a solution to Kosovo? There are two sources from which the Serbs are getting the strength they need to survive the bombs, to suppress fear, to remain collected and sane even though they know they are waging war with the masters of the planet. But before I say what those sources of strength are, let me first indicate what they are not. Our genetic makeup is not a source of our strength, because we are not Ancient Slavs nor Ancient Serbs, who were in fact much smarter and braver than we are. It is not the belief that Slobo is the incarnation of King Lazar. Objectively, he still hasn't become that. And a source of our strength, despite the fact that this is widely touted in our domestic propaganda, is not the fact that the Serbs are in conflict with the New World Order. I am not convinced that a single Serbian farmer would voluntarily sacrifice his son to save the planet from American domination. It's true that we frequently suffer from delusions of our own importance, but that delusion would be too great even for us.
The strength to stand in opposition to practically the entire world - because we haven't, a this point, really seen any benefit from the words of the Russians, the Chinese and the Byelorussians - has its origin in the collective Serbian feeling of injustice to which the world has subjected this nation not very long ago. It stems from the fact that this same world and almost all of the same current world leaders coldly, almost without any reaction whatsoever, watched the cataclysm of 300,000 Serbs withdrawing in front of the Croatians, the new "Prussians" of the Balkans. There was no defense for the weak, none for the three hundred elderly who were slaughtered (according to Croatian sources) in the months after the so-called "battle" for Krajina was brought to an end. The permission which the world gave to Tudjman, to evict the Orthodox Christians from his Croatania, regardless of the image of the "big bad Serbs" the world had created, turned the Serbian public opinion against the West. This bombing is finishing off the remnants of "Western" civilization within this nation.
This is the first source of our mental strength: bitterness because of the world's lack of objectivity. The second source, equally important, is the dominant Serbian belief that we are, despite being labeled the aggressors, in fact the victims in all conflicts which arose as a result of the breakup of ex-Yugoslavia. This is especially pertinent to the Kosovo invasion and the fact that for half a century, no one in the world or even in the government of the former Yugoslavia, uttered a word about the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo. This insensitivity of other nations toward the Serbian national question brought down - with a resounding crash - the country in which we all lived. At the same time, a score of unsettled accounts was opened up between the Serbs and the Albanians. What is happening now between these two nations, regardless of what historians, sociologists and politicians think or don't think, is an eruption of a festering tissue, the release of the decades long restraint, of false peace and dishonest parallel lives.
The second source of the Serb's strength, therefore, is in the consciousness that the victim has been portrayed as the aggressor. It is a result, of course, of a period of 25 years when even in Serbia herself the belief existed that Serbs no longer had any business in Kosovo, overwhelmed as they were numerically by the Albanians and pressured to leave Kosovo by them, sometimes in sophisticated ways, sometimes at the point of a knife.
Our nation, the majority of which is convinced of the West's lack of objectivity and which has been declared by the West to be "undesirable" in Kosovo, could do nothing when faced with the "take it or leave it" ultimatum of the Rambouillet paper except to choose the role of the conscious victim. Although in general I disagree with Milosevic, he truly recognized the majority opinion in Serbia and was convinced that the nation was prepared to pay its dues.
The bill is horrendous. I don't know if anything in Serbia has not been destroyed by general Clark. But the NATO forces have made no gains to their credit. Slobo will not sign Rambouillet; there is no other Serb who would sign it, especially now. They say that 500,000 Albanians are missing from Kosovo. Why hide it? Serbian public opinion takes this fact as payment for damages caused. The Yugoslav Army has regained its self-confidence; generals who for two decades have been waiting for a commander in chief have now found him and they are not hiding their joy. The obstinacy of the Serbs, which historically has been maintained "at all costs," seems illogical to the entire world.
In essence, the world is right. When it is all over, the Serbs will find themselves in a destroyed country, in a world where the dollar, the Deutschmark, Clinton and NATO will continue to rule. I still have a hard time imagining the Russian ruble as the leading world currency. But from the Serbian perspective, no one here is disputing that the world is stronger or arguing that it is powerless to level Sumadija. We are dealing with a different type of competition: the world cannot inflict enough evil on a nation the majority of which believes that it is bearing this evil for a just cause and which has resigned itself to be a victim.
Tonight Clark has asked for 300 additional planes. Added to the 600 he already has, that's almost a thousand weapons of war. After he has used them and exhausted the target list, he will realize that he is back where he started: no one here will sign the Rambouillet [Agreement]. Some won't sign because they know what it would mean; others won't sign out of fear, still others out of shame. Perhaps there will be no one left to sign at all. The options open to general Clark will therefore be quite limited: total war involving ground troops and risk. And if they make it to Belgrade, will they then find there anyone willing to affix a signature to anything? The deployment of troops in Kosovo, with the risk of creating a protectorate with which the Americans themselves would not know what to do? The arming of the KLA and its return to Kosovo? As we have seen, they don't have a chance in a conflict with the regular army. To risk regional war or a world war? I'm not certain in their readiness to do this.
What is left? If Clinton has not escalated this into a personal war with Slobo; if NATO has not interpreted the Serb resistance to bombs as a personal affront and a threat to its integrity; if half a million Albanians refugees, according to foreign sources, elect Serbia as their homeland; if the Russians stop looking at Kosovo as a topic suitable for internal political duels between Yeltsin and the Duma; the world must tear up the Rambouillet paper and sit at the table with the Serbs to make a new agreement. That is where all options come into play, from the partition of Kosovo to its return under the government of Serbia.
Bombing without end will never bring the Serbs to heel. Since this is not the Second World War, the Americans cannot insist on something which resembles unconditional surrender. Serbs are not inclined to go for this. Nor can Washington expect to create a protectorate for 10 million people in Belgrade to add to their collection of three protectorates in the Balkans: Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia. Aware of the scale of American ignorance regarding the Balkans, Slobo, the Serbs and the Albanians, I expect a further horrible ten days in Serbia. Someone will give in, as the old folks say. But the price which we are being forced to pay for not admitting that NATO is great and that it has a thousand planes, for not allowing Kosovo to become a foreign protectorate for three years, when it will vote to become independent, that price is the fire into which Serbia has willingly cast itself.
I would like it if we were not in a situation to be examining our capacities for endurance and victimization. But I have no choice either!