michael.benson on Wed, 5 May 1999 19:04:01 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Igor Korsic on Academics Against

     [orig not to nettime]

Like a lot of people in this corner of the planet, including myself, 
Igor Korsic reacted with a kind of pained annoyance at the recent 
signed by a heavyweight cast of dome-heads who should probably (but 
not certainly!) know better than to speak before doing the requisite 
research -- not to mention use some of that grey matter 
which they trade in so successfully. As Korsic, a professor at 
Ljubljana University, put it to me, "mostly people, not seldom 
academics, just throw their undigested and mixed up feelings about 
issues at each other. They are usually obsessed with their good 
intentions and the things they are allergic to. Consequently they 
seldom have any knowledge of, sometimes even no interest in, the 
issues they are supposedly arguing about."  

Chomsky in particular has been, I think, quite effectively countered 
TO EVENTS IN KOSOVO", which was included in Ivo Scoric's "ivogram 
050299: democracy, action, either/or" (nettime, Mon, 3 May 1999 
03:39:54 +0100; it must be at their website by now). But I think 
Professor Korsic's point by point rebuttal of Chomsky, Said, etc and 
their "ACADEMICS AGAINST..." text is well worth reading. It's 
attached below. [I'm not adding the subject manifesto as it's been in 
heavy circulation and is easy to find.]

Michael Benson

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Wed, 28 Apr 1999 12:02:18 +0200
From:          Igor Korsic <Igor.Korsic@guest.arnes.si>
Subject:       Kosovo
To:            michael.benson@pristop.si




by Igor Korsic

"We reject these false dilemmas:

- Support NATO intervention or support the reactionary policy of the
Serbian regime in Kosovo?" 

*This dilemma is indeed false. NATO may not be the best 
organisation on the world, western capitalism is surely far from 
ideal solution for all the problems of humanity, and international 
politics do not imply justice for everybody. But I would support the 
devil himself (as Churchill said of the fight against Hitler) in 
order to stop atrocities against Kosovars at the hands of the Serbs 
that have been going on since at least 1912 (to better understand the 
history I recommend Kosovo - a short history, by Noel Malcolm).  In 
Bosnia, non-intervention against Serb aggression produced 250,000 
dead, 2 million ethnically cleansed, 25,000 raped, and 16,000 
children dead in Sarajevo alone.

"The NATO air-strikes, forcing the withdrawal of the OSCE forces from 
Kosovo, have facilitated and not prevented a ground offensive by Serb 
paramilitary forces; "

*The OSCE themselves are the best placed to comment on the effectiveness of
their actions and their reasons for withdrawal. But the essential point to
bear in mind is: the Serb action that is now taking place was planned for
October 1998 and, initially, deterred by the threat of bombing. The current
action was intended to start with spring weather and Serb troops already in
situ - a pattern that is already familiar from Bosnia.  Nato air strikes
are clearly NOT responsible for this premeditated ground offensive. Both
logistically, militarily and morally they are making the Serb ground
offensive more difficult and less certain of success. State terrorism
against civilians is easy to acomplish and next to impossible to prevent,
and be sure that Milosevic counts on that fact.  What would you say 
were the world to witness the same Serb offensive against Albanian 
Kosovars were NATO nowhere near? As was the case in Bosnia!

"they encourage retaliation against the Kosovar population by the 
worst Serb ultra-nationalists; they consolidate the dictatorial power 
of Slobodan Milosevic, who has crushed the independent media and 
rallied around him a national consensus which it is necessary on the 
contrary to break in order to open the way to peaceful political 
negotiations over Kosovo."

* You ignore the fact that such "retaliation" has been advocated
intensively for the last 10 years in Serbia. According to official Serb
propaganda, there is no Kosovo problem nor ever has been. But there is
peace in Kosovo. Seselj, for whom the epithet "worst ultra nationalist"
would be mild, was Milosevic's minister of interior for several years 
in the run up to the present Kosovo crisis. He is likely to be 
personally responsible for the present campaign. And the dictatorial 
power of Milosevic was consolidated long time ago. The NATO 
intervention has changed nothing substantially, while, on the other 
hand, non-intervention would have meant appeasement. 

"- Accept as the only possible basis of negotiation the `peace plan'
elaborated by the governments of the United States or the European Union -
or bomb Serbia? No durable solution to a major political conflict internal
to a state can be imposed from the outside, by force." 

* Given the facts of the case, the gravity of the conflict, the violence
already there (250,000 Kosovars were displaced last year and 2000 
killed) the peace plan proposed was in fact the only possible 
solution. In fact it only signified a reconstitution of the status 
Albanians had enjoyed under last ten years of Tito.  The alternative 
- to do nothing - would be to witness another ethnic carnage. One 
Bosnia on my conscience is more than enough! 

"It is not true that `everything has been tried' to find a solution 
and an acceptable framework for negotiations. The Kosovar negotiators 
were forced to sign a plan which they had initially rejected after 
being led to believe that NATO would involve itself on the ground to 
defend their cause. This was a lie which maintained a total illusion: 
none of the governments which support the NATO strikes wants to make 
war on the Serbian regime to impose the independence of Kosovo. The 
air-strikes will perhaps weaken a part of the Serbian military 
apparatus but they will not weaken the mortar fire which, on the 
ground, is destroying Albanian homes, or the paramilitary forces who 
are killing the fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army."

*You are gravely underestimating the KLA. They are not claiming what you
ascribe to them above. The KLA are not as unrealistic as you claim. The
mortar fire was destroying Albanian homes before the intervention. And they
would do it again, with or without intervention. The OSCE are the ones best
placed to to render a more accurate picture of the true situation in Kosovo
prior to the present crisis. Please do not act on your noble principles
alone, but take into regard as many facts as possible! For anybody to sign
a petition like this, with such grave consequences, at the very least to
have read Noel Malcolm's book should be obligatory. Especially given the
fact that you are academics!

"NATO is not the only or above all the best fulcrum for an agreement. One
could find the elements of a multi-national police force (embracing notably
Serbs and Albanians) in the ranks of the OSCE to enforce a transitional

*Even UNPROFOR did not function in Bosnia! To make more experiments of this
sort would be naive in the extreme! 

"One could extend the negotiations to include the Balkan states
destabilized by the conflict: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania. 
One could at the same time support the right of the Kosovars to 
self-government and the protection of the Serb minority in Kosovo; 
one could try to respond to the aspirations and fears of the 
different peoples concerned by links of co-operation and agreements 
among neighbouring states, with Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 
Macedonia, Albania. None of this has been tried."

* This is pure daydreaming! You have been sleeping for last nine
years! The propositions are indeed worthy and, in due course, must be
addressed.  But only after the defeat of the Milosevic regime.  You 
cannot experiment and let the patient die. 

"We reject the arguments which seek to justify the NATO intervention:

- It is not true that the NATO air-strikes are going to prevent a regional
flare-up, in Macedonia or in Bosnia-Herzegovina: they are going on 
the contrary to feed the flames. They are going to destabilize 
Bosnia-Herzegovina and without doubt menace the multi-national forces 
responsible for applying the fragile Dayton accords. They are already 
setting Macedonia alight."

*Assuming that you know something about Milosevic, the behaviour and 
the past deeds of his regime, how is it possible to conceive of a 
negotiated stability in the region that includes him and the 
political program he ceaselessly pursues?  Are you aware that you 
deal with a policy that is generally accepted by the Serb population, 
and that, in their perception, there was nothing peculiar with this 
policy of last ten years, except for the fact that Yugsolavia has 
become, unjustly, the victim of criminal enemies of the West?! 
Stability? If Milosevic is going to negotiate his way out of this, 
then he is the winner. If he is the winner then the fictitious 
'stability' he represents in the minds of some will only encourage 
others to pursue a politics of ethnic hatred and perpetual crisis 
both in this region as well as Russia.

"- It is not true that NATO is protecting the Kosovar population and its

* At this time such protection is not possible on the ground, but the
intervention of NATO does indeed protect their future interests. Why do you
not take into account their opinion? They welcome NATO intervention. How
would you propose to protect Kosovar Albanians in Kosovo now??

"- It is not true that their bombing of Serbia opens the way to a democratic
regime in Serbia." 

*The question of how to 'democratise' Serbia, after 10 years in which the
state has sponsored violence, installed indicted war criminals as
ministers, refused to acknowledge election results and, most importantly,
derived its program from a propaganda of ethnic hatred - it is indeed a
hard question.  The only parallel in European history gives us the model of
complete military defeat, faced with this kind of totalitarian phenomenon.
How would you go about democratising Serbia?

"The governments of the European Union, like that of United States, perhaps
hoped that this demonstration of force would compel Slobodan Milosevic to
sign their plan. Haven't they thereby displayed naivete or hypocrisy? In
any case this policy is leading not only to a political impasse, but to the
legitimation of a role for NATO outside any international framework of

*If they knew history of Kosovo, and listening to them I presume they do
know something of it, they do not expect an easy solution. But the
alternative was to stand by and do nothing. This is, let us face it, what
you propose! Where a mass violation of human rights occurs, then, surely,
it must be accepted that the principle of state sovereignty can and must be
overridden. Even an Albanian Kosovar has basic human rights, the right to

'This is why we demand:

- an immediate halt to the bombing;
- the organization of a Balkan conference in which the representatives of
the states and of all the national communities within these states take part;
- defence of the right of peoples to self-determination, on the sole
condition that this right is not fulfilled on the back of another people
and by the ethnic cleansing of territory.'

* These are eminently sensible and proper proposals, but based on a 
false premise: the bombing should stop ONLY when Milosevic accepts 
the well known five points or is militarily defeated.  To fail to 
meet this basic criteria would mean to legitimise premeditated state 
terrorism. To appease, to be persuaded by false calls for peace from 
a belligerant regime would create a political paradigm that is far 
more dangerous for our world than the risks of the bombing mission.  
When academics enter politics waving papers that declare appeasement, 
one cannot help remembering the all too recent tragedy of Bosnia.  

Why can a lesson not be learned?  The local history, this complex
geopolitics is dense and obscure for those not familiar with it.  Serb
propaganda feeds on 'otherworld' naivity: it is both subtle and cunning.
Therefore please inform yourselves before you undertake any action that may
have such grave consequences. A minimum can be gleaned from Noel Malcolm's
two books:




Macmillan, Papermac, London , 1988


Igor Korsic

Professor, University of Ljubljana

PS: A good way to verify the likely consequences of your petition would be
to send it to the Serb minister of interior Vojisalv Seselj! He is
qualified to sign - he is an academic, a sociologist. And a paramiliary
leader, wanted in the Hague for direct participation in war crimes in
Bosnia.  If he signs it, which I suspect he would, then you know 
what to do.  And the Yugoslav president himself is certainly counting 
on such efforts as yours to build up pressure against NATO 
intervention.  He might contribute his signature.  And why stop 
there?  Arkan is now a legend, whose signature must carry a certain 
elan, and there are hundreds of other indicted war criminals in 
Serbia, many with academic qualifications, and tens of thousands 
whose names are still unknown to the Hague.  So - collect more 
signatures!  Swell your ranks!  March together!  Pin targets on your 
daughter's blouses!  Join the party in Belgrade! Sorry, I could not 
help it!

Michael Benson  <michael.benson@pristop.si>

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