Samuel Huntington of “Clash of Civilizations” fame, Interviewed

Charlie Rose interviews Huntington on the ideas in his oft-cited and even more criticized “Clash of Civilizations” thesis. Rose calls the clash thesis “provocative.”  What do you think about the logic of the clash thesis.  Given that you’ve read Amartya Sen’s response to Huntington, what kinds of questions would you have asked Huntington that Rose failed to?  (The Huntington interview runs from 1:55 until about 21:00.  No, Professor Huntington is not a dead-ringer for John Cleese.  That is, in fact, John Cleese, who is interviewed in the middle segment; hence, the screen shot of Cleese.)

Serb Demonstrators Attack US and Croatian Embassies in Belgrade

The Washington Post reports that following a massive (upwards of 150,000 participants) and peaceful demonstration in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, with the theme “Kosovo is Serbia”, a group numbering a few thousand at most has attacked the US and (neighboring) Croatian embassies, setting the US embassy on fire. The demonstrations were held in the aftermath of Albanian Kosovars’ official declaration of independence on Monday. The US is one of many countries to have officially recognized Kosovo as the newest ex-Yugoslav independent state, setting off a public and official outcry on the part of Serbs, for whom Kosovo is the historical birthplace of their nation.

Politicians in Belgrade are caught between their rhetoric to do what it takes (short of violence) to prevent Kosovo from achieving full-fledged independence and the lack of many good non-violent options to do so, given the Serb leadership’s openly declared goal of one day joining the European Union. One possibility would be to energize (or otherwise entice) the Serbs in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina to agitate for higher levels of autonomy, or outright independence, stressing the similarities of the situations. This would certainly raise the ire of European leaders and would not earn the Serbs any bonus points in their quest for further integration into European political and economic institutions.

Here is footage from the Belgrade independent media outlet B92:

From the “About Video” (translated by me): Beograd — Stotine nasilnih demonstranata nakon završetka mitinga napalo američku i hrvatsku ambasadu. U 19:13 intervenisala policija.

“Upon the conclusion of the [official] demonstration, undreds of violent demonstrators attacked the American and Croatian embassies. The police intervened at 7:13 pm.”

You can find a gallery of photographs from the day in Belgrade at B92’s website here.

U.S. Formally Recognizes Kosovo Independence

We discussed in class today that of the four characteristics of a state, the only one that Kosovo had, at that point, not fulfilled was international recognition by other states. According to this Washington Post story, the United States has begun to change that:

kosovo_independence1.jpgPresident Bush hailed the newly independent Kosovo and officially recognized it as a state and a “close friend” on Monday, expressing strong support for the new Balkans nation even as he rebuffed protests by Serbia and Russia.

The formal announcement came in a statement issued by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is traveling in Africa with the president. “The United States has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state,” she said. “We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion.”

I understand what it feels like to be a Kosovar Albanian today as it takes me back to 15 January 1992, when European and other states, including the United States, formally recognized the independence of the Republic of Croatia. I can also sympathize with Serbs, who must feel like their heart has been ripped out of their body given that Kosovo is integral to history and spirit of the Serbian nation. Ivo Banac has written that “the history of the Balkans is a history migrations, not only peoples, but of lands.” The Serbian nation was founded on land that the Serbs no longer control politically as a result of the vicissitudes of politics in that part of the world and the drift of the center of gravity of Serb political northward over the centuries. It is incumbent upon the new Kosovo government and the international community to allow Serbs to continue to have access to the sacred religious and spiritual monuments of their past.

You can see a comprehensive slide show of photographs marking the situation here.

Below is a photograph of the famous Serbian Christian Orthodox Gračanica Monastery in Kosovo.

gracanica1.jpg

Kosovar Albanians Declare Independence From Serbia

As of the beginning of 1991, the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia was an internationally recognized state, which consisted of six republics (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) and 2 autonomous regions within Serbia–Vojvodina and Kosovo. As of today, with Kosovo declaring its independence from Serbia, the only one of those eight political units that is not an independent state is Vojvodina. The New York Times reports that the euphoric Albanians showed their gratitude to the United States for the development:

kosovo_independence.jpgPRISTINA, Kosovo — The former Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence on Sunday, sending tens of thousands of euphoric ethnic Albanians into the streets of this war-torn capital to celebrate the end of a long and bloody struggle for national self-determination.

The declaration marks the final dismemberment in the 17-year dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. It also brings to a dramatic climax a showdown between the West — which argues that the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s brutal subjugation of Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians cost Serbia its authority to rule the territory — and Belgrade and its ally Moscow, which counter that Kosovo’s independence declaration is a reckless breach of international law that will spur other secessionist movements across the world.

Ethnic Albanians from across the world streamed into Pristina, braving freezing temperatures and heavy snow, to dance in frenzied jubilation. Beating drums and waiving Albanian flags, they chanted “Independence! Independence! We are free at last!” while an enormous birthday cake was installed on Pristina’s main boulevard.

An outpouring of adulation for the United States — Kosovo’s staunchest ally in its quest for independence and the architect of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against Mr. Milosevic — was evident everywhere. Thousands of revelers unfurled giant American flags, carried posters of former President Bill Clinton, and chanted “Thank You U.S.A.!” and “God Bless America.”

Meanwhile, balkaninsight.org reports on an anti-U.S. counter-rally in the streets of the Serbian capital of Belgrade:

17 February 2008 Belgrade _ Hundreds of protesters blocked the Embassy of the United States in downtown Belgrade on Sunday, less than an hour after Kosovo’s leaders unilaterally declared the province’s independence from Serbia.

Protesters in Belgrade pelted the embassy building and police with stones and torches. At least one policeman was carried away in an ambulance. The number of injuries in the crowd could not be verified immediately.

Serbian police in full riot gear had cordoned off the embassy and managed to push protestors away from the embassy. The crowed scattered in nearby streets, but its numbers continued to grow.

Waving Serbian flags, burning signal torches and chanting nationalist and anti-American slogans, the crowd had initially tried to block both entrances to the embassy compound, which stretches over two apartment blocks on Kneza Milosa Street.

“We want to show we hate Yanks and Shiptars [a pejorative for Albanian],” a young protester who identified himself only as Dejan said, using a derogatory Serbian term for Kosovo Albanians.

A good source for views from within Serbia is the B92 broadcast network, whch reports that Serbia has annulled Kosovo’s declaration of independence, judging it to be an illegal act:

BELGRADE — PM Vojislav Koštunica addressed the nation today as ethnic Albanians unilaterally declared Kosovo’s independence.

It a televised address from the seat of the Serbian government in Belgrade, Koštunica rejected this act as illegal, and declared it null and void.

“Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of a false state is the final act of a policy that started with the NATO aggression against Serbia in 1999,” the prime minister said.

“Never has the truth about why Serbia was savagely destroyed by NATO bombs been more clear,” he continued, and added that “NATO’s military interests lie behind the proclamation of this false state.”

From bd at Richmond, here’s a link to reporting by MSNBC on Kosovo.

Kosovo’s bid for Independence

From the BBC, we learn that the Albanian majority in Serbia’s southern region of Kosovo is expected to vote for independence from Serbia within days. The province has been controlled by the international community since the end of the NATO-led war against Slobodan Milošević ‘s regime in 1999. In PLSC250 yesterday, we discussed the Kurdish campaign for self-determination and noted some of the arguments for and against. The most comepelling argument for secession/independence is a deontological argument based on the inherent right of groups to decide for themselves their system of government. The most obvious argument against is a utilitarian one, voiced here by Serbia’s Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremić :

[Independence for Kosovo] would lead to an uncontrolled cascade of secession

Here’s more from the article:

kosovo.jpgSerbia’s foreign minister has urged the United Nations Security Council to oppose the province of Kosovo’s expected declaration of independence.

Vuk Jeremic said Serbia would not use force to stop the secession but warned that allowing it would give a green light to other separatist movements.

The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo is expected to announce its breakaway from Serbia within days.

Russia has warned that recognition of Kosovo would be illegal and immoral.

Speaking after the closed session, Serbia’s foreign minister said that is was not too late for diplomats to prevent Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.

Nationalist wins First Round of Serbian Presidential Elections

According to results released by the Election Commission of the Republic of Serbia, a second round of voting will be needed to elect Serbia’s next president. Current president, the moderate Boris Tadić, finished second (with 34.5% of votes cast) to challenger, Tomislav Nikolić, (40.0%) whose campaign was based on stark appeals to nationalist sentiments in the Serbian body politic. Given that neither candidate received the required 50% to be formally declared the first-round winner, Tadić and Nikolić will compete head-to-head in a run-off election on February 3rd. (Many European countries’ election laws also require winning candidates to have won 50% of the vote to avoid second-round run-off elections.)

The election outcome is seen as a battle between those who would aspire to a new era of Serbian politics, stressing future political and economic integration with the rest of Europe, and their opponents, who it is argued desire a return to the Milošević-era inspired nationalist ethos. The election could prove to be (yet another) important watershed in contemporary Serbian political affairs, evidence of which is the turnout, which was the largest in almost ten years. Here is a nice, short article from Time magazine explaining the future implications of the elections and below is a video report from Russia Today can be found here.

Below is a report prepared for the Sunday Telegraph in advance of the elections:

Afrobarometer–Key Findings

The very first Afrobarometer Briefing Paper–here’s the link to a PDF version–(April 2002) presents some key findings regarding the views of African residents in about a dozen African countries on phenomena such as democracy, freedom, governance, etc. Here are a few I found interesting:

  • Corruption is seen as pervasive

Whereas about one-half of survey respondents think that corruption among public officials is common (52 percent), about one-third think it is rare (35 percent). Perceived corruption is highest in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, and lowest in Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia. Generally, however, people perceive more corruption than they themselves have personally experienced. Such perceptions, and the social inequalities they reflect, tend to corrode satisfaction with economic reform policies and with democracy.

In class, I use the module on economic and political development as an opportunity to ask students if they have ever tried to bribe an official for any reason whatsoever. The answer amongst my mostly suburban-bred American students is a unanimous “no.” Generally only I (and sometimes a foreign student) raise our hands to answer in the affirmative. I try to impress upon the students that bribery and corruption is a normal part of life in most non-Western countries. In most citizens’ dealings with official (read: governmental and quasi-governmental) institutions, bribing at least one official is absolutely necessary to get anything done.

Continue reading “Afrobarometer–Key Findings”

Hope for a united Iraq?

Apropos of one of the paper topics I assigned my class this past semester, here is an article that addresses the potential for a shared sense of community and destiny in Iraq. Based on this article, however, it seems that the basis for unity in Iraq is, in fact, the presence of the US military in that country. If this is true, then it leaves the Bush administration–and any future US president–caught between a rock and a hard place. Here are some snippets:

“raqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of “occupying forces” as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.

That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some “shared beliefs” that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.”