Precedent George H.W. Bush

Obama is now channeling Bush 41? Come again?

As I’m assuming Clinton has, Obama commented on Kosovo’s declaration of independence:

Kosovo’s independence is a unique situation resulting from the irreparable rupture Slobodan Milosevic’s actions caused; it is in no way a precedent for anyone else in the region or around the world.

That Kosovo is unique, sui generis, of no precedential value—however you wish to phrase it—is the position of the State Department, the EU, and just about anyone else who supports its independence. Bizarrely—so much so that I had to read it three times to make sure I understood—a New York Sun editorial says:

Among the lessons we’ve gained from a life of foreign corresponding are that wars have consequences —and that history has its ironies. As Kosovars danced in the streets in joy and kissed the nearest Americans and the United Nations wrung its hands, the son of the president who delivered the Chicken Kiev speech embraced change in the Balkans. And the echoes of the words of the 41st president against independence for the so-called Soviet so-called Socialist so-called Republics are coming from a Democratic presidential candidate aquiver at the prospect that some other downtrodden countries might take hope from Kosovo’s example and seek to follow suit.

Ok, I shouldn’t be reading the Sun, but “Kosovo” and “precedent” in the same paragraph makes it required reading for me, as nine times out of ten it’s in reference to Georgia’s Russian-backed separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However amusing it is for an op-ed writer to pull obscure secessionist movements off the UNPO website (free Vermont, dude!), the only active threat of acting on a putative precedent has been from these regimes (and, even less plausibly, from Transnistria). And they can’t be too happy to see Russia backing down from its defiant posture.

How Obama’s bog-standard caveat makes him the third avatar of Bush 41 is beyond puzzling.

[I don’t know whether it’s influenced any policymakers’ thinking on the matter, but the Centre for European Policy Studies has been thinking carefully about the putative Kosovo precedent and the principles of just secession.]