Welcome Kosovo ..

Kosovo’s independence, the fruit of Serb victimhood.

– and take a seat at the back.

Unlike the few other bloggers who have responded to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, I have actually been there – three times! for several days at a time! and have travelled outside Prishtina, as far as exotic Mitrovica! – which therefore makes me an Expert in the Wa-benzi sense.

Which small knowledge makes me curiously reluctant to comment. Independence was probably inevitable, as visitors could already see in 2000.

The revanchism of the Albanian Kosovars, generated by their undoubted sufferings at Serb hands, was I felt exacerbated by the fact that their victory was not theirs, but handed them on a plate by outsiders with their own complex motives. It’s far easier to be magnanimous to those you have overcome yourself. The Serbs – and here I have the commentating advantage of never having been to the country – never SFIK made any serious effort to do the things that might conceivably have kept Kosovo nominally within their state, like an apology and an offer to negotiate a statute of autonomy.

My impression was that many Serbs, and not just Milosevic, actually prefer defeat to compromise, as it nourishes their longstanding victim complex. Here’s a thought: nationalisms and other triumphal ideologies – like Communism, Fascism, imperialism, American exceptionalism – are eventually discredited by events. Two catastrophic defeats in thirty years, and goodbye German nationalism. But ideologies and identities that internalise defeat and suffering are practically invulnerable to experience; every failure reinforces the narrative. Hence Milosevic and the IRA.

A similar process helps explain the survival of both Judaism since the Babylonian exile and the destruction of the Temple, and Christianity under the persecutions of the Roman Empire: current sufferings are made good by apocalyptic hopes and a cult of martyrs.

Is this what is going on in Islam? The original version of the Prophet was triumphalist, but the continual reverses of political Islam since the second siege of Vienna have made the shrinking, divided, and enfeebled Dar-al-Islam an uninspiring focus for Muslim loyalties. The classic alternative paths for development have been the mystical, personalised religion of the Sufis; and an apocalyptic jihadism, holding out messianic hopes for losers, complete with martyr cult. On this reading, OSL’s world caliphate is not a deluded political project but a symbolic rallying call like the Second (or the First) Coming. And OSL’s foes would be well advised to spend more time studying the mechanisms that took the early Christian martyrs into the arena.

PS: I am perfectly aware that there’s a huge moral difference between non-violent martyrs and suicide bombers. But is the psychological gap very wide at all?

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web