December 28, 2003

A BALKAN QUAGMIRE?

In a bitter blow for the politicians who toppled Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslav president in 2000, the ultra-nationalist Radicals of former paramilitary leader Vojislav Seselj became by far the biggest party with almost 28 percent of the vote.

Their strong showing revealed just how disappointed many Serbs in the impoverished Balkan state are with three years of Western-style economic and political change, plagued by bitter feuding among former reform allies and corruption allegations. . . .

The outcome was also a setback for Western capitals hoping Serbia had turned its back on aggressive nationalism after a decade of wars under Milosevic, like Seselj facing war crimes charges at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

Obviously, the Clinton Administration failed to plan sufficiently for the postwar environment.

The real question here — and it’s a serious one — is whether you can turn a dictatorship into a democracy without jailing, exiling, or executing the top few thousand members of the dictatorship’s apparat.

UPDATE: Franco Aleman emails from Spain that, well, Spain is the example of doing just that:

You certainly can. It’s not easy, no one really knows whether the process has ended 100% -though it looks like-, and it’s impossible to determine if it was really the product of a plan or the fruit of several coincidences and specific factors simultaneously happening -which would make a quite unique result and might be difficult to translate to other countries-, but I think Spain can be considered an example that the transition can be successfully made…

True enough. But I think that Franco, Fascist dictator though he was, actually tried to facilitate that change (didn’t he provide for the return of the King in his will?). You can’t say that about Slobo or Saddam.