Monday, February 18, 2008

Why Lebanese should oppose Kosovo independence

The declaration of Kosovo signals the end to the complete breakdown of the former Yugoslavia (a former powerful European Soviet ally) into several mini-states awarded to every minority group that once inhabited the nation.

Such a move should not be celebrated by Lebanese around the world as a sign of freedom from an oppressor. We should not be deceived by the impressions the West have given in regards to this troubled region.

The Balkans and the Middle East (particularly the Levant) have mainly history to thank for our current conflicts. We share a lot in common. We are both the crossroads of Islam, Western and Eastern Christianity. We are each the former borders of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire, as well as the former borders of the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

We all know the stories. The region's inhabitants were converted from Paganism to Christianity, and from Christianity to Islam with the subsequent conquerers. But at the heart of all these labels that have been smacked upon us over the centuries lies the same soul, the same people, and the same family that has fallen to the "divide and conquer" tactic once too often.

The nation of the southern Slavs, for that is what Yugoslavia was, a nation of Slavs - Muslim and Christian. And yet today, and over the past two decades in the Balkans, we have heard of 'ethnic' conflict. But what is the ethnicity of this region? Are they not all predominantly Slavs? Do they not all share the same language with various dialects, much as we do in the Arab world?

What is it that separates Serb from Croat from Albanian? One is Orthodox, one is Catholic and the other Muslim. The same religious labels used to divide a nation and a family.

What constitutes a nation these days? History underpins a nation. Without history, there is no national identity. Britain created myths and legends in the middle ages, likewise the French and other major powers, to give credence to their national identities. Kosovo was Serbia's historical legend. Kosovo is to Serbia what King Arthur is to England. The stories of heroism, of defiance on this land is what gives the Serbs its raison d'etre.

Today, the world has stolen an integral part of one nation's identity, all in the name of religious differences.

Where does the buck stop? Are all minorities going to be given a state? The Aboriginals of Australia have much less in common with us European settlers than the Kosovars have with Serbia, should we not put in an application for an independent Aboriginal state?

The West serves its own interests, that's no secret. It is by all means understandable for nations and identities to be torn to pieces ... so long as they're not Western. The West needed to destroy Yugoslavia. Once upon a time, the southern Slavs commanded the largest army in Southern Europe. It was a power outside of the Soviet Union, within Europe, that posed a threat to Western interests. The collapse of the Soviet Union had to be accompanied by the collapse of an anti-Western, European power.

For purposes of geo-politics, that's fair logic. But Yugoslavia as a power was destroyed in the 1990s. Serbia of today poses no threat to Western interests. The support for Kosovo's independence is simply rubbing salt in the wound, kicking a man on his knees. In a century where Western power is predicted to be surpassed by other global powers, the EU and US should rethink its bullying tactics to former nemeses. Its arrogance won't be forgotten, not even in a 100 years. There may come a day when the US and the EU will be looking to Eastern Europe and Russia to serve as the crucial balance against the rising powers of Asia. They've been to Moscow for the same reasons before. Without Soviet help to counter Nazi Germany, the West would have never succeeded. Long-term strategic thinking seems to be lacking in Washington, but we concluded that in year 2000 when George W. Bush came to office.

The West created this world, it drew the borders last century. During the inception of the current world map, the West divided and conquered. It tore Lebanon and Jordan from Syria, it tore Kuwait from Iraq, it tore Pakistan from India, the list could go on. It appears to me that the world wasn't small enough. The West intend today to create mini-states out of the mini-states they created last century.

This is all the reason why we - as Lebanese and Middle Easterners - cannot endorse this move. If a nation cannot embrace the commonalities it shares - such as its ethnicity, socio-economic, cultural and linguistic ties - but instead divides itself on the basis of one's faith ... what hope do we have?

Will the day come when the size of Lebanon becomes an obstacle to the West? Shall they decide that each religious sect in Lebanon should have its own state?

Yugoslavia is our path if we choose not to change.

A nation of southern Slavs could not survive because they allowed their religious differences to outweigh their shared bonds. They competed within the one state, one community benefited over the either. The notion of sharing and building on what is common completely eluded the Yugoslav mindset. Indeed, Croats and Muslims suffered under Serbian insistence to rule the state.

It is the exact same story in Lebanon where sects are vying for the higher chair so that one community benefits over the other. The similarities shared between us are plentiful, yet we are blinded by a differing label that pits one sect against the other.

People have long wondered where Lebanon will end up. Kosovo is our destination if we continue on our path of selfishness and corruption. The former Yugoslavia is where we will end up. Kosovo's declaration of independence should signal a warning to all Lebanese. We must surpass our superficial differences and begin exploring what we have in common. We must learn how to share power and resources, and discover that we are truly one people.

Kosovo is a sign of failure. It signals that people of the same nation cannot share their differences in a harmonious manner. Let it not be our failure.

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