Review: The Balkan Wars

One reviewer described this book as “Not sufficiently anti-Serb for the Ministry of Truth.” That’s more profound than he realized. Gerolymatos argues that the Kosovo myth functions as a prism through which Serbia would forever understand its struggles with outsiders (Gerolymatos 8). He makes the neat argument that even after the Battle of Kosovo and the death of Holy Prince Lazar, Serbs and Greeks had numerous opportunities to annihilate the Ottomans. Not simply win battles, but to eradicate them from the planet. When Timur the Lane destroyed most of the Ottoman empire, the creme of officials and army were trapped at the Straits. Greeks and Serbs rallied them across. Even Timurlane couldn’t imagine why they let that chance slip by. That wouldn’t be true if Kosovo were indeed the final point of medieval Serbian independence.

lazar

Ottoman Era: Creating a Mythology

The sack of Constantinople ended a “universal Hellenism” and began to create a specifically Greek consciousness (69-70).

He argues that the Ottoman rule actually made the Greek Church (better called the Phanariot Church) more powerful. Other Orthodox jurisdictions temporarily disappeared, leaving the Phanariot Patriarch as Patriarch over all the East (Russia excluded). Indeed, the Patriarch assumed the role of a vizier. Of course, it also made the Patriarchate dependent on the Sultan for its survival (sort of throws a new light on the “Caesaropapism” charge).

Most importantly, no matter how brutal the Ottomans were (and he doesn’t pull punches), there was always collusion between between Muslim and Christian (81). This is best illustrated in the person of Ali Pasha, the Ottoman strongman who was by far the most interesting persona in the book. Pasha’s life represents the problem of the Balkans: he exploited divisions and weaknesses to make himself more powerful. This meant, ironically, defending and strengthening some Christian communities (if only to weaken his Ottoman rivals).

Modern Failures

Among the many reasons modern Western politicians fail to understand the Balkan crisis is the critical role of “land” (167). Men die and identify themselves for what they believe in, who they are, and where they are–and not for pious platitudes chanted on CNN.

One key failure, perhaps earlier than the “Modern” period, was the Great Powers’ ignoring of Macedonia. According to the author, “Macedonia was a microcosm of the Balkans” and a strategic pathway for all cardinal directions (207). The Powers gave it back to the Ottoman Empire without regard for future upheavals.

He sees economic success as the only way to combat the fatigue of war (245). Time will tell.

Conclusions

I enjoyed the endnotes almost as much as anything else in the book. They were a veritable bibliographic feast. If you read this book you will know infinitely more political science than the news anchors on CNN.

Criticisms:

Some of these criticisms might seem overly nitpicky, but that’s only because this book is so good and well-written.
*He notes that the Koran said a city that did not surrender would be subject to three days of pillaging (253 n2). I don’t dispute that, but where is that referenced?
*He is more or less fair in his handling of Kosovo. He acknowledges Milosevic engaged in cruelties but points out America’s own role in intervening: a) establishing an anti-Russian, anti-Serb state in the heart of the Balkans, b) conveniently allowing transit to Western and Central Asia. Serbia had to be destroyed for the Neo-Con/Neo-Lib world order to flourish.

4th Political Theory

This review has in mind St Cheetos the Prophet.

The phrase that best sums up Dugin’s approach is “Negating the Logic of History.”  Dugin begins by listing the three most common (and modern) ideologies:

    1. Liberalism: the individual is the normative subject
    2. Fascism: race or nation is normative subject
    3. Communism: Class

      The second and third options failed, leaving liberalism in charge.

    4. 4th political theory: Dasein is the acting subject.

Liberalism is the broad, architectonic worldview that hinges on several assumptions (the challenging of which will entail a drone strike). Classical Liberals defined freedom as “freedom from.”  There should be no ties on an individual’s will.   It is these individuals, acting alone but taken as a whole, who form the circle of liberal action.Lacking a telos by definition, liberalism is hard-pressed to explain what we have freedom for.

Against this Dugin posits Heidegger’s Dasein as the acting subject of the 4th Political Theory. Dasein is a way to overcome the subject-object duality.  It is inzwichen, the “between.”

One valuable insight of Dugin’s is his pinpointing the bigotry of Western liberals.  All societies must accept liberalism in its current manifestation.  What if you don’t want to?  Well, if you don’t have natural resources you are probably okay.  Otherwise, look out.

Liberal ideology is necessarily evolutionary.  The concept of progress takes one from barbarism to technologism and the more refined way of life of the markets. This is what Dugin calls “The Monotonic Process:” he idea of constant growth, accumulation, steady progress by only one specific indicator (60).  In other words, in a system only one value (x) grows.  Only one thing (or a small group of things) accumulates.  Applied to either machines or biological life, this is death.

Modern political options have all seen progress and time in a linear fashion.  Even more so, because of time there must naturally be progress.   By contrast, Dugin suggests that

T1: Time is a social phenomenon with its structures arising from social paradigms (68).

By this he wants to safeguard the idea that there can be “interruptions” and reversals in the flow of time.  History does not simply teach the march of capitalism upon earth (borrowing and adapting Hegel’s phrase).

Nevertheless, and perhaps unaware, Dugin remains close to the linear view.  He does note that time is “historical” (70) and from that draws a very important, Heideggerian conclusion:  it cannot be objective.

Why not? The acting subject, the historical observer (whom we will call “Dasein,” but this is true also of the individual in liberalism) is finite.  He doesn’t have a god’s-eye view on history. Of course, that’s not to say it can’t be real or reliable per the observer, but we don’t have the Enlightenment’s dream of a god’s-eye application of reason to reality.

Dugin then analyses how Leftist and Conservatism evolved in the 20th century.

Finally, he ends with a dense and staggering discussion on the nature of time.  Kant denied that by mere perception we have access to the thing-in-itself.  Therefore, if the being of the present is put in doubt, then all three moments (past, present, future) become ontologically unproveable. From the perspective of pure reason, the future is the phenomenon, and hence, it is (157).

Kant puts time nearer to the subject and space nearer to the object. Therefore, time is subject-ive.  It is the transcendental subject that installs time in the perception of the object.