Bloodthirsty Slavs vs. Racist, Revisionist Italians

Actually, it’s racist, revisionist, and revanchist Italians. But we’ll get to that.

Short version: Italy and Croatia have just had a brief but bitter diplomatic dispute over statements made by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Croatian President Stipe Mesic. There’s not really a good or bad side here, either; both nations seem to have had a short but violent attack of what my grandmother used to call “the stupids”.

On the plus side, it seems to be over now, and cooler heads have prevailed.

Much more below, if you’re interested.
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A Tale of Unintended Consequences.

Wisely, most European governments that were opposed to the war in Iraq have constrained themselves since it has become evident that the fall of Saddam’s statue in April 2003 and the American crash course in Democracy has not (visibly) helped to speed up the region’s modernization or led to a self-reinforcing trend of ethnic accomodation and democratic governance. But now Joschka Fischer, former and famously “unconvinced” German foreign minister, has allowed Spiegel Online English to publish an “I-told-you-so-manifesto” taken from the foreword of his forthcoming book “The return of history“.
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Photographs on the fence

If you’re ever in Pristina, capital of Kosovo, you’ll want to swing by the Government building.

(It’s called the Government building because, well, that’s where the government is. The Parliament, the Prime Minister, the President, and half a dozen or so government agencies are all squashed into one huge building downtown. It’s sort of refreshing. Imagine being in London or Berlin and just popping down to “the government”.)

Why? Because there are these photographs. Between two and three thousand of them… closer to two, I think. The government building has a fence around it; and, since the building is pretty large, the fence is easily a couple of hundred meters long. And it’s covered with the photographs of Kosovar Albanians missing in the 1999 war.

It’s not a very cheerful display, obviously. But it’s certainly food for thought. And if you walk the length of the fence, you’ll spot some patterns.
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When Sorry Is The Hardest Word

Vladimir Putin, speaking in Moscow today, paid tribute to the courage of “all Europeans who resisted Nazism.” He also stated something which for my generation seems to be simply a fact: that the war?s most ?ruthless and decisive? events had unfolded within the Soviet Union, whose sacrifice of 27m citizens had underpinned the Allied victory. Had the Stalin-Hitler pact held, the war in Western Europe would probably have looked very, very different. However, as the FT notes:

Mr Putin stopped short of issuing the apology demanded by the Baltic states for the four decades of Soviet occupation that followed the war. He also made no reference to the post-war division of Europe.

Why is it sometimes so hard to say sorry?
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Report from European Parliament

I promised to report back here on the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee meeting today on Croatia. It took place immediately after the EU Foreign Ministers had announced that because of Croatia’s failure to deliver fugitive general Ante Gotovina to the war crimes tribunal in the Hague, negotiations on Croatia’s EU membership will not begin tomorrow.

To my surprise, the main speaker from the Croatian side was not their Chief Negotiator, Vladimir Drobnjak, but the Prime Minister himself, Ivo Sanader. He made an extremely good impression on MEPs. I personally was much less impressed; he told three blatant untruths in his opening remarks, which disinclines me to take particularly seriously any of his statements about how hard his government is really looking for the fugitive general.
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What soldiers have in common with lawyers

Hi folks. I’ve been off-line a bit fighting with my landlord and trying to get my new apartment straightened out. I’ve moved as of the first of December. My new Internet connection is up and running, but my workstation hasn’t been able to talk to my monitor since the move. I have to bring it in to work to get it fixed, and until then, I have limited ‘Net access. There’s a post coming one of these days on the joys of IKEA when you’re an expat.

A lot’s been going on while I’ve been offline. Chirac and Raffarin have started acting like idiots over how kids dress at school. The EU constitution looks like a casualty of rapid expansion. Jean Chrétien calls it quits – the last of the Pearson-era Liberals still in the Liberal party – and turns the reins of power over to borderline conservative Liberal Paul Martin. And, Saddam Hussein is now in American hands, which will make excuses for failing to find WMD or links to Al Qaeda just that much thinner.

Speaking of Iraq, I wanted to draw your attention to yesterday’s New York Review of Books. Especially to a piece entitled Delusions in Baghdad. If Marshall McLuhan were alive today, he could stand fully vindicated before his critics.

Very young men in tan camouflage fatigues, armed, red-faced, flustered; facing them, the men and women of the world press, Baghdad division, assembled in their hundreds in less than a quarter of an hour […] as Lieutenant Colonel George Krivo put it bitterly, to “make the story. Here, media is the total message: I now have an understanding of McLuhan you wouldn’t believe. Kill twenty people here? In front of that lens it’s killing twenty thousand.”

When the US Army starts appreciating someone like McLuhan, you know the world has changed.
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