Some thoughts on the Book of James (Pardew)

“The United States created the NLA and Kosovo. You created Ali Ahmeti. The United States is destroying my country.”

-Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski to American diplomat James Pardew from Pardew’s book, “Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans” (2018, The University Press of Kentucky)

I have just finished reading this book by James Pardew, the recently deceased American diplomat who spent several months in Macedonia in 2001 working on behalf of the State Department and White House during Ali Ahmeti’s war on Macedonia, and the events leading up to the Ohrid Framework Agreement which was signed 20 years ago next month. I think it well-worth the time to review what he wrote about his experience in Macedonia, primarily, but also about James Pardew the man, the American diplomat, and his worldview.

So let me begin there. Pardew’s worldview was very much, in my opinion, on the side of American interventionism in support of “democracy.” But I put “democracy” in quotes because Pardew’s view of democracy was closer to the assertion of Polish philosopher, politician and MEP Ryszard Legutko who writes in his book “The Demon in Democracy” about the “similarities between communism and liberal democracy.” He identifies three common threads between the two: first, their belief in the “unilateralism of history, leading inevitably and triumphantly to the era of perpetual peace” (the “right side of history” argument), second, that “deliberate human action” by “distinguished minority groups, elite and enlightened rulers” will prepare mankind for this, and thirdly that these groups will allow humanity to create “a modern society liberated from ignorance and superstition,” in other words, tradition and religion which they reject (though they are happy to push their secular humanism which is a religion).

This, in my opinion, is what Pardew believed in. And it is increasingly what the elites in Western democracies believe in whether they are elected politicians or unelected bureaucrats and diplomats, or those who occupy the commanding heights of culture in media, academia, Hollywood, think tanks, Big Business and, increasingly, professional sports. They all, to one degree or another, subscribe to this view.

Having established what I believe to be Pardew’s worldview, let me move on to an interesting criticism of him. Pardew, fairly or unfairly, was often criticized, along with Richard Holbrooke and other American diplomats, as being on the side of the Muslims of Southeastern Europe. Here is Pardew, in his own words: “The official objective of the US engagement in the former Yugoslavia from 1995 to 2008 was not to help one group but to restore stability to southeastern Europe and to end a general humanitarian crisis. Nevertheless, the millions of Muslims living in the former Yugoslavia were the people who most benefitted immediately from the US-led intervention in the Balkans. The US and international action to stop or prevent deadly conflicts save countless Muslim lives, defended their independence, protected their cultural identity, and guaranteed their rights as citizens.” He goes on to defend this saying that American action will keep Muslims in Southeastern Europe from becoming extremist Islamists. However, as we have observed, that has not necessarily been the case.

As this issue pertains to Macedonia, granted, ethnic Albanians in the region often promote their ethnicity as Albanians, first and foremost, and often over their religious affiliation with Islam. So, let’s next take a look at the fear of “Greater Albania,” in the region. Pardew writes (pg. 201–202), “Some feared the threat of a ‘Greater Albania’ movement in southeastern Europe, like the failed dream of a ‘Greater Serbia.’ Many expected the Albanians, with a common language and a common culture, to aspire to unify in the same way. However, I never found any convincing evidence of such a movement. The Albanians in each country were instead sympathetic but independent from Albanian movements in other countries.”

To which Albin Kurti, the prime minister of Kosovo, might say “Hold my beer.” One merely needs to read this headline to understand Pardew was either lying, or ignorant: “I would vote to unify Albania and Kosovo, election winner Albin Kurti tells Euronews,” is the headline from a February 16, 2021 article on Albin Kurti. Or this one: Albania and Kosovo: Unification through the back door? That article goes on to note, “Unification, or as many in the two countries call it, reunification, enjoys wide popular support in both Albania and Kosovo. A poll from 2019 found that 75 per cent of Albanians and 64 per cent of Kosovars in favour.”

“Reunification?”

Throughout the book, including his section on Macedonia, Pardew seems to imbue the Serbs, Croats, and Macedonians with being the evil parties, and ascribes only goodness to the Bosnian Muslims and Albanians, a type of binary differentiation. But again, going back to his quote on being on the side of the Muslims in the region, this would be par for Pardew.

Pardew drones on about “extreme Balkan nationalists,” equating them with “Russian nationalists,” (so you know he is not indicting Albanians or Bosnian Muslims in that section, but everyone else), and he further notes how the “Balkan experience transformed NATO as an international security alliance.” He rightly notes that NATO “was struggling to find its identity in the new-world security environment,” and equates what happened with the disintegration of Yugoslavia as a very good excuse for NATO to go out of area, as it is known. As Pardew writes, “The intervention in the Balkans reformed and reinvigorated NATO and opened it up to a broader range of security missions and international partners.”

Finally, he notes that “Patience is not a characteristic of American policy,” which is true as the State Department is run by individuals with his worldview on “democracy” as noted earlier. And this, ultimately, is wrong. The American State Department, together with their partners in the EU and EU countries, and NATO, are in a real hurry to force their worldview on the territories and people they have influence over, whether those peoples want it or not, the consent of the governed be damned. That attitude and the forced implementation of that attitude will have long-term negative consequences for everyone.

Proud American & Arizonan w/Hungarian ethnicity & passion for Macedonia, Hungary & Estonia. Traveler, PR man, history buff & wine, craft beer & cigar enthusiast