February 17, 2008
Kosovo flags & Arab Sats
A brief note, the coverage today of the Kosovo declaration / celebrations on Al Jazeerah and on Al Jazeerah was quite interesting: the actual Sat broadcasts focused quite a lot on the Kosovo-American flag pairing and US ... conditional support I suppose. Interesting imagery to be dominating the screen. The US could stand for this sort of positive imagery more often. One does not often get imagery on the Sats of hidjab wearing ladies leaning out of cars waving American flags wildly.
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I don't know if this counts as wildly off-topic - well OK, it is wildly off-topic - but the FT had some strange mentions of Obama. One was a column urging him to do something about the Kenyan election situation, and the other was a mention of an Italian politician using his slogans for his own campaign.
I mean, I know anyone would be an improvement on Bush internationally, and we're actually getting candidates who are intelligent: McCain on the Rep side was as good as it gets over there, and while I don't like Clinton, at least the name gets good international recognition.
But it's a bit weird to see a column urging someone who hasn't even managed to get the nomination of his party yet to intervene internationally. Post-Bush expectations are running just a wee bit ahead of themselves, methinks. Understandable, but weird.
Also, I have to admit, the surge does seem to actually be working. Bodes well for McCain, since he was advocating precisely this strategy from day two, when it became obvious Rummy had bitten off more than he could chew.
Maybe those little American flags are the precursor of an international rebound in the fortunes of the US? Hopefully, not a dead cat bounce.
Posted by: pantom at February 17, 2008 12:28 PM
If Kosovo is anything like it was when I was there a few years back, they love America even more than the Albanians do. And that's saying something. Because Albania loves(ed) America more than it loves itself.
I remember seeing a massive effigy of slobodan milosevic being burnt in ismailia in egypt in spring 1999 (as part of the limby festival); and you still see the occasional faded bumper sticker in cairo saying defend kosovo (or similar)
apparently, there is a street in pristina named after tony blair...
Posted by: Simon at February 19, 2008 04:20 AM
Well, if Kosovo is the US' best hope for popularity abroad, then the situation IS desperate. I would describe it as a cross between Sicily, the Appalaches and Chicago in 30's. They'll have their flag and their black limousines, and probably quite a few clandestine CIA detention centres, but that's about it.
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at February 19, 2008 06:20 AM
Someone who spent a lot of time in Iraq informs me that there were a lot of pro-Bush/pro-liberation sorts even among old lefties, so one occasionally had the surreal experience of committed old Communists raving about Bush and scolding visiting liberal Americans for not voting Republican.
Posted by: SP at February 19, 2008 06:30 AM
My dear cretinous readers: the point was not about Kosovo and Albania as such (which have their bizarre specificities I am well aware of), rather the imagery on Arab Sat of 'fellow Muslims' getting happy w American flags.
Useful for the US, that sort of thing (and given most people know fuck all about Kosovo & Albania, stops pretty much there on the imagery spin level - of course informed know more, but that's not the point).
Posted by: The Lounsbury at February 19, 2008 07:24 AM
It is interesting to see muhajabat waving the American flag. Having spent some time in the former Yugoslavia I can tell you that Kosovan Muslims have a reputation of not being too religious and are rather famous for their drinking exploits. Same goes for Bosnian Muslims.
After the war in the former Yugoslavia the Muslim population there has become more conservative. I think this might be partly because of operations of Khaliji NGOs in the area.
I wonder if Kosovo will experience the same religious trend?
Posted by: Abu Sinan at February 19, 2008 12:58 PM
"Khaliji NGOs", interesting way to describe the jihadis. Unless these are actual charities.
It's about time the U.S. got a little decent press out of Kosovo. I have always thought that American "public diplomacy" was breathlessly inept in the way it has handled U.S. actions in the Balkans. The U.S. could have made several meals out of that material in the Muslim world but did pretty much nothing with it. Pathetic, really.
Posted by: Anonymous at February 19, 2008 07:24 PM
There are a lot of Salafi NGOs in some of these areas. They are not jihadis, but they certainly are open about spreading their very conservative brand of Islam.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at February 20, 2008 09:13 AM
Like evangelist proselytising charities. Very interesting. Could you provide any names I could google?
Makkah al Mukarram Foundation is one, al Muntanda al Islamiya is another. Islamic Relief works in the area as well. Maybe Revival of Islamic Heritage Society as well.
Just how "Non Governmental" some of these groups are is up for debate. Many of them are actually funded by parts of the establishment in the countries where they come from.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at February 21, 2008 10:42 AM
It has always seemed to me that the Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims are the LEAST religious of all the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. Granted, as Abu Sinan states, that may have changed somewhat in recent years but even so, religion does not seem to be a major source of identity for the majority of former Yugoslav Muslims. For this reason, one of the more interesting aspects of the Kosovo debate is how it has become "Islamicised". Some of the more inane on either side of the Kosovo independence argument frame the whole thing in terms of the Kosovars being Muslim - this is used to support the idea of a supposedly 'free' Kosovo on the one hand, and argument against an "islamic nation in the heart of Europe" on the other.
Obviously, both 'fears' are foolish. Despite the wishes of some of the "NGOs" mentioned above, Kosovo is highly unlikely to become an islamist stronghold. Similarly, those who feel that swapping the status of autonomous province of Serbia for that of glorified US military base represents some sort of triumph for Muslims, are sadly deluded. "Independent" Kosovo instead represents one of the few triumphs of recent US foreign policy, particularly as its the foolish Europeans left picking up the tab!
Posted by: SideShowMurph at February 23, 2008 04:44 AM
We have to be careful when the US intervenes. The US gov definitely has an agenda and an independent Muslim state surrounded by hostiles protected by NATO troops is not a good situation to be in if US strategic interests or waning US power cause it to abandon the region leaving the Kosovars to fare for themselves while fighting Russian backed Serbians. Its an ugly scenario. We should make du'a that this doesn't get out of control.
Posted by: theManOfFewWords at February 23, 2008 08:54 AM
Must disagree (more with your blog than above) on this.
Kosovar Albanian nationalism is quite fierce and homegrown. It is indeed indifferent to religion for the most part. The US isnt really all that keen on the independence part but it's the only way to legalize NATO's presence in the long run and to keep the Kosovar Albanians from provoking a new war, by their going it alone. Plus, and I suspect this part only, Albanian-Americans have begun to be an organized domestic lobby. All that Agim's Pizza and Pasta money has to go somewhere.
(On blog) the idea that independence dependent on a corrupt superpower is ephemeral is not necessarily an accurate assumption. American independence was not possible without Old Regime French navy and troops physically present. And whatever the new leader's ties to prostitution or drug runnning, American founders had ties to chattel slavery and rum running. It still worked.
Of course, the Balkans have their own ridiculous dynamic.
Still Kosovo isnt surrounded by hostiles - Albania is to the south and Bosnia to the West. Montenegro is mellow. Macedonia is hostile but not expansively so.
Posted by: matthew hogan at February 23, 2008 08:23 PM
Wasn't it an old joke that the Serbs and Croatians spoke the same language and were only divided by religions that neither of them believed in? Religious identity can certainly be a source of conflict even for the secularized, if there's a historical legacy of segregation or institutional favouritism etc etc. American Muslims who aren't particularly practising aren't immune from the identity politics of being Muslim in America; some of the strongest supporters of Hindu nationalism are secularized, agnostic Hindus (LK Advani reputedly atheist).
Posted by: SP at February 24, 2008 02:23 AM
I am with Matthew, this has very little to do with the religion on either side. The religions of either side here are not much more than tribal monikers.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at February 25, 2008 11:55 AM
More true of Slavic yugoslavs, and even there it is still ethnic, but having known Kosovar Albanians well, including highly nationalistic ones, Albanian ethnic identity trumps Islam as an identity politics definer by miles if not light years.
Posted by: matthew hogan at February 25, 2008 06:06 PM