The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

My wife was a good student as a child, her sister a terrible one. When her sister brought home a C, their parents were ready to celebrate. This hurt and confused Melissa, for her As were hardly noticed and she knew she would have greatly disappointed her parents with a C. But now she can understand how the people of Croatia feel about the events in neighboring Yugoslavia and the world's reaction to them. To be sure, the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic is a big step for Serbia and Montenegro. After all, what could be worse than a ruthless dictator who based his power on hostilities, started four campaigns of destruction and led his own people into poverty, anarchy and isolation? The new president, Vojislav Kostunica and his supporters appear committed to reviving democratic institutions, undermined by decades of communist rule and completely destroyed by Milosevic. The people have overwhelmingly shown they have had enough of Milosevic's lies -- at least in the capital Belgrade, where Milosevic never enjoyed high popularity. Despite these positive signs, the elation of the West and the haste to lift the sanctions and give Yugoslavia badly needed economic aid are misguided. Just like the threat of nuclear war did not disappear when the Berlin Wall fell, neither was what we witnessed a magic transformation of the Balkan beast into a handsome prince. We must be prepared for more trouble and disappointment from Serbia. Kostunica is no Vaclav Havel or Lech Walesa. He is an educated, civil and honest man and should be given credit for those qualities, nearly forgotten on the Serbian political scene. But he is an ardent nationalist who has vowed not to extradite Milosevic to the Hague, which he dismisses as illegitimate. He supports special ties with the Serbian part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, effectively promoting a "Greater Serbia" policy. And while he may be willing to negotiate on Kosovo, he calls NATO leaders "war criminals" and inspires little hope of reducing animosity in the region. The comparison with neighboring Croatia -- which ousted its own nationalist government through peaceful elections earlier this year -- seems compelling, but one should first recognize the correct analogies. In their nationalism and foreign policy views, Kostunica and his coalition at best resemble the old, ousted, Croatian government, certainly not the new one. Franjo Tudjman's nationalism, his attempts to partition Bosnia and his half-hearted cooperation with the Hague enraged the West to the point that few heads of state came to his funeral. When he died and his party lost electoral favor, Croatia was praised by the West but has so far received very little concrete aid. Kostunica, whose campaign slogan ("Kostunica, of course!") echoed that of Tudjman's 10 years ago, has yet to tame down his rhetoric to even reach the "moderation" of Tudjman, but grand promises are already being made to help rebuild the crumbling Serbian economy. Even if Kostunica rises above expectations, he still faces many stumbling blocks at home. He is the president of the federation, but Serbia, its dominant republic, has its own president -- Milan Milutinovic, an ally of Milosevic and an indicted war criminal himself. The twin parties of Milosevic and his wife Mira Markovic still enjoy support in many smaller cities and rural areas, and hold a large fraction of parliament seats. Finally, the coalition backing Kostunica comprises 18 parties with widely differing political views and a history of internecine strife. Some of their leaders are not only more experienced than the new president, but also more popular, and their egos may not acquiesce to a supporting role. It is important to send a positive message to the Serbian people. For 13 years, they have been told by their government that the world had conspired against them; we must give them a clue that it was not true or they may not know better. The big step for Serbia is likely to be a tiny one for mankind. We should support the changes and the will of the people, but it is too early to get excited. Rather, we should remain careful and prepared; to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, we need to speak softly to the new Yugoslavia, but still carry a big stick.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.