The issue of Kosovo, which has been simmering since the United States waged a war of unprovoked and unjustifiable aggression against the former Yugoslavia, is boiling over.  While Serbian “public opinion” is said to be more interested in economic questions, the resentment against the international community is real.  As one senior advisor to Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the Guardian, “Serbia is Pompeii and Kosovo is Vesuvius.”

With a few prominent exceptions, the member states of NATO, the European Union, and the United Nations favor speedy recognition of the rogue state being set up by Albanian narco-terrorists.  The motives are various.  Muslims naturally favor the creation of another Islamic state in Europe; many U.S. and Israeli politicians seem to believe that coddling Muslims in Europe reduces Islamic hostility in the Middle East—a position that only someone such as Lawrence Eagleburger could pretend to take seriously with a straight face.  (Eagleburger has said explicitly that U.S. support for the Bosnian Muslims was designed to offset our antagonism to Muslims elsewhere in the world.)

A quick look at websites, blogs, and letters to the editor would suggest that many Americans, although (or rather, because) they know absolutely nothing of the Balkans, have concluded that it is a clear case of right and wrong: The Albanian majority in Kosovo was persecuted by the Serb majority in Serbia (of which Kosovo is a part, historically and legally).  A comment on says it all: “I don’t pretend to know whether independence is the best course for Kosova . . . but it is not our place to be ordering anyone to say ‘no to independence.’  It would be better to follow the wisdom of the author of the Declaration of Independence.”

On the theory of Locke, Jefferson, and Wilson, we should help to give Kosovo Albanians yearning to breathe free the same democratic rights that we enjoy in America.  I heard this first from a pretty young graduate student in Balkan studies back about 1970.  Like most graduate students, she knew nothing of her subject, but she breezily told me over drinks that Kosovo belonged to the Albanians, because they are in the majority.  By now, she probably has a senior position in the State Department.

Before setting aside the current facts of the case, which apparently interest no one who is not an Albanian or a Serb, I would like to point out that the Albanians’ historical case for independence is a pathetic lie, supported only by the disingenuous pseudoscholarship of British Islamophiles such as Noel Malcolm.  Despite the difficulty of making ethnic generalizations about any part of the Balkans—Slavs once made it all the way to the Peloponnese, and both Turks and Venetians left genetic footprints nearly everywhere—one can say in broad terms that Kosovo has been part of the Serbian Orthodox heartland for a millennium.

Albanians have wandered in and out from time to time, but it was not until they were encouraged by the Ottomans that they made up a significant minority (in the 19th century), and not until they were encouraged by the communists that they grew to an increasingly large majority.  Some of this population growth derives from the Albanians’ high birthrate and the constant stream of immigrants from Albania, who, on the very day they arrive, enjoy the full civil rights denied the descendants of Prince Lazar.  (Imagine what California will be like when illegal aliens have affirmative-action rights.)  The decline in the Serbian population is caused by the relentless Albanian terrorism that has driven out many Kosovo Serbs.  Anti-Christian terrorism is now conducted under the auspices of U.S.-controlled UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo), just as it is carried out in Iraq under U.S. protection.

The U.S. position, as articulated by our ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, ignores the peace terms agreed to by the United States and Yugoslavia, and, as Khalilzad argued on December 19, an independent Kosovo could not serve as a precedent for other secessionist minorities because of the Milosevic regime’s policy of ethnic cleansing—no word about the hundreds of Christian churches dynamited by Albanians, and no word about the Albanian campaign of violent ethnic cleansing that has gone on for over a century.  Why would Khalilzad be party to such a fraud?  Surely not because he is an Afghan Muslim.  The next time someone tells you that George W. Bush’s America is a Christian nation, ask him why a Muslim represents us at the United Nations.

None of the facts matter to those who make the case for Albanian independence on the principle of majority rule and the right to self-determination.  When American Southerners make this argument, they are no doubt thinking of Kosovo as another South Carolina, and on this principle, Carolinians should welcome the takeover of Anderson County by the Christian Exodus movement, whose leaders say they “share the values” of the state.  This is the new theory of immigration: “I share your values; give me your country.”

I can understand the Southern weakness for secession, but what Northern unionists and Lincoln admirers are thinking when they argue for the right of secession, I cannot imagine, though the Serbian government has cleverly been putting up posters of Lincoln to remind Americans of what we say we believe.  Since unionists have no principled case to make that they are willing to apply to the United States, I can only address my arguments to those who believe that governments were instituted to secure natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that “whenever any government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.”

The main problem with this theoretical right of secession is our tendency to capitalize Secession, making it one more glorious political abstraction like Democracy and Equality or Nationalism and Unionism, or Abolition and the Great White Race.  Political theory of nearly every type encourages this bad habit of dividing the world up into groups who are on one side or another of a divide dug out by political theory.  These abstractions are dangerous toxins that can be fatal to the authentic traditions that make it possible for us to lead good lives.  The great promoter of human rights in the American Revolution was the atheist tax collector Tom Paine, and we can expect to gain very little good from political theories that have always been hostile to our religion and our traditions.

Until some scientist is able to produce some evidence for the theory of natural rights—a theory that Jeremy Bentham correctly called “nonsense on stilts”—it is safer to regard natural rights (as distinct from civil rights) as a social invention that has outlived whatever limited usefulness it might once have had.  When someone can show me a right in nature, in Scripture, in the Christian tradition, or in the great pre-liberal traditions of the West, then I shall be willing to listen to arguments based on this theory, but endless repetitions of a lie cannot make it truth.

Who in his right mind would frame a concrete action on the basis of an unproved theory?  Many people in law enforcement once accepted Cesare Lombroso’s theory that criminality was not only heritable but could be identified by physical characteristics—beady eyes, large jaws, fleshy lips—but I do not know of a case when someone was convicted on physiognomic evidence alone.  When governments justify violence on the grounds of speculative theory—whether Marxism or Democratism or Unionism—the results are catastrophic.

Relations between states are sometimes supposed to be governed by laws and covenants; more typically, however, nations cheat, especially in war.  The American government hardly takes the trouble to deny or justify such crimes as the kidnapping and imprisonment of Manuel Noriega, the illegal arrest and judicial murder of Saddam Hussein, the torture of prisoners, the overthrow of unfriendly regimes, and the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro and other hostile dictators.  I shed tears for none of these targets, but if there were such a thing as human rights, the most nearly palpable rights would be incorporated into the various treaties we have made and laws we have passed against torture, assassination, and unprovoked aggression.

As a Christian, I would prefer to fight battles with people who play by the Christian rules roughly summarized in the Just War Theory of the Middle Ages.  Unfortunately, our struggles are not with other Christians but with non-Christians, Muslims, leftists, and liberals, who could not so much as name the person who said “My kingdom is not of this world,” and who live by such dicta as “All power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” and

A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.  A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.

I apologize to my readers for quoting a mass murderer, but Mao knew what his business was, and it is Mao, Stalin, and Hitler who are the most relevant authorities to cite in a discussion of foreign policy or the use of aggression.  It is they who have written the rules of international law as played today by all parties, and the invocation of idealistic principles not only distracts us from reality but gives moral cover to gangsters.

I am far from being unsympathetic to secessionist movements, many of which I have defended in writing.

Secession, and the communities of scale that would result from secession movements, are the remedy, both in principle and in application, for many of the moral, social, and cultural problems engendered by Leviathan states around the globe.  The briefest glance at human history would tell us that the greatest periods in the history of civilization have been dominated by the quarrelsome and petty city-states of ancient Sumer and Greece and medieval Italy, and I warmly endorse the sentiments of the great B.L. Gildersleeve, who, in addition to being America’s greatest classical scholar, was also a Confederate cavalryman and Southern nationalist.  Gildersleeve was tickled that even the grumpy people of uncivilized Vermont had their local pride: “Take away this local patriotism,” he said, “and you take out all the color that is left in American life.”

Not all secession movements have laudable objectives or deserve support, however.  Some secessionist nationalities—Kurds and Chechens, for example—threaten peace and have a long record of violence.  How would we go about making a distinction between good and bad secession movements in a place such as the Balkans?  Inevitably, one has one’s prejudices.  Catholics will tend to support Catholic Slovenes and Croats, the Orthodox will naturally support the Serbs, while Muslims will fly to the Balkans, as many have done, for the sole purpose of finding Christians to slaughter.  I have generally supported Balkan Christians against the aggressive Muslims who started their experiment in terror in Bosnia—with support from the CIA and the U.S. State Department and the help of our then-ally Osama Bin Laden, whose terrorists were given citizenship in Islamic Bosnia.

A once-substantial federal state has given birth to Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro, and the fissioning may not be over yet: Kosovo Albanians are now declaring their independence; the three parties in Bosnia—Muslims, Serbs, and Croats—still cannot stand one another, and, if foreign troops ever depart, the Bosnian Serb Republic will exchange partial autonomy for complete independence, leaving Croats and Muslims to kill each other to their hearts’ content.

None of these struggles is legitimately America’s business, but how as outsiders should we go about deciding where our sympathies lie?  In contests between violent Christians and violent Muslims, as in Lebanon, while I strongly object to Christian attacks on Muslims, I do not pretend to be objective and do not wish to be.  Objectivity is a lie adopted by anti-Christians to justify their hostility to the Faith.  More broadly speaking, it is important not to overlook our sense of loyalty that arises out of ethnic and religious identity, because, if we did, we would be denying one of the principal justifications for legitimate secessions.  My sympathy for the Scottish Nationalists derives in part from a fair-minded study of history, but it would be hypocritical to claim that the memory of Scottish ancestors who left after the ’45 has nothing to do with the case.

Croats and Serbs offer an interesting case.  The two nations entered the Balkan possessions of the Roman Empire about the same time, probably in tandem, and there were intermarriages over the centuries between the two groups.  Today, Serbs and Croats speak overlapping dialects of the same language, and although in some respects the religion, culture, and national character of the two peoples are quite distinct, they eat similar cuisines, drink the same slivovica, and listen to each other’s music.

When Croatia seceded for the second time from Yugoslavia, the proper procedure should have been international arbitration to work out a distribution of assets and liabilities, but backed up by her old allies in World War II (Italy and Germany), Croatia walked away with a debt-free candy store.  George H.W. Bush and James Baker were at first reluctant to recognize the breakaway republics, but they did not want to let Germany play the dominant part in the Balkans.  Eventually, the United States took the lead in promoting Bosnian Muslim independence and the Albanian Muslim takeover of Kosovo.

There are lessons to be drawn from this recent history.  The first is that international law means nothing when great powers have something at stake.  Secessionist movements succeed only when they enjoy the backing of a self-interested major power.  The difference between the American secession from Britain in 1776 and the Southern secession from the United States in 1860 is France, just as the United States is largely responsible for the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine.  Throughout the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the United States has played a major role in breaking up historic nations and unions, not on some idealistic principle of national self-determination but on the well-worn maxim of all empires, divide et impera; the intended result is to make them all—Montenegrins and Croats, Georgians and Ukrainians—slaves on the vast plantation of transnational corporations.

If someone asks if you believe in secession, the proper answer is: It depends on who is seceding from whom and for what reasons and in what manner.  If we have historical ties with and affection for another nation, we have a right to be more sympathetic to their cause than we are toward our enemies.  I do not really care whether or not an independent Kurdistan is set up—though I rather think it is imprudent at this time, because the Turks oppose it, and they are in an alliance with Israel, who calls our shots in the Middle East.  But I cannot be expected to have much sympathy for a people who were major collaborators in the Armenian genocide, who even now are purging northern Iraq of an ancient Christian community.  Kurds are the Albanians of the Middle East.

National self-determination is not an ultimate truth like the Holy Trinity, nor is it a Platonic ideal, nor even an institution, such as the British monarchy, that has a claim on the affections of British peoples.  Secession and self-determination are simply expedient political devices, like so-called free elections, majority rule, people’s democracies, and the dictatorship of the proletariat: beautiful words that are usually employed to justify what otherwise might be regarded as low and criminal aggression.  If they are means for arriving at worthy and honorable ends, then they are useful.  But to elevate a political device to an abstract good is to be guilty of idolatry.  As Christians, we should pray that God will preserve all Christian peoples from the Muslims and atheists who hate us, but we should also pray that He may protect the poor benighted Muslims from the neoconservative ambitions that are destabilizing the entire planet.