open to debate, the fact itself is beyond dispute; the UnitedrnStates’ decision to defeat “the Serbs” has been the salient featurernof American policy in the Balkans for the past five years.rnThe corollary to such a policy was the need to weaken the Serbrnside from without—through political isolation, U.N. sanctions,rnmedia-induced vilification, and ultimately military action—rnand from within, through the uninterrupted, unhindered rulernof Slobodan Milosevic and his team, and through the exercisernof their influence over the western Serbs in Bosnia and the Krajina.rnIn order to illustrate what Milosevic did not have to fearrnfrom the American side, let us remember how quickly opponentsrnto communist regimes were built up and promotedrnelsewhere in the region by the United States. A good examplernis provided by the launching of Charter 77 in Prague. Untilrn1988 very few people in Czechoslovakia, and even fewer in thernoutside world, were even aware of the Charter’s existence. Thisrngroupiscule of chain-smoking intellectuals tended to preach tornthe choir, in each other’s apartments, on the virtues of democracyrnand human rights, on the duty of the artist to preserve hisrnintegrity, and on the meaning of existence under “Real Socialism.”rnIt was a worthy endeavor, moderately interesting to thernhandful of Western freelance journalists paying their once-ayearrnvisit to Prague; but it was unlikely to bring down the state.rnNeither the founders of the organization nor Gustav Husak’srnsecurity service (which had them penetrated very early on)rnregarded the Charter as a serious threat to the regime.rnAnd yet, when the structural weaknesses of the Soviet Blocrnled planners in Washington to decide that it was time to developrna Western-friendly alternative in Prague, an efficient mechanismrnsprung into action without ado. Quasi-independentrnfoundations (for democracy, human rights, artistic freedom, orrnwhatever) suddenly discovered and lionized Havel & Company.rnSunday supplements of the New York Times and the Posfrnwere full of “in-depth profiles” of Havel, in color no less; lecturerntours for the members (and suddenly numerous “sympathizers”)rnof the Charter were swiftly put together by the Council forrnForeign Relations and the USIA International Visitor Program,rnwith a stop at the National Press Club an obligatory item on therntour.rnThis campaign not only created the perception abroad thatrnthe Charter movement and its leader were the obvious alternativernto the communists, but, more importantly, it skyrocketedrnHavel’s influence inside his country, where his means of communicationrnwith “the people” had hitherto been nonexistent.rnThanks to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe—whornwere “only reporting” what others were saying and writing—rnHavel came to be perceived by many Czechs as a viable and desirablernalternative to the increasingly moribund regime. Whenrnthe moment came, with the “velvet revolution” of 1989, thernslogan “Havel to the Castle” (i.e., the presidential palace)rn”spontaneously” came to the lips of a nation which was sick andrntired of communism, but which had not been able to developrnits own alternative to the old team. The rest is history, includingrnthe disintegration of the Czechoslovak state, the proposedrninclusion of the Czech Republic in an extended NATO, and thernwholesale subjection of the Czech economy to foreign interests,rnfrom the gigantic Skoda Works (now under German control)rnto the old Pilsner and Budweiser breweries, under new,rnAmerican management.rnA similar scenario occurred the next year with Bulgarianrnleader Zhelyu Zhclycv, albeit with less effort and cost. But thernsimplest and cheapest such blitz was applied in Albania, wherernSali Berisha was selected as the preferred candidate from thernAmerican point of view to bring down Hoxha’s successors, andrnthe newly opened American Embassy in Tirana effectively actedrnas his unofficial campaign headquarters in 1991-92. Accordingrnto an informed Washingtonian, Berisha’s victory “cost us arnmere eight million bucks.” What his fall is yet to cost the peoplernof Albania remains to be seen.rnIn early 1990, as the first post-1945 opposition parties werernbeing established in Serbia, American policymakers had arnwide range of potential choices on the emerging political map.rnHad there been any serious intent to undermine Milosevic’srnposition—at a time when the Serbian president was ostensiblyrnsnubbing the United States by his refusal to talk to AmbassadorrnWarren Zimmerman, and systematically undermining PrimernMinister Ante Markovic’ who was, in turn, ostensibly supportedrnby Washington—it was possible to choose between a variety ofrnemerging personalities. Probably all of them would have beenrneager to play the role of Havel: Vuk Draskovic, DragoljubrnMicunovic, even Zoran Djindjic would have gladly taken thernopportunity to become the Uncle Sam-anointed future leaderrnof their nation. But this did not happen.rnOn the contrary, from the beginning of the acute stage of thernYugoslav crisis—during the premiership of Ante Markovic inrn1989-91—the opposition to Milosevic was written off in thernAmerican media and in political circles as “weak, divided, andrnirrelevant.” At the same time, curiously, Milosevic himself wasrnbeing vilified and grudgingly admired as “the strong man of thernBalkans,” whose hold on the Serbs was beyond dispute and notrnopen to challenge. This attitude did not change as a result ofrnthe huge demonstrations against the regime in Belgrade inrnMarch 1991, and the beginning of the war in Croatia. The media,rnled by the New York Times, were increasingly shrill in blamingrn”Milosevic’s Serbia” for the conflict, but without ever suggestingrnany alternative to him.rnIt was in June 1992 that it became clear that the UnitedrnStates wanted Milosevic to remain in power, and that it was notrngoing to do anything to jeopardize his position. The sanctionsrnagainst the newly-fangled “Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” hadrnjust been introduced, on the insistence of the Bush administration.rnThe pretext was found in the first of a string of Muslimrnbomb stunts in Sarajevo—the famous “bread line massacre,”rnstage-managed by Muslims for the benefit of the wodd mediarnand politicians.rnMany Serbs were infuriated by the sanctions, which they perceivedrnas harmful not to the ruling establishment but to thernpeople of Serbia; initially, however, Milosevic seemed unlikelyrnto reap any political benefits from American policy. He was alsornwidely perceived as a blunderer, whose inability to definernand defend national interests in the summer of 1991 producedrnthe dramatic worsening of the overall Serb position in 1992. Inrnfact, the opposition in Belgrade seemed to be gaining momentum;rntheir preparations for a grandiose Saint Vitus’ Day rallyrnthat year were accompanied by a string of pronouncementsrnfrom various national institutions asking Milosevic to steprndown.rnThe attitude even of his former allies was summarized in thernwords of the well-known poet Matija Beckovic, “Go, so thatrnSerbia may live.” The prevalent view in Belgrade, especiallyrnamong the opposition, was that the anti-Serb policy dictatedrnfrom Washington had a lot to do with Milosevic’s communistrnJUNE 1997/23rnrnrn