Slobodan Milosevic, Our S.O.B.rnby Srdja TrifkovicrnOur government is capable of swift and efficient actionrnwfien it decides that the regime in a foreign country hasrnoutlived its usefulness, or has become a “threat” to what passesrnfor national security inside the Beltway. Grenada, Panama, andrnHaiti all come to mind, but the methods deployed in this geographicrnarea tend to be rather crude, and their direct applicationrnoutside our hemispheric backyard is politically risky.rnMore subtle, and in the long run more efficient, is thernmethod of cultivating internal allies and potential political protegesrnamong the elites in the target country. This approach demandsrnmore than mere direct agents of influence, epitomizedrnin the former Jamaican prime minister Edward Seaga, who wasrnaffectionately known to his countrymen as CIA-aga. It demandsrnpeople whose personal and political credo correspondsrnto the self-proclaimed values of the post-Christian Westernrnworld. And so, from Prague to Tirana, from Riga to Bratislava,rnthe chattering classes are repeating in a dozen strange tonguesrnthe mantra of “human rights,” “free markets,” “democracy.” Itrnis their ticket (so they think) to the Good Life of six-lane freeways,rnQuarterpounders, and televisions with over 100 channels.rnTo these new agents of “American” influence the credo is oftenrndelivered indirectly. What Madeleine Albright only hints,rnthe Soros Foundation will proudly proclaim. To be condescendingrnabout one’s ancestors—ignorant peasants, anyway—rnis cool; to be aloof about one’s national culture is a must, if onernis to get that elusive scholarship or at least a six-week tour of thernStates sponsored by the USIA. “They do not understand thernmusic but they love the sound it makes.”rnIn the former Yugoslavia, in Tito’s lifetime and in the decadernfollowing his death in 1980, there had been no serious attemptrnSrdja Trifkovic is executive director of The Lord Byron Foundationrnfor Balkan Studies. This article was delivered as a speech atrna Chicago conference in March on “America’s Intervention inrnthe Balkans,” hosted by Chronicles and The Lord ByronrnFoundation.rnby the United States to help develop or cultivate an alternativernpolitical team in Belgrade among the narrow stratum whichrncould be considered friendly to “Western democracy.” In accordancernwith the Kennan Doctrine, Tito’s dictatorship enjoyedrnAmerica’s blank check to do as it pleased domestically forrnas long as it shunned total rapprochement with Moscow.rnSerious and constant violations of basic liberty and humanrndignity in “Tito’s Yugoslavia,” clampdowns on real or imaginedrnopponents of the system, periodical purges of unreliable universityrnprofessors, market-oriented managers and alleged nationalistsrnof all shades, were not allowed to distort the Westernrnliberals’ story of Yugoslavia as a “special case.” Tito was notrn”our” S.O.B., but at least he was not “theirs” either. Even RadiornFree Europe, which proved to be a surprisingly efficient propagandarntool in Central-Eastern Europe, was not allowed tornbroadcast in Serbo-Croatian.rnIncreasingly obvious structural weaknesses in the Soviet Blocrnin the late I980’s did not bring about a change. Even followingrnthe meteoric rise of Slobodan Milosevic, the man often presentedrnas the embodiment of all that America detests, Americanrndiplomats in Belgrade totally refrained from “cultivating”rnany potential political alternatives to Milosevic’s ruling team.rnAs Yugoslavia was nearing the abyss, and Germany proved increasinglyrnunrestrained in its support for the two most vocalrnseparatist-minded republics, Croatia and Slovenia, America refrainedrnfrom making a bid for real influence in Belgrade.rnIn retrospect, this lack of involvement in a strategically sensitivernpart of Europe is unsurprising. There is now ample evidencernto suggest that the United States did not build up alternativesrnto Milosevic because it had decided—early in thernYugoslav conflict—that his remaining in power would serve itsrninterests in the region.rnIt would be beyond the intended scope of this article to analyzernthe reasons for the decision in the winter of 1991-92 to supportrnthe Croats and the Bosnian Muslims in the violent disintegrationrnof Yugoslavia. While the “why” of this decision is stillrn22/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn