The U.S. government has a new official program called “Orthodox Christian World Outreach.”  Tens of millions of dollars will be spent to counter distrustful perceptions of the United States in Orthodox countries such as Serbia, Greece, and Russia—perceptions resulting, in part, from our policies with respect to Bosnia and Kosovo.  Under this new program, American tax dollars will support Orthodox Christian broadcasting, church schools, Orthodox think tanks, and restoration of churches and monasteries in Kosovo and Cyprus and of ancient icons and manuscripts in Orthodox monasteries.  Perhaps the most positive aspect is that, for the first time, the United States will ally herself politically with national movements and parties that seek to bring an Orthodox Christian moral and spiritual agenda to their societies.  This is a most welcome and unexpected development.

Alas, there is no such effort as “Orthodox Christian World Outreach.”  Everything in the above paragraph is not true.  Instead, Washington actually has launched this same program with respect to the Islamic world.  According to U.S. News & World Report,

In at least two dozen countries, Washington has quietly funded Islamic radio and TV shows, coursework in Muslim schools, Muslim think tanks, political workshops, or other programs that promote [so-called] moderate Islam.  Federal aid is going to restore mosques, save ancient Korans, even build Islamic schools. . . . Another strategy being pursued is to make peace with radical Muslim figures who [supposedly] eschew violence.  At the top of the list: the Muslim Brotherhood, the pre-eminent Islamist society, founded in 1928 and now with tens of thousands of followers worldwide. . . . Indeed, sources say U.S. intelligence officers have been meeting not only with the Muslim Brotherhood but also with members of the Deobandi sect in Pakistan, whose fundamentalism schooled the Taliban and inspired an army of al Qaeda followers.

Particular attention is being focused on various groups based on Sufism (defined as “tolerant,” notwithstanding plentiful evidence to the contrary), exemplified by the tolerant, pluralistic Ottoman empire, about which no more needs to be said.

If Washington’s policy of subsidizing “sharia with a human face” seems vaguely familiar, it should.  It was consciously modeled on America’s Cold War policy of promoting social democracy as an antidote to communism.  Even decades later, Washington’s leading lights have been unable to see what was painfully obvious then: that sponsoring socialism only advanced the moral case for collectivism, materialism, and the growth of state power over society, accompanied by de-Christianization—a devolution that influences our thinking today.

We cannot presume that the result of “Muslim World Outreach” will be a stumbling into victory, à la the Cold War.  Whereas, then, the noncommunist world did not support communist states and movements as a consistent policy—though they did so on occasion—American support for radical Islam is a long-standing pattern.  Muslim World Outreach is the logical conclusion of policies dating, at least, back to the Afghan war of a quarter-century ago.  This orientation can be summarized as follows: In local conflicts, promote Islamic interests; ally ourselves with jihad as long as it is directed against someone else.  The underlying logic is this: If we—the United States, the West—support Islamic interests, the result will be a moderate Islam that will, perhaps, threaten others but not us; if we do not, those interests will be championed by “extremists” (or at least by extremists we have not co-opted and redefined as “moderates”).

One would have thought this pattern would have been reconsidered after September 11.  Instead, it has been reinforced and expanded.  Even the official September 11 Commission said that

The United States defended, and still defends, Muslims against tyrants and criminals in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  If the United States does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us.

Evidently, the commission missed the obvious absurdity of the notion that, as of 2004, we are “still defending” Muslims in Bosnia or Kosovo.  (Against whom?  A Republika Srpska that is being systematically dismantled by Paddy Ashdown?  Against terrified, isolated Serb enclaves in Kosovo?)  Equally ignored is that our interventions have brought us no praise in the Islamic world but have simply augmented the list of Muslim grievances: Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine, the Philippines, Iraq, etc.

While the explicit link between U.S. policy and appeasing Muslim sensibilities was first applied to the Balkans under President George H.W. Bush, the American dance with jihad vastly expanded under President Clinton.  Regarding radical Islamic influence in Bosnia, Clinton’s April 1994 “green light” for covert shipments of Iranian weapons through Croatia to the Muslim regime of the late Alija Izetbegovic is old news.  Less well known is the contemporaneous presence in Bosnia of a second aid network—working parallel to the Iranians and, to some extent, in competition with them—that also brought in arms, funds, and mujahideen from around the world.  Loosely patterned on—and, to some degree, an outgrowth of—the effort begun to assist Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation in the 1980’s, this parallel network in Bosnia was largely funded from Saudi Arabia through an intricate web of untraceable sources and was administered through a number of phony “charities.”  In short, this parallel network was what we now refer to as Al Qaeda.

While there are numerous references to Bosnia and even to Kosovo in the official September 11 Commission report, these have led neither to wide public comment nor to official inquiry into the extent to which the jihad terror that struck America in 2001 was empowered to do so because of mistakes made a decade ago in the Balkans.

While what became Al Qaeda was hatched in the 1980’s in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, it was mostly in the context of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990’s that (according to the commission report) the “groundwork for a true global terrorist network was being laid”—a network capable of striking the United States.  Amazingly, this is the same report that recommends more pro-Islamic interventions along the lines of our policies in Bosnia and Kosovo.

What to many may seem simply a nonsensical orientation needs to be understood in a larger context.  The overall tendency in American global policy, going back to the end of the Cold War, can be summed up in one word: hegemony.  This means not only hegemony in Europe through NATO—which had specific application in the Balkan interventions—but in what is called the Broader Middle East, which includes the Caucasus and Central Asia and of which the Balkans is seen to be as much a part as it is of Europe.  In its wider application, it means that the opinion of any other power, or any possible combination of powers, may not outweigh that of the United States on any point of the globe.

An important corollary of the foregoing is the effort to undermine the status of certain regional powers, notably Russia.  This includes the current effort to dominate Russia’s Near Abroad, an effort that has accelerated with the successful “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine and parallel advances elsewhere (Moldova, Kyrgyzia, and, perhaps next, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and likely Russia herself in 2008).  Especially with the growing American rapprochement with our European allies—for which support for “democracy” in such places as the Ukraine has served as a catalyst—Russia’s strategic isolation is deepening.  With respect to diminution of Moscow’s status as a power, it is significant that the Washington Post editorialized that “[n]either Serbia nor Russia . . . should be allowed to stand in the way of resolving Kosovo’s future”—that is, independence.

Consider Serbia’s situation with respect to the elements of the policy I have outlined.  First, she is part of the Broader Middle East, a particular focus for hegemonic control, where assuaging Muslim sentiments is a major imperative.  Second, she is in Europe, where again, hegemonic control via NATO is imperative.  Add another element, great-power chauvinism: Like the NKVD, we never make mistakes.  No American policy mistakes of the past—by either party—can ever be reexamined, because this would compromise our infallibility.

This largely explains why the expected reappraisal of Bill Clinton’s flawed Balkan policy never occurred in the George W. Bush administration.  (Particularly puzzling to some was that an administration in which self-identified Christian conservatives figure so prominently would continue the decidedly anti-Christian policies of its predecessor.)  Besides an imperious inability to admit error, two other factors should be noted: first, the continuing influence of the permanent foreign-policy bureaucracy, centered at the State Department, including many officials who held responsible jobs under Clinton and were retained under Bush; second, the dominance of the neoconservatives, for whom global hegemony was, and remains, an article of faith.  Regarding the latter, even when Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the Kosovo war by a margin of more than nine to one and, in fact, defeated the resolution of authorization, important figures now staffing the Bush administration faulted Clinton only in that his policy was not aggressive enough.

We will soon see a push for settling the “final status” of Kosovo.  I will not review the details of the background noise—the Contact Group, Richard Holbrooke’s recent essay in the Washington Post, the January 2005 International Crisis Group report, the hair-splitting over whether “standards” come before “status” (or vice versa) or whether the progression is from occupation to “independence without full sovereignty” or “guided sovereignty” or “shared sovereignty” with the European Union.  There is no doubt that the United States, together with the European Union, will soon solemnly conclude that Kosovo’s “progress” toward “standards” is sufficient to “move forward.”

Predictably, Serbs will torture themselves over how to engage, as they have with other issues such as The Hague.  “Do we participate in status talks?  Do we boycott them?  What should local Serbs do?  How will cooperation benefit Serbia?  How will resistance hurt us?”

The answers Serbs give to immediate questions concerning Kosovo, The Hague, etc., are less important for the short-term costs and benefits than they are for preserving any part of the Serbian national patrimony, encouraging national unity—spiritual and moral accord even more than political harmony.  Serbs must decide what they would want for Serbia if the United States and the European Union did not exist, and only then decide how to engage them.

At the same time, Serbs should not think that the situation is hopeless or that nothing useful can be done.  Even in the current climate, it is possible for incremental but significant gains to be made, as is occurring in the commercial sector.

More broadly speaking, whether Washington’s agenda is sustainable over the long term—geopolitically, militarily, economically—is still unknown.  Also, there are many in the United States, distributed across the political spectrum, who are skeptical that the prevailing program of global hegemony is in the American national interest; rather than bringing us “national greatness,” it will lead us to ruin.  While those who hold this view do not dominate U.S. foreign policy, neither are they entirely inconsequential.  There is reason to think that even some who support hegemony as a global concept are receptive to the idea that our current orientation in the Balkans is counterproductive to their broader goals.