The Moral Vacuum in the Balkans
When the cat’s away, the mice will play; so the saying goes. Though it may sound inappropriate to apply these terms to describe people, it may be appropriate enough to describe those who are wielding power inappropriately. To get this cleared away from the start, the region in question is the Balkans, the cat is authority of the West in that region, specifically its moral authority, and the mice are the political leaders of this region.
Historically, the Balkan region has demanded the attention of the world powers mainly because when the attention was not there, their leaders have tended to play with one another. The play at times has gotten rough, so rough that world wars have been known to happen. A referee, so to speak, to manage this rough play, has always been needed. The current situation is a bit of a puzzle; the West seems to have lost its moral compass, Balkan leaders are playing games at the expense of the people they are supposed to govern, while people in the Balkans are asking for directions. There is a renewed focus on the region due to external threats and ongoing internal corruption. Recent events on U.S. Capitol Hill and round table discussions in Washington are a sign that the region is not entirely forgotten. Recent news of a ‘mini Marshall Plan’ initiated by the German government called ‘Balkan Plus’ bodes well for the region. However, what is lacking is a more cohesive approach to the region that would foster a healthy society rooted on human dignity and flourishing. This lack is not a sign of exhaustion on the part of the West, it is rather a reflection of its own moral crisis.
Lack of Western Moral Leadership
The Cold War may seem too long ago only in a growing culture of willful amnesia and disdain to learn lessons from history. One thing that should be remembered is that the Balkan region and Eastern Europe at large lived under the subjugation of lies, another word used for it was propaganda. One had to secretly tune in to Voice of America, Radio Vatican or RFERL, to peek through the veil of lies and take in a little fresh air in order to grasp a sense of reality in which they were living. This ability to reach to sources that connected people to a reality that was deprived of them, laid the foundations of what happened later. Towards the end of the 1980s, relatively healthy societies of the West, led by an effective collaboration of strong leaders like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, so fresh air poured into the East and revived the hope and faith of its people for a better future. Then came the stark reminder of the volatility of the region when Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early ‘90s and later yet again a reminder of the need for intervention of the highest order before the turn of the century when Slobodan Milosevic started the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.