The Magazine

Free at Last

Montenegro declares independence.

Jul 24, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 42 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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Bosnians and Kosovars often allege that the fate inflicted on them by the U.N. and other international bodies reflects Western European anxiety about Islam in the Balkans, but it would be more accurate to attribute the failure of nation-building to the U.N.'s prejudice against free enterprise. All the international bodies responsible for the future of Bosnia and Kosovo--the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as well as the U.N.--are dominated by Russian, Scandinavian, and even British officials who evince a deep nostalgia for socialism and a profound suspicion of entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, the way forward for Kosovo, Bosnia, and Montenegro is clearly marked by the enthusiasm of small business owners, hard-working peasants who own middle-sized parcels of land, and investors in new technology.

Montenegro and Macedonia have bigger problems with Serbian Christians than with Albanian or other Muslims. The Serbian Orthodox Church continues to control the properties of the Montenegrin and Macedonian Orthodox believers. Balkan Muslims express support for the autonomy of the non-Serb Orthodox, no less than for their own religious freedom. Feeble Serbian lobbyists in Washington and elsewhere try to portray Balkan Islam as jihadist, but the truth is obviously otherwise. Local Sufis, for example, express greater resentment of Saudi-backed Wahhabi infiltrators than of Serbs. The Wahhabis have duped young people into joining their death cult not only with the promise of religious education and self-improvement, but also with bribes to induce men to grow Wahhabi beards and women to cover themselves completely in the Saudi manner.

Montenegro still has its problems. A local Muslim figure noted to me that constitutional rights for the small minorities--Bosnians (13 percent of the population), Croats, and others--remain unsecured. This is a cause of anxiety for one in four Montenegrins, lest ethnic demagogy reappear.

But Montenegrin president Vujan ovic will hold the new country's first general election on September 10. So far, there is every indication that new borders, a new flag (red with a black eagle resembling that of Albania), and a new, clean ballot will lift Montenegro out of the black hole into which it was dragged by Serbia, and in which Belgrade seems stuck for at least another generation.

Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.