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here is room for differences of opinion over the precise military tactics that would have been the most effective. But it seemed that simple enforcement of the Geneva Convention required the use of force: a forceful assertion that Serb gunners do not have sovereign immunity to inflict any outrage they choose on unarmed civilians throughout former Yugoslavia. As Vaclav Havel pointed out, the imposition of this discipline on Serbia was an assertion of the primacy of human rights over the idolatry of the State.

This was the majority view in most of western Europe, especially in countries where memories of the Nazi occupation have not quite attenuated, such as Denmark, the Netherlands, and France. Public opinion in France thus favored the NATO campaign against Serbia by a wide margin. But the NATO aerial bombardment was the subject of vigorous debate in the French media and amongst various commentators and factions. A petition campaign against the bombardment was spearheaded by the Parti Communiste Français and its associates.

Pronouncements from this part of the political spectrum come, of course, with a truly unique authority. Consider the brilliant outcome of the Bolshevik experiment in the former Soviet Union, in the former German Democratic Republic, in the former peoples' democracies of east-central Europe, and, not least of all, in the former Yugoslavia. When devotees of these experiments hold forth, it is as if the captains of the Spanish Armada, the Titanic, the Andrea Doria, the Exxon-Valdez, and the ferry Estonia had all gotten together to offer advice on piloting. I would expect prudent people to pay careful attention to this advice, so as to learn which course to steer hard AWAY FROM.

However, the French did not share my enthusiasm for the Old Left as an anti-lodestar. Their response to the Old Left is ras de bol, an expression accompanied by the gesture of moving the hand up the face to the top of one's head: it means "bored witless up to here." I observed hapless militants for the anti-NATO campaign trying to distribute petitions and literature in my town of Gif, at the university in Orsay, and in the student quarter in Paris. Scarcely anybody paid them the slightest attention. I was the only individual to accept a pamphlet in Gif or at the university; at the crowded Place St. Michel in Paris, the militants had attracted a crowd of exactly one person, who was arguing with them, as I had done in Gif. Nobody else even bothered.

This general disdain extended to the European elections, held in late June. Despite a very low turnout (which generally favors engagé minorities), the Parti Communiste Français finished with about 7%, dead even with Chasse et Peche --- the hunting and fishing party. Perhaps the two coteries might improve their electoral performance by a merger: one can imagine a joint platform to lead the world proletariat into the duck blinds, but alas, factional conflict would surely break out over which group constitutes the vanguard.

The Communists were by no means alone in opposing to the NATO aerial campaign. They were joined by portions of the independent Left, for example the Mouvement des Citoyens of Interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevenment (a Euroskeptic Socialist); and various Trotskyist and soi-disant revolutionary groupuscules. They were also joined by virtually all of the far Right. The rightwing daily Figaro, for example, not only opposed NATO but ran dispatches giving truly embarrassing credence to Serb propaganda about the primitive, hysterical, and untrustworthy character of the Albanian race. Some prominent Rightist opponents of the NATO campaign included Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the racist National Front; Alain Benoist, an erudite, William Buckleyish founder of the academic Nouvelle Droite; and Charles Pasqua, a spokesman for the Euroskeptic and anti-immigrant "Sovereignist" faction amongst the Gaullists.

Pasqua was Interior Minister in a previous Gaullist government, and his strict, seemingly even malign treatment of immigrants and temporary residents at that time led the Left to denounce him regularly as a fascist. This alignment of the Right with parts of the Left is revealing, I think, but in the final analysis it is no surprise. After all, the government in Serbia was itself a red-brown coalition which yoked together a virulent nationalist, almost nazi group (the Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj, commander of the White Eagle paramilitaries) with two parties which descend from the old League of Communists, namely Milosovic's own Serbian Socialist Party and his wife Mirjana Marcovic's United Left Party. Perhaps, in the context of a gang like this, the term "Left" should be considered a little more carefully.

Arthur Koestler, one of our century's profoundest political essayists, had the key to this question. In the landscape of politics, he used to say, the Communists should be understood as located "East" rather than "Left." He was referring to Moscow, of course. But I think the feature common both to Moscow and to heavenly Serbia, and to all their acolytes both East and West, descends from a more ancient and distinguished Eastern historical site.

What adjective best fits the internal politics, the psychological climate, and the rhetorical style of all these groups? That adjective is: Byzantine. Convoluted intrigue, icons and holy relics (think of Lenin's embalmed corpse), and interminable analysis of holy texts. In the Parti Communiste Français, in the Soviet imperium it formerly worshipped, and in the former Serbian League of Communists, the faint voices we always heard underneath the verbiage, and hear still, are those of St. George the Martyr, St. Sava the Sanctifier, and, of course, the Blessed Emperor Constantine.

--- Dr. Phage

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