Peter van Ham
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Simulating European security
Kosovo and the Balkanisation–integration nexus

In Europe's security discourse, 'Kosovo' tends to allegorise the Balkanisation of Europe, the ultimate metaphor of chaos and disintegration which supposedly is the antithesis of the real Europe of peace and stability. The challenge for the EU has been to prevent a slow drift from a postmodern politics of family resemblance to a narcissistic policy of passive self-absorption and epistemic closure. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) air campaign has legitimised not only new European order (NEO) realism: it has made another step in legitimising the structure of meaning that circulates in the very debate on 'European security'. The discourse of 'European security' produces a parallel paradigm of European sovereignty, a paradigm that faces serious challenges of local resistance (of the still-resilient state), as well as external opposition.

Introduction: writing security

Security is among the most debated and contested concepts in the study of international relations (IR). ‘Security’ commands a unique metaphysical and disciplinary power which involves the drawing of imaginary lines, the consolidated resentment of difference (vis-à-vis the ‘other’), as well as the constitution of self-reflective collectivities (‘identity’). Although it has become slightly embarrassing to make yet another effort to reconceptualise ‘security’, I argue in this chapter that a critical approach is required, mainly because ‘security’ is a fundamental point of reference and an essential modifier for a state that is gradually losing its pre-eminence within Europe and the wider world. In many ways, it is ‘national security’ that has dominated the security debate and has established a set of elaborate practices and traditions, all of which have a rather formalised referent: the state. This conceptual hegemony has crowded out other discourses, most notably on transversal and personal security. For now there is hardly a tradition or body of literature that attempts to conceptualise ‘security’ in non-statal terms. The only way to read security is through the state, and in this way ‘security’ both writes and rights the state in its claim to sovereign authority for disciplining space and people.

In this discursive context, ‘security’ therefore follows the old script of political realism that defines the security problematique as the field and the operations that touch upon the survival of the political unit: the sovereign state. But, unfortunately for realists’ peace of mind, the contemporary European political theatre does not follow the established script of security– sovereignty written by political realism. Offhand and ad lib performances by other (f )actors have turned this European stage in a politically surreal territory in which the ontological givens of modernity have become unrooted. Although governmental discourses about European security continue to methodically mobilise the assumptions, codes and procedures that enforce our understanding of humanity as subdivided in territorially defined statal spaces as their primary and natural habitat, it is becoming obvious that such efforts to classify, organise and frame Europe’s collective consciousness along these lines are ineffective as well as doomed to failure.

This essay argues that ‘security’ has remained captive to orthodox statal thinking for too long. The argument is informed by the critical thinking of Cynthia Weber and Ole Wæver, and asserts that in order to come to a better understanding of contemporary Europe we should accept that the idea of ‘European security’ no longer follows the logic of representation (in which ‘security’ posits the state within legitimate boundaries), but now abides by a logic of simulation (in which there is no longer a rooted foundation but instead an unsteady chain of signifiers).1 Jean Baudrillard’s claim that ‘[i]t is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real’2 is especially relevant for my argument. For Baudrillard, postmodern society has entered the era of the simulacrum, the abstract non-society that is devoid of cohesive relations, shared meaning and significant change.3 In this void, ‘truth’, ‘reality’, as well as ‘power’, are devoured.

My point is that the contemporary European debate on security has transmogrified the notion of ‘European security’ into a simulacrum, a representation of the ‘real’ that is now omnipresent, so that it has become impossible to distinguish this ‘real’ from its original referent. ‘European security’ has become a complex sign, an image of the ‘real’ that constitutes a novel realm of experience and practice that is ‘hyperreal’. In the debate about European security it has become clear that the representational relationship has been eclipsed and the traditional subject–object distance erased. Old language games are no longer appropriate, no longer based on stable meanings. Instead, the original referent (the state) is, to all intents and purposes, vanquished and assimilated by a new set of codes and models. In this new game, ‘European security’ does not simply become a myth or a fantasy, but tends to become hyperreal: depleted, dissipated and without power; it is hyped, feigned and faked, and perhaps therefore is more real than the real thing: the state itself.

In this funhouse of the hyperreal, Europe’s postmodern security has become an ersatz experience, an image which may sometimes conceal (but usually just accentuates) that the ‘original’ of statal security no longer seems to exist. This essay examines the war in and over Kosovo as an example of how security is continuing to write Europe’s geopolitical space and argues that ‘Europe’ has (mis)used Serbia and Kosovo in a classic modern exercise of identity construction by disciplining the Balkan ‘other’.

‘Security’ as a political struggle

Like sovereignty, security is not so much an ontological given with a stable meaning as the site of a continuous political struggle in which the nature of statehood as such may be inferred from practice and experience. All efforts to define, redefine and reconstruct security therefore engage in a wider political practice in order to stabilise the concept’s definition and purpose. Wæver has argued that ‘security’ lacks a generic concept, but that it has a clear temporal dimension derived from an established set of practices. The label of ‘security’, says Wæver, ‘has become the indicator of a specific problematique, a specific field of practice’,4 in which the state determines the rules of the (language) game. In terms of semiotics, ‘security’ is therefore not a signifier (indicator) which refers back to a referent (that it is supposed to represent); rather the

utterance itself is the act. By saying it, something is done (as in betting, giving a promise, naming a ship). By uttering ‘security,’ a state-representative moves a particular development into a specific area, and thereby claims a special right to use whatever means are necessary to block it.5

Security has thereby become an act; the word–concept itself has become its primary reality, affording the state special rights and privileges. By fixing the meaning of security (always in spatial and temporal dimensions), security thereby de facto writes the state.

Wæver identifies three major problems with the statal hegemony over the security discourse. First, it tends to imply that any response to a security problem, risk or perceived threat is to be expected first and foremost from the state. Second, the concept of security tends to reinforce the logic of nationalism and the Manichean us–them thinking grounded on the tradition of viewing threats as coming from the ‘outside’ (i.e. beyond the state’s own borders). This also tends to encourage the militarisation of our thinking. Third, since the concept of security is basically defensive in nature, it tends to defend the status quo and thereby precludes alternative realities that may be preferable to that which is. Wæver summarises his arguments in his claim that ‘[w]hen a problem is “securitized,” the act tends to lead to specific ways of addressing it: Threat, defense, and often statecentred solutions’.6 The discourse of security is not a neutral academic terrain, but a continuous struggle for political power, access to resources and the authority to articulate new definitions and priorities of security. ‘Security’ is therefore a socially constructed concept that emerges from its discourse (or, in this case, through a ‘speech act’) and the discursive practices that constitute the ever-shifting boundaries and capacities of sovereign states and the interpretative communities in which they are embedded.

Clearly, in most discourses, the referent (object) of ‘security’ remains the state. But how should we read ‘the state’ in the European context? Barry Buzan has argued that states have three basic components: the idea of the state (nationalism); the physical base of the state (population, etc.); and the institutional expression of the state (political system).7 In the political discourse, ‘national security’ therefore represents three circumstances: the nation, the people and the government. Traditional approaches to this problematique tend to be framed by a logic of representation in which the national community formally authorises ‘its’ government to express ‘its’ voice in the international theatre. Weber has argued, however, that this logic of representation is seriously flawed, mainly because it has become unclear what the boundaries of the ‘people’ are and what means (and legitimacy) the national government has to serve as the signifier (and voice) of this ‘imagined community’.8 Following Baudrillard, Weber therefore suggests that the state has become a sign without a referent and, hence, is hyperreal.

This may explain why the popular media continues to endow the state with a sanctity that is, to say the least, mystifying. The socio-spatial modern triad of security–sovereignty–territoriality is more often than not treated as if it were the nation’s equivalent to virginity, with the inevitable implication that losing ‘it’ would be a decisive stage, at times comparable only to rape.9 But the anthropomorphism inherent to this individual–state analogy overlooks that pre-given material bodies may not be unproblematical in terms of identity and politics.10 State power may also be read as a gendered problematique insofar as it is ‘a historical product and expression of male predominance in public life and male dominance generally’.11 Weber argues that the sovereign state has a clearly feminine domestic side and a masculine international side, which implies that the international arena ‘refers to the projection of this domestic identity into the public sphere of relations among states’.12 By paying homage to the state’s virginal identity, we therefore continue to worship the state as the optimal cultural and democratic area, whereas the postmodern state is now selling the remains of its sovereignty to the highest bidder on a daily basis. European states are clinging desperately to as much political authority, democratic legitimacy and problem-solving capacity as they possibly can, but are also prepared (and occasionally coerced) to re-read the notion of territorial sovereignty as a quid pro quo to remain in the ‘geopolitical business’ in the first place. Within the global political space, states are occasional criminal rapists as well as defenceless victims. National virginity has been lost long ago, but we continue to believe in the state’s virginal conception and its capacity to deliver.

In her work, Weber identifies the concept of ‘sovereignty’ as the principal sign that through a swirl of discursive practices rescues and writes the state’s hegemonic fantasy. But the same can be said for the code of security, a concept policy makers and diplomats like to call upon to legitimise their particular international practices, without realising that the ‘security’ they refer to has become a hollow shell: it lacks a nation, a people, as well as a government. ‘Security’ therefore now mainly has (following Baudrillard’s nomenclature) an ‘alibi function’: it tries to assert the realness of the state and its components; it tries to reaffirm and discursively frame and read that which it is supposed to signify in the first place. But given the continued hollowing out of the territorial state, to do so has become increasingly difficult. Especially in Europe, the idea of ‘national security’ fails to pass most serious reality checks, which may explain why the anaemic notion of ‘European security’ is now being reinscribed with new meanings and given a new lease of life in the invigorated context of post-Cold War European integration.

European security as a tabula rasa

Wæver has made a persuasive argument that during the Cold War, the concept of ‘European security’ has functioned as a means and a mechanism to enforce cohesion within the two halves of Europe.13 The discourse on European security was not so much on what was threatening Europe from the outside as a continued debate on how to frame Europe from within, which in turn limited the options of Europe’s actors within confined disciplinary parameters. This reading of European security has been one of the most notable casualties of the deep geopolitical quakes of 1989–91, leaving most policy makers and academic analysts in the dark as to how to reinscribe this concept with meaning now that the reductionist categories that dominated the traditional security discourse have passed away.

This discourse has immediately raised the question of whether one can meaningfully debate European security in the absence of clear foundations? The answer seems to be less than clear-cut. It is clear that to tell stories about European security is to imply the very existence of ‘Europe’ as a referent object. This is the alibi function of all discourses of European security, since assuming that ‘something’ is (possibly) threatened is to insist upon its very existence. In this sense, ‘security’ functions as the alibi for ‘Europe’. The European security discourse also discursively frames the diverse meanings of ‘Europe’, fixing its geopolitical boundaries by locating its practices and by speaking as if a stable European citizenry already existed which it could authoritatively represent – this, whereas the notion of ‘Europe’ is a forest of ideas, symbols and myths. ‘Europe’ seems to function as a mirror reflecting the image of a multitude of ideas and meanings, rather than as a prism concentrating the minds and hearts of its peoples around a central theme. What is Europe and what does it stand for? Who is European, and what does being European imply? These are questions that the discourse on European security not only fails to answer, but deliberately ignores, since efforts to ‘find’ answers concerning the foundational authorities would detract from the logic of simulation which underpins this debate. Policy makers and theorists try to ‘solve’ these questions of Europe’s foundations by preventing such interrogations from being seriously undertaken in the first place.

It is this locale, this site of friction, which should be the focus of academic analysts of European security, since the meaning of ‘Europe’ is fixed and stabilised by the invocation of the security speech act. Security, perhaps by default, is the main tool for writing Europe, a tool for claiming its essential foundations through fixing the boundaries between inside–outside and the claim to organise, occupy and administer Europe’s space. Since the European Union (EU) is the only truly European security institution functioning on the supranational level, the process of European integration has become the main platform on which European security can be constructed. From Europe’s perspectivalist vision of its space, the contours of a Eurocentrically calibrated world map of security are gradually becoming clear. By adopting a ‘European’ security perspective, a process of distantiation of appearances and events is supposed to emerge, setting priorities and seeking to ‘arrange and display the world around a sovereign center of judgement, a rational I/eye that observes and in so doing disciplines the ambiguity, contingency, and (barbarian) chaos of international affairs and the world’.14 The European security discourse is therefore an effort on the part of all European states to set Eurocentric standards to describe, read and write the continent’s geopolitical structure in an effort to colour Europe as a patriotic – and therefore ‘safe’ – (blue) space. This follows the argument made by Gearoid O Tuathail and John Agnew that ‘[t]o designate a place is not simply to define a location or setting. It is to open up a field of possible taxonomies and trigger a series of narratives, subjects and appropriate foreign policy responses.’15

By conceptualising European security, ‘Europe’ is politically spatialised to represent its own ‘imagined community’, its own hyperreal political stage on which its performative identity may gradually take shape. But by doing so, Europe inevitably challenges traditional statal notions of security. This makes the notion of ‘European security’ so problematic an abstraction, since in its textuality it is challenging, and is itself continuously challenged by, ‘security’ tout court. The discourse of ‘European security’ should therefore be deconstructed by problematising its limits and conditions. Rather than a genealogy of European security (which would trace historically how theorists have defined ‘European security’), we need to analyse the textuality of the concept and find out how ‘European security’ is being produced within the various discursive networks of difference.16 This would follow a Derridean approach by displacing the question of ‘European security’: it would problematise its circulating limits and conditions and investigate its conceptual meaning(s) in the reading and writing of European security as a text. We should therefore not assume that the notion of ‘European security’ is self-evident and non-partisan, but ask how it is charged by particular meanings and strategic uses within the existing (but ever-changing) context of power/knowledge networks. ‘European security’ is therefore itself a sign which marks a specific site within a wider geopolitical space/power/knowledge system, a system which produces the scripts for many actors, which affects the dramas and comedies that are being played, and which therefore never passively is, but is always under dynamic (de)construction.

Many tactical interventions can be made to illustrate and analyse the different aspects of the wider problem of how ‘European security’ is constructing Europe’s political space. No doubt there is a need for more concentrated attention in order to congeal more exhaustively the meaning(s) around this concept. The remainder of this essay investigates how the marginal – and at the same time very central – question of ‘Kosovo’ has turned into the principal paradigmatic sign in the complex text of European security. It asks how its very marginality has emphasised the unravelling fringes and limits of the sovereign presence of what ‘Europe’ thinks it stands for, and how it has affected (and continues to affect) the concept of ‘European security’.

Kosovo and the margins of modernity

In its efforts to write Europe’s geopolitical space, the EU has adopted a Wittgensteinian approach, using the metaphor of Familienähnlichkeiten (i.e. ‘family resemblances’) to illustrate the complex networks of similarities of Europe’s peoples who are nevertheless quite different in their essence. Ludwig Wittgenstein argued that in the various resemblances between the members of a family ‘we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and crisscrossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities in detail.’17 In its semantic politics, the EU has continually applied this metaphor of family resemblance (the ‘European family’) to illustrate how Europe could relate to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (and vice versa). In doing so, the EU has rejected the framing of an undisputed definition of ‘Europeanness’ and has not codified the unequivocal features and characteristics of those who belong to Europe and those who do not. Apart from an internalised culture of cooperation, a deeply ingrained willingness to make compromises, no checklist of criteria that will assure entry into this ‘Club Europe’ has been presented.

But despite this acknowledgement (even appreciation) of difference, the EU now seems to have fallen in the traditional trap of modernity and its concomitant quest for control and planning. The EU is willing to accept difference in the pluralism of its prosaic politics (language, culture, education, etc.), but certainly not in the area of heroic politics, the reading–writing of ‘big events’. In this field of heroic politics, the EU has hardly been able to make its voice heard and is competing with potent statal claims to ‘security’. As happens with organisations such as NATO, the EU’s ‘desire for security is manifested as a collective resentment of difference – that which is not us, not certain, not predictable’.18 The ‘enemy’ of Europe’s volatile identity is thereby defined as the ‘unknown’, the ‘unpredictable’ and the ‘unstable’. By reading Europe’s ‘other’ in this way, the meaning of ‘European security’ is stabilised as efforts to limit the pluralism of the continent’s centres, to limit its multiple meanings to a strict canon and a fixed site, and to solidify the current fluidity of Europe’s identity.

The challenge for the EU has been to prevent a slow drift from a postmodern politics of family resemblance to a narcissistic policy of passive self-absorption and epistemic closure. It was Sigmund Freud who observed (in 1917) that ‘it is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them’.19 This ‘narcissism of minor differences’, as Freud labelled it, is a discursive mechanism which frames the meaning of European security. Michael Ignatieff has argued rightly that these ‘differences’ (be they between the sexes, between religions, races or nations) are in themselves neutral, but that a ‘narcissist is incurious about others except to the extent that they reflect back on himself. What is different is rejected if it fails to confirm the narcissist in his or her self-opinion.’20 This closure for the ‘other’ and the ‘outside’ is where prosaic politics ends and heroic security concerns begin. Narcissism thereby marks the inside–outside divide by feeding modern fears of fluidity and by (sometimes violent attempts of ) keeping ambiguity at bay.

Nowhere have these margins of modernity been more clearly marked than in Kosovo (and earlier, but less distinctly, in Bosnia). Starting with the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, rump-Yugoslavia (nicknamed ‘Serbia’) was identified as the strange and alien entity threatening European security at the end of the millennium by its ethnic and sectarian essentialism, its barbarian methods of ‘ethnic cleansing’, and its altogether premodern values, attitude and practices. In short: Milosevic’s Serbia was not sticking to the carefully crafted script of ‘European’ conduct. By falling out of line, by not accepting the rationales of European integration and European security, this Serbia was posing itself as the main challenge to the emerging new European order (NEO). By ignoring the logic of NEO realism (or, as Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen calls it in chapter 9, the West’s emerging ‘governmentality’), Serbia brought a question to the fore, one which European policy makers and theorists have tried to ignore: on what stable foundations can ‘European security’ be constructed?

It is here that, from a Foucauldian perspective, the story of NATO’s military intervention against Serbia (as well as its Montenegran appendix) might tell us how the West’s disciplinary power has been involved in the actual construction of ‘European security’. This is a story of the discursive production of an operational meaning along the lines laid out by Weber, who has argued that ‘intervention is understood as the flip side of sovereignty . . . And what it means to violate sovereignty is decided by theorists when they operationalise the meaning of intervention.’21 In Europe’s security discourse, ‘Kosovo’ therefore tends to allegorise the Balkanisation of Europe, the ultimate metaphor of chaos and disintegration which supposedly is the antithesis of the real Europe of peace and stability. As Wæver argued in this context: ‘Balkanisation is a tool for legitimising an international order without a named enemy . . . “Security” thus becomes shorthand for the argument: We have to do everything to ensure that integration, and not fragmentation, is the outcome.’22 To speak of Milosevic’s Serbia as the ultimate threat to ‘European security’ is to imply the strategic relevance of the notion of security through integration. Kosovo therefore serves as a useful alibi for the stabilisation of what ‘European security’ actually means by operationalising it through military intervention. Thanks to these acts of stabilisation, Kosovo has written (and, to some extent, continues to write) European security.

The story of Kosovo tells us that those political actors who do not accept NEO realism, who defy the logic of integration and cooperation, de facto deny their Europeanness, their family resemblance to other European (family) member states, and should expect to face the serious consequences. Serbia’s eruption into premodern savagery in the ‘heart of Europe’ has offered the rest of Europe a not-to-be-missed chance to manifest and constitute itself as the pinnacle of modern rational civilisation. Serbia’s killing of Kosovo has set the parameters of the Balkanisation–integration nexus, offering ‘Europe’ (and the West in general) a unique opportunity to suggest itself as the strong centre that keeps the margins from running away. This may explain the comical pride of many Romanians to be situated ‘north of the Danube’, as if the Danube were a twenty-first-century Styx, a mythical border between life and death, between European affluence and Balkan anarchy. But by posing this nexus as the main (if not only) platform for discourse, ‘European security’ becomes a speech act itself: it becomes the central tool for building an integrated Europe by solidifying a socio-political order that does not (yet) exist in actuality. Here, again, hyperreality takes precedence over the ‘really real’. But this time it might be (merely) a weak version of hyperreality, since the difference between Europe and its copy are all too well understood. The all-too-human observer, however, ‘consciously chooses the illusion, the hyped, the fake, or the copy as somehow better, sexier, more exciting – more real’.23

Writing security on the Balkan screen

What happened in the Balkans during the 1990s is therefore often seen as a somewhat bizarre, and certainly counterproductive, revolt against the logic of European integration. The death of Yugoslavia in 1991 (coinciding with the birthpangs of Croatia and Slovenia after their recognition as independent states by Germany in December of that year) implied a reversal of Europe’s commitment to a unitary Yugoslavia. The crumbling of a federal political entity like Yugoslavia was (and remains) a painful screenplay for the rest of Europe to witness, reminding the other (family) member states how fragile the continent’s peace and calm actually are.

The Bosnian slaughterhouse has projected the horrors of war and ethnic strife with an unprecedented transparency and visibility onto the mental and TV screens of Europeans, crushing the comfortable distance between ‘Europe’ and its supposedly premodern Balkan antipode. Bosnia has made war a live drama with exaggerated, almost obscene, images of fear and hate. European viewers easily (and readily) forgot that the Bosnian war was in essence a modern war, a quest for space, territory and identity. It was a war about questions still very much alive in the rest of Europe, although most other European states had by now learned how to resolve (and/or suppress) these disputes through complex political and administrative mechanisms. It uncomfortably reminded Europeans that their efforts to deter-ritorialise politics remain a fragile and far from completed project whose ratchet may well break under the combined pressures of sectarianism and narcissism. ‘Bosnia’ and ‘Kosovo’ therefore function as disciplining allegories of what a forthright assault on Europe’s current political project of integration may ultimately lead to, reminding all observers, almost on a daily basis, how the veneration of identity may undermine the multicultural ideal of Europe.

This has been the irony of the West’s actions in Bosnia and Kosovo, since in its claim and efforts to promote tolerance it has been prepared to use (military) force, if necessary. But, as Stjepan Mestrovic has suggested, the ‘postmodern program of promoting organized tolerance is fundamentally flawed, and doomed to failure’.24 Mestrovic points out that Western tolerance ‘denotes an air of contemptuous superiority on the part of those who do the tolerating. To tolerate is to put up with something or someone, not to sympathize or understand.’25 Europe’s approach to the Balkans has therefore been based upon narcissism, rather than a sense of genuine toleration based on compassion. Europe is saying to Serbia what Baudrillard has said on ‘America’: ‘utopia has arrived. If you aren’t part of it, get lost!’26 When Serbia claims political authority over Kosovo simply because this territory is an integral part of its history, and of its cultural and religious identity, it is challenging Europe’s now dominant postmodern narrative of culture as consisting of rootless, circulating fictions and signs that no longer refer to history, ethnicity and accepted myths. This explains why after having declared the ‘end of history’, fundamentalist ethnocentrism and Balkanisation caught the West completely off guard. It was shocked by the real blood seeping from the Balkans which gradually reached the virginal doormat of the European ‘centre’.

In his fury over Europe’s passive Bosnia policy, Mestrovic has depicted the West as a ‘voyeuristic consumer of abstract fiction because the distinction between fact and fiction has been lost’.27 The Balkans have become the site of a prolonged docudrama with stereotypical characters, Mestrovic argues, who stage a play full with the usual sordid images western TV audiences have by now got used to; scandalous, violent and even sexual images which may, according to Mestrovic, raise the question whether the Balkan wars are a ‘prelude to a future in which audiences will have been reduced to postmodern Romans watching bloody spectacles in the electric arena comprised of televised images?’28 Following a somewhat perverse Baudrillardian logic, this would turn the Balkans into a hyperreal site of simulation precisely because it is televised, made abstract on a screen which produces little other than violence and sensationalism. Real war and televised war therefore blend together, preventing real emotion and real compassion for the still very real victims of ethnic strife and attempted genocide. Or, as Andreas Behnke argues later on in this book:

Only when [NATO’s] verbal representation is controlled, structured and disseminated by spin-doctors and clever spokespersons, only when the visual ‘evidence’ is presented in the form of videogames, only when we stay within the framework of this de-ontologised version of warfare, can NATO’s claims [of moral superiority] be sustained.

Bosnia has shown for the first time how the referents of Western modernity – truth, morality, justice – have now been emptied of real content, seemingly confirming Baudrillard’s conjecture that social reality is composed of mere fictions mostly played out on the TV screen. ‘Kosovo’, on the other hand, has provided the West with an opportunity to publicly visualise these lost referents by claiming the moral highground and re-establish the rhetoric of Europe’s Enlightenment ideals.

NATO’s air campaign against Serbia (not to be confused with something as arcane and brutal as ‘war’ – see Pertti Joenniemi’s chapter in this volume), started on 24 March 1999 and lasted seventy-eight days. NATO warplanes flew 37,465 sorties (an average of 480 every 24 hours), dropping more than 20,000 ‘smart bombs’, destroying parts of Serbia’s industrial and civilian infrastructure, and killing an unknown number of Yugoslav troops as well as some 500 civilians (the exact figure is still unknown). The tragedy of Kosovo finally seems to have dehypnotised the West’s post-emotional stare at the Balkans and to have provoked Europe to draw its own ‘line in the sand’ by including Kosovo in Europe’s security equation.29 But in practice this ‘line’ was drawn in the air, indicating that Europe did not want to become ‘engaged’ on the ground but was committed to Balkan security in only a general and abstract way through an antiseptic aerial operation. The proclaimed victory of the West’s airpower has confirmed these ocularcentric fantasies of technological mastery and transcendence, stimulating the deterministic logic of mediated vision and techno-imagery. NATO’s air campaign and its video-supported mission briefings have made it clear that these new technologies open up the possibility of simultaneous engagement and disengagement with the ‘other’ we encounter on our mental and our TV screens.30 The ‘line in the sand’ is therefore also a protective line that keeps these images from obtruding too deeply into the European consciousness. Technology thereby serves to isolate and insulate the viewers from the frightening immediacy of Balkanisation. Speaking of the problematique of postmodern involvement in the world, Kevin Robins has therefore claimed that the ‘point now is not whether we can achieve a certain distance and detachment from the fearful principles of reality, but whether we can ever become reconnected to a world that we no longer take for real, a world whose reality has been progressively screened out’.31

It is here that ‘European security’ is being framed most clearly. The televisualisation of European politics has reduced the multiplicity of difference and abridged power and authority to an entertainmentised phenomenon. Technology has imposed a distance between the ideal of a peaceful and stable ‘Europe’ and the ‘other’: vision is mobilised and employed to avoid direct contact lest we be contaminated with the Balkanisation-bacillus. High-flying fighter-pilots are called upon to hit their targets without physical contact with the enemy, ensuring their visual sovereignty through smart bombs and surgical strikes. With each bomb, NATO and Europe have been building their own utopia, their own secure space over which they have full control, a new European order that is beyond disappointment and disillusionment, a transparent space that can be controlled from a safe distance with a sovereign Cartesian perspectivalist gaze. This is the ultimate simulation of ‘European security’, since the really real has been disciplined to fit the imagined ideal of European security. By simulating European security, Europe has been disembodied and the option of chaos and catastrophe suspended (or even annulled).

It has become tempting to assume that this technological superiority and rationality legitimises Europe’s hegemony over the ‘other’ (and, most notably, other cultures). But, despite this panoptic ambition, full mastery over Europe’s space will prove to be a dangerous illusion. The ontological closure that it involves does not make moral questions meaningless or irrelevant. The psychic numbing of the European audience may have detached vision/knowledge from feeling. The telegenic war in Kosovo and Serbia may have concealed the fact that, despite surgical strikes, really real victims still scream and they do still bleed really real blood. But the world of the image and the simulation has not removed the moral obligation to remember that in the discursive construction of its security Europe has for three months intimidated an entire population, dropping cluster bombs and killing and maiming thousands of innocent people as the ‘accidental collateral damage’ accrued in the great cause of European peace and stability.

Kosovo: the pre-context of European security

In this ‘space-between’ knowledge and power in European politics, the textual nature of ‘European security’ becomes intelligible. Any approach emphasising textuality recognises that ‘reality’ is not a simple description of a lucid world of facts, but that it concerns meaning- and value-producing practices and language. It is of little use to challenge the boundaries of the battlefield of ideas concerning ‘European security’ without acknowledging this inevitable intertextuality. It is therefore much more important to understand how one approach and reading of ‘European security’ comes to stand above other readings and silences them by often arbitrarily separating them from the canonical version of ‘events’. The Kosovo drama has again indicated that rationalist and technological approaches to European security have now taken on the character of simulacra which may be ‘appealing and persuasive in their modelled abstraction, but metaphysical and exclusionary in their hyperreal application’.32

NATO’s air campaign has legitimised not only NEO realism: it has made another step in legitimising the structure of meaning that circulates in the very debate on ‘European security’. It goes without saying that this NEO realism implies a collective amnesia about other possible forms of meaning and the marginalization of other readings and philosophical vocabularies. This discursive formation of meaning has now resulted in a logocentric disposition which imposes the Balkanisation–integration opposition as the practical nexus on which all events and policies must be situated. By this move, ‘Europe’ situates itself as the coherent sovereign voice (which it isn’t), making itself unproblematical (or at least less problematical), and assuming an extra-historical identity that is beyond critical interrogation. Moreover, by invoking the notion of ‘security’, modern discourse has tried to discipline and stabilise ‘a region of historical contingency and chance that refuses to submit to the sovereign truth of reason and that calls forth the means of the state to exclude or subdue it in the name of reasoning man’.33

The discourse of ‘European security’ therefore produces a parallel paradigm of European sovereignty, a paradigm that faces serious challenges of local resistance (of the still-resilient state), as well as external opposition (which questions the notion of ‘Europe’ as a privileged space of peace and stability). It is at these unruly frontiers and borders that the concept of ‘European security’ is being challenged and problematised. Balkanisation testifies to the recalcitrant domain of anarchy within Europe, a domain that has to be subdued by the sovereign figure of the ‘international community’. Much of this book deals with how these practical and theoretical frontiers are being shaped and what their wider implications will be for ‘Europe’ in general. Whereas ‘Europe’ should stand for the sovereign centre of domesticated territory and originary presence, ‘Kosovo’ stands for the continuity of ‘international politics’, the inside–outside divide that privileges and legitimises the domestic space of identity and continuity over the anarchic space of difference and discontinuity. It is this residual Balkan space that still seems to escape the rational truth of ‘integration’ and ‘reasonable humanity’, and must therefore be silenced and disciplined.

It is also in these locations that the new mode of NEO realism, the mode of order, is being produced, and occasionally imposed. Without the clear signs of ‘war’ and ‘security’ as the inscription of international dangers, ‘there would be no notion of a well-bounded domestic social identity – a population of sovereign men who know themselves to be at one with a social totality that is imperilled’.34 Kosovo therefore illustrates Michael Shapiro’s argument that enmity and war are essential for the maintenance of a coherent society and body politic.35 Since security is what takes politics beyond the ordinary, beyond the established rules of the game,36 it allows (and even calls for) extraordinary measures to be taken to address the existential threat. The novelty with Kosovo is that this mode of statecraft is not practised within a statal context, but that it is in the name of ‘Europe’ that a new narrative of modernity is constructed to fabricate and rationalise European domestic society vis-à-vis the unruliness and backwardness of the Balkan fringe. It is in the name of ‘European security’ that boundaries are drawn to discipline the behaviour of those within and to distinguish ‘Europe’ from the ‘other’. By altering the referent of security as a speech act, ‘Europe’ is de facto finding and constructing itself.

It is therefore all the more fitting that the writing of ‘European security’ has taken place in the only true hyperreal country in the world, since the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) did not really exist (and has never existed de jure as a sovereign state).37 Perhaps this is exactly the sort of anomaly that can find no place in the NEO realism of the twenty-first century, the sort of (what Weber calls) ‘formless feminine fluids’ that must provoke ‘Europe’ to use its ‘stabilizing influence . . . so [that it] may heterosexually serve masculine purposes’.38 Kosovo stands for an understanding of ‘European security’ that legitimises the use of military force in order to delegitimise the use of military force. It is the site where people have been killed and bombs have been dropped for the sake of stability, peace and human rights. It remains the domain where the forces of integration and Balkanisation do battle, since ‘the multiculturalist doctrine that is fragmenting our universities as well as our intellectual life, and the “ethnic cleansing” of the Serbs, belong to the same troubling cultural and historical moment’.39 In Kosovo, Europe is still fighting itself in a narcissist attempt to get rid of the undesirable, of chaos and anarchy.

Kosovo is therefore both the pretext and the ultimate context in which the contemporary reading of ‘European security’ is taking place. But it remains problematic to accept the ‘other’ as a legitimate ontological presence, mainly because doing so raises the possibility ‘of accepting the Other’s characteristics as a legitimate alternative and, consequently, of being taken over by the Other’.40 The Milosevic regime has never been the opposite of the NEO, but rather its ultimate symptom, its hyperreal foundation from which a new mode of order now seems to be emerging.41 In this sense, therefore, Baudrillard was correct when he argued that the ‘real story is that the Serbs, as vehicles of ethnic cleansing, are at the forefront of the construction of Europe. For it is being constructed, the real Europe, the white Europe, a Europe whitewashed, integrated and purified, morally as much as economically or ethnically’.42 On this reading, ‘Europe’ seems to have (mis)used Serbia as well as Kosovo to acquire a sense of self, to temporarily and spatially define what it is not. If Europe’s simulated security in future is not constituted on a more substantial basis, it will remain a travesty and an apparent and transparent fake. But perhaps that’s why we will like it all the better.


1 Cynthia Weber, Simulating Sovereignty: Intervention, the State and Symbolic Exchange (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. xi, xii.
2 Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (New York, Semiotext(e), 1983), p. 48.
3 Timothy Luke, ‘Power and Politics in Hyperreality: The Critical Project of Jean Baudrillard’, Social Science Journal, vol. 28, no. 3 (1991).
4 Ole Wæver, ‘Securitization and Desecuritization’, in Ronnie D. Lipschutz (ed.), On Security (New York, Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 50–1.
5 Ibid., pp. 54–5.
6 Ibid., pp. 62–5.
7 Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era (New York, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), p. 65.
8 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, Verso, 1991).
9 Cynthia Weber argues that in international relations theory, ‘intervention is defined as the violation of one state’s sovereignty by an uninvited intruder. It is rape on an international scale.’ See Weber, Faking It: U.S. Hegemony in a ‘Post-Phallic’ Era (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1999), p. 94.
10 Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter. On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’ (New York, Routledge, 1993), and Robert Hanke, ‘Theorizing Masculinity: With /In the Media’, Communication Theory, vol. 8, no. 2 (May 1998).
11 Wendy Brown, ‘Finding the Man in the State’, Feminist Studies, vol. 18, no. 1 (spring 1992), p. 12.
12 Weber, Faking It, p. 90.
13 Wæver, ‘Securitization and Desecuritization’, p. 71.
14 Gearoid O Tuathail, Critical Geopolitics: The Politics of Writing Global Space (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1996), p. 34.
15 Gearoid O Tuathail and John Agnew, ‘Geopolitics and Discourse: Practical Geopolitical Reasoning in American Foreign Policy’, Political Geography, vol. 11 (1992), p. 194.
16 Neil Renwick, ‘Re-reading Europe’s Identity’s’, in Jill Krause and Neil Renwick (eds), Identities in International Relations (London, Macmillan, 1996).
17 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford, Blackwell, 1953), numbered remarks 66–7.
18 James Der Derian, ‘The Value of Security: Hobbes, Marx, Nietzsche, and Baudrillard’, in Lipschutz (ed.), On Security, p. 33.
19 Quoted in Michael Ignatieff, ‘Nationalism and Toleration’, in Richard Caplan and John Feffer (eds), Europe’s New Nationalism. States and Minorities in Conflict (New York and Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 213.
20 Ignatieff, ‘Nationalism and Toleration’, p. 214.
21 Weber, Simulating Sovereignty, p. 20.
22 Wæver, ‘Securitization and Desecuritization’, pp. 72– 4.
23 Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn (New York and London, Guilford Press, 1997), p. 103.
24 Stjepan G. Mestrovic, The Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism (London and New York, Routledge, 1994), p. 10.
25 Ibid., p. 11.
26 Jean Baudrillard, America (London, Verso, 1986), p. 111.
27. Mestrovic, The Balkanization of the West, p. 79.
28. Ibid., p. 83.
29. Stjepan G. Mestrovic, Postemotional Society (London, Sage, 1997).
30 Kevin Robins, Into the Image: Culture and Politics in the Field of Vision (London, Routledge, 1996), pp. 6–7.
31 Ibid., p. 13.
32 James Der Derian, ‘The Boundaries of Knowledge and Power in International Relations’, in James Der Derian and Michael J. Shapiro (eds), International/Intertextual Relations: Postmodern Readings of World Politics (Lexington, MA, and Toronto, Lexington Books, 1989), p. 7.
33 Richard K. Ashley, ‘Living on Border Lines: Man, Poststructuralism, and War’, in Der Derian and Shapiro (eds), International/Intertextual Relations, p. 268.
34 Ibid., p. 305.
35 Michael J. Shapiro, Violent Cartographies: Mapping Cultures of War (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1997).
36 Ole Wæver, ‘Identity, Integration and Security’, Journal of International Affairs, vol. 48, no. 2 (winter 1995).
37 Aleksandar Boskovic, ‘Hyperreal Serbia’, in CTHEORY, 2 April 1996, available: (accessed 12 November 2000).
38 Weber, Faking It, p. 92.
39 Patrick Glynn, ‘The Age of Balkanization’, Commentary, vol. 96, no. 1 (July 1993), p. 24.
40 Ronnie D. Lipschutz, ‘Negotiating the Boundaries of Difference and Security at Millennium’s End’, in Lipschutz (ed.), On Security, p. 218.
41 Slavoj Zizek, ‘Against the Double Blackmail’, The Nation, 24 May 1999, pp. 20–1.
42 Jean Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime (London, Verso, 1997), p. 135. See also on a similar theme, David Campbell, ‘Apartheid Cartography: The Political Anthropology and Spatial Effects of International Diplomacy in Bosnia’, Political Geography, vol. 18, no. 4 (1999).
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