As published in The New York Times, under a pseudonym
This letter marked the birth of Raoul Djukanovic, my Serbian alter ego.
Despite its harrumphing rant about Western policy, it appeared in the paper faster than most of my stories, in which such thoughts weren’t Fit To Print.
By now, I’d lost all interest in my job.
To the Editor:
Re “U.S. and Allies Must Increase Aid to Balkans, a Panel Asserts” (news article, Dec. 9):
That it took a panel of 21 experts to establish the shortcomings of Western policy toward the Balkans is staggering.
The West may well be concerned about the stability of this volatile region, but its strategy for dealing with the threat is devoid of vision and divorced from reality.
The countries of the Balkans have democratic governments, but there is virtually no incentive for them to undertake any sort of ambitious reform, other than to avoid another diplomatic dressing down when political and economic stagnation create new headaches.
A distant promise of possible admission to Europe’s elite clubs is no substitute for intelligent policy making. Instead of patting each other on the back for keeping a lid on conflicts, Western officials should consider how they can become a catalyst for change in the Balkans by investing heavily in economic revival.
Otherwise, they’ll be playing nanny to this region for a long time to come.
Belgrade, Serbia, Dec. 10, 2002
A friend’s satirical answer is appended.
Subject: Re: fear and loathing in the balkans
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002 17:59:10 +0100
We thank you for your insightful letter, which my some of my Times colleagues and I with experience in the tragedy of the Balkans found quite moving. It was a plangent plea for genuine engagement which went to the heart of the crisis of Western understanding.
We would like to know more about you, and in particular whether you write regularly in some capacity about the neuroses of your homeland, of which many of us here remember with a bittersweet admixture of fondness and abhorrence.
The Times is not an institution to rest on its laurels. We are anxious these days that our coverage of your part of the world be as best as it can be, and for reasons we will not go into, we are not entirely comfortable that this is the case today.
If you are interested in collaboration, which is well remunerated, please give me a call.
J. Everton Dunwoody 3rd
The New York Times
Perhaps I should have applied for a second salary.