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November 15, 2013

Albania, Then And Now

A few years ago, I picked up a fun book on Amazon titled "The Lost States". It's filled with stories of states that almost existed, like "South Jersey" to states that kinda did for a while, like "Franklin" and potential annexations, like British Columbia and Alberta.

Some of these ideas seem crazy, but people forget that our map has been changing pretty routinely throughout the history of the United States. We are currently in the longest span of an unchanged map since the founding of the country, after Alaska and Hawaii were added in 1959. In recent years we've seen the idea of "South California" being floated and there was even a somewhat serious attempt to create "North Colorado" this year.

In any event, one chapter stood out to me as particularly bizarre: the 51st state of Albania. Really. Albania seems to have a major crush on the United States. From the book:

Thousands of Albanians would love for their country to become the fifty-first state. And it's not just some offbeat splinter group requesting the inclusion. The whole country seems rabidly pro-American.

When President George W. Bush visited in 2007, no one protested. No one. (I couldn't believe it either.) It seems that Bush enjoyed higher approval ratings in Albania than a roomful of oil executives. In fact, his visit invoked newspaper headlines that read: "Please Occupy Us!" No kidding.

This odd love affair with America dates even earlier. During Bill Clinton's presidency, thousands of Albanians named their babies Bill and Hillary. Again, all true.

Albania was also among the first nations to join the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it unflinchingly supports every American policy in the region. When the United States couldn't find any country in the world to accept deported Guantanamo detainees, Albania stepped up and took them off American's hands.

Oh, and they were serious about becoming the 51st state, too:
Secretary of State James Baker was mobbed like a rock star when he visited the country in 1991. There was even a move to hold a referendum declaring the country as America's 51st state around that time.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, here's what just happened today:
Albania rejected on Friday a U.S. request to host the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, dealing a blow to a U.S.-Russian accord to eliminate the nerve agents from the country's protracted civil war.

Negotiations went down to the wire, delaying the scheduled adoption on Friday of a step-by-step plan to get rid of 1,300 metric tons of Syria's sarin, mustard and other agents.

Albania's refusal marked an unprecedented break from its traditionally staunch allegiance to NATO ally Washington. It followed a storm of protest in the Adriatic republic, where protesters complained of exploitation.

Weird, huh? I can't figure out what's changed.


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posted by JohnE. at 03:45 PM

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