Committee Of Correspondence

Bosnia After the Elections

Misha Glenny
7:48 a.m.  Wednesday  9/18/96 

       Herb Stein is right to throw up the conundrum about arming one side to balance it out against another in Bosnia-Herzegovina. His question addresses a fundamental flaw in the Dayton Agreement. How is it possible to have a single state, if the agreement regulating that state explicitly allows the existence of two separately organised armies on its territories? (In fact, there are three armies but the document signed at Dayton is posited on the fiction that the Muslim-Croat Federation is a functioning constitutional unit.)
       As regards his thoughts about the economy, he has again come up with an important topic. The identity of Europe is currently informed by two mighty ideas which are unfortunately contradictory.
       On the one hand, there is the powerful engine driving enlargement, centralization and unification. This is the essence of the European Union, where member governments voluntarily cede some of their sovereignty to pan-Union institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg in order to simplify trading arrangements between them and maximize competitiveness and profitability. In the minds of most Europeans, this will also necessitate the creation of a single currency and the gradual assumption of political power by a European government at the expense of member governments. (In some countries, like my own, both monetary and political union have created deep political divisions.)
       On the other hand, we see a powerful process of fragmentation, exemplified above all by Yugoslavia and Chechnya but also present in milder forms such as the regionalisation of Spain, the growth in support for autonomy and even independence in Scotland, and in a more sinister fashion, the secessionist movement of Umberto Bossi in northern Italy.
       In theory, regional conflicts should die down as the European Union assumes more authority. For example, what is the point in the six Northern Irish counties either uniting with Ireland or remaining part of the British Union if both Ireland and Britain are subordinate to the same laws and constitutional framework established by Brussels?
       As regards Eastern Europe, the EU has in the case of the Baltic states and the Visegrad countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) encouraged the establishment of regional trading blocs as a preparation for EU membership.
       If that pattern were applied to Yugoslavia, then the EU would have to encourage the successor states to form a Yugoslav economic zone in preparation for EU membership (which they all want to join). The problem there is that these countries fought a long and bloody war precisely in order to dissociate themselves from any kind of “Yugoslavia.”
       This brings us back to the hoary chestnut of Germany’s premature recognition of Croatia and Slovenia. Bonn has been pushing hard for closer ties between these two successor states and the EU. It wants to see them enter the EU first. Such a policy would relegate Serbia and Montenegro to the status of a country like Bulgaria or Macedonia. If we were only dealing with Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia, we could argue about the rights and wrongs of such a German strategy, but it would not imply a fundamental problem.
       But with the existence of a Bosnia-Herzegovina which does not exist in a recognisable form as a nation state, the matter is greatly complicated. One of the reasons why Croatia accepts the idea of two “entities” in the Dayton agreement is that this division places a constitutional separation between Croat regional aspirations and Serb regional aspirations. It is quite possible that Croatia may eventually apply for EU membership together with the Muslim-Croat entity, leaving the Serbs of the Republika Srpska out in the cold. This would of course mean an absolute partition of Bosnia.
       I do not provide any answers here and allow myself the luxury of projection and speculation. This is because I want to highlight the extreme difficulties currently facing Europe in terms of establishing a post-1989 identity, and how this exacerbates problems in areas of extreme crisis like the former Yugoslavia.
       Yes, Dick Holbrooke deserves enormous praise for stopping the war at Dayton. Yes, elections in Bosnia are the modest beginnings of a difficult process of reconciliation. Yes, the IFOR troops must stay to prevent the outbreak of war. But increasingly, it seems to me that Dayton has not solved any political or constitutional problems associated with the Bosnian war. It has merely pushed them into a different direction or postponed their final resolution to some unknown future date. Warren Zimmerman
11:50 a.m.  Wednesday  9/18/96 

       The election results were about as expected, with the three large ethnic parties winning big. Fortunately, the split in the Muslim vote didn’t give the Bosnian Serb leader Krajisnik the first presidency. Since he is dedicated to the destruction of the Bosnian state, that would have been like making Lenin Czar of Russia. I take some encouragement from the fact that Haris Silajdzic, the Bosnian Muslim who split from the Muslim party because he didn’t think it stressed the multiethnic character of Bosnia, got a sizable vote.
       As I feared, however, conditions are now in place for a slide toward the partition of Bosnia. The West will have to do what it can to encourage countertrends to this. Keeping a military presence and giving the NATO forces sharper teeth are critical. The reconstruction of homes is an important short-term goal; it must be linked with real guarantees of freedom of movement. Assistance for a non-nationalist press is also a priority. I agree with Herb Stein’s point that economic factors could be divisive. They could also be irrelevant; In a nationalist climate, people tend to ignore their economic self-interest, strange as that may seem. That was a key reason for the breakup of Yugoslavia and the wars that followed. I hope Madeleine Albright will give us the administration’s thinking on linking the Bosnian economy to a broader European one and not just to Serbia, Croatia, or–good God–Iran or Libya. Herb Stein
4:56 p.m.  Wednesday  9/18/96 

       Zimmerman’s comments today are a good starting point for a new round of discussion.
       He finds the election results so far about as expected, with some encouraging aspects. Do the other participants agree?
       He has a little list of things that should be done now–keeping the NATO presence, reconstructing homes and guaranteeing freedom of movement, assistance for a non-nationalist press. Do others agree with this list? What would they add to it? I observe that the list does not include strengthening the military force of the Muslims.
       Zimmerman repeats for Albright my question about the situation of Bosnia in the European economy.
       Who now has responsibility for arresting the indicted war criminals–the new government?
       What are the president of Bosnia and the president of Serbia supposed to discuss at their scheduled meeting in Paris? Madeleine Albright
5:12 p.m.  Wednesday  9/18/96 

       Clearly, there will be a continued need for U.S. leadership to keep the peace process in Bosnia on track after the elections. We will be working intensively with the parties to ensure that the central government institutions are set up as quickly as possible. Indeed, Bosnian President Izetbegovic, who was elected Chair of the new Collective Presidency, will be attending the United Nations General Assembly meeting that has just opened here in New York and we will be taking advantage of that opportunity to move the process forward. President Izetbegovic will also meet, in the next few weeks, with Serbian President Milosovic. They will discuss the establishment of diplomatic relations and commercial ties as well as procedures for setting up the central structures of the Bosnian government. We are also looking at possibilities for bringing the parties together to address some of the long term challenges and the progress of the civilian implementation efforts.
       Incidentally, the approximately 200 American police officers in Bosnia are part of a much larger U.N. force. Their job is not to substitute as peace officers but to train and monitor the Bosnian police force. As I said on Monday, like many of the fledgling institutions in Bosnia, it is neither perfect nor totally effective but it is progress down a long and difficult road. Richard Perle
6:09 p.m.  Wednesday  9/18/96 

       I took the president to task yesterday for his failure to lift the embargo on Bosnia if the voters allowed him in to take over from George Bush. Madeleine Albright has chosen to remain silent about this, which, with an election looming, is understandable: Why remind the voters just how ephemeral campaign promises are?
       But there was a second Clinton promise to which I also referred that could do with a bit of repetition from the president, especially since his subordinates, the secretaries of state and defense and the national security adviser seem not to have taken it in. That, of course, is the president’s promise to equip and train the Bosnian army so the Bosnians can defend themselves when the U.S. and the rest of the international force leave. Without a trained and equipped army, the Bosnians are likely to come under attack again, as Ambassador Albright well knows. So if she has any hope of avoiding an instruction from the secretary of state to shed public tears at the next round of massacres–if she’s tired of after-the-fact denunciations and would prefer a bit of deterrence–perhaps she might get her boss, the president, to say it again: “We will train and equip the Bosnian forces. I give you my word.”
       That, as I recall, is what the president had to say in a letter to Senator Bob Dole when he needed the senator’s support for the dispatch of U.S. forces to Bosnia and Senator Dole demanded assurances that we would end the embargo and equip and train the Bosnians.
       If the president meant what he said–the proof lies not in what he says but what he does–he will instruct the Pentagon to come up with the equipment the Bosnians need and the money to train their army. Despite the fact that we are nearly a year past Dayton, only a handful of equipment has been supplied to the Bosnians and, so far, not a single soldier has been trained. If the effort put into keeping the promise to enable the Bosnians to defend themselves equaled the effort thus far put into developing excuses for why it hasn’t happened, Bosnia would be much safer and the U.S. forces there could contemplate a safe and honorable withdrawal.
       I fear–tell me, Madam Ambassador, that I’m wrong–the president will again fail to honor his pledge and Bosnia will become dependent on a continuing American military presence. This is what Misha Glenny referred to as an “open secret” in his opening remarks. It is the inevitable outgrowth of administration lassitude in training and equipping the Bosnians. And it is so readily avoided. Come on, Clinton team, keep your promise … just this once.