Battle for Bosnia

The Forgotten Balkans Flashpoint

When French voters rejected the EU Constitution this past weekend, among the loudest defenders of the EU were leaders of the Balkan countries that aspire to eventual annexation by the bloc, assuring their subjects that the road to untold riches and unimaginable prosperity still led through Brussels:

"In every Balkan capital on Monday, leaders were at pains to reassure their people the French rejection of the EU treaty … did not mean the door had slammed shut." (Reuters)

Truth can be painful, indeed. Which is why politicians lie. They lie all the time – mostly to their people, but sometimes to themselves as well. And all too often, they believe their own lies.

Kosovo comes to mind; the post-Milosevic leadership in Serbia has done its best to forget the 1999 NATO attack and the subsequent occupation of Kosovo, behaving as if NATO, the UN, Washington, and Brussels have not brought the KLA terrorists to power and allowed them to pillage and burn their way across the remnants of Serbian heritage in the province.

Even as Washington unveiled its "new" policy for the Balkans, crafted by the hateful hands of Clinton-era interventionists, Belgrade has remained convinced it could somehow "deal" with the Empire. Even as Serbia’s commissioner for Kosovo criticized the pathetic UN viceroy for a downright fraudulent report on the current situation, he claimed there was good news in the UN’s latest push to whitewash Albanian abuses and lay the groundwork for "status resolution" – i.e., the violent separation of Kosovo from Serbia.

A similar kind of delusional thinking characterizes the Bosnian Serb leadership, which even after almost a decade of foreign occupation retains an illusion that the Empire can be reasoned with.

Naïve Belief in Compromise

When they rejected a proposal to "reform" the system of police in Bosnia on Tuesday, Serb Republic lawmakers argued it was against the Dayton peace agreement and unconstitutional. They did not reject the notion of reform out of hand (as they should have), only the specific proposal. What they failed to understand is that the Empire does not debate with slaves; it expects only unconditional obedience:

"Following a debate … Serb deputies said they wanted to find compromise. But the head of the European Commission’s office in Bosnia made it clear there was none to be had. ‘The position of European Union is clear and unambiguous,’ Michael Humphreys told the parliament. ‘These are the principles and they are nonnegotiable.’" (Reuters)

Reforms, Bargains, and Lies

What principles, exactly? According to the deliberately malicious rhetoric of the mainstream media, the Serbs oppose a "multi-ethnic" police force, wishing to keep the "ethnically based" status quo. That is nonsense. Police in Bosnia follow territorial divisions – one administration for the Serb Republic, another for the Muslim-Croat Federation (which is then subdivided into 10 cantonal administrations), and another for a "district" of Brcko in the north, that does not belong to either entity. There are actually quotas in place to assure representation of ethnic groups in government jobs, including police.

The EU’s "nonnegotiable" proposal envisions replacing the current 13 police districts with 11 – meaningless in terms of actual reduction in bureaucracy. Nor does it have anything to do with efficiency; the U.S. has a law enforcement system organized by county, city, state, and federal agencies, and Brussels doesn’t dare send Washington an ultimatum to "reform its policing system for the 21st century, or else." What the proposal is really about is the dismantling of entities in favor of the central government.

As one news service euphemistically put it, "10 years after Dayton, the international community … has been slowly coming to the conclusion that the arrangement was not functional, and … has gradually stripped the RS of some of its competences." On the contrary, the evidence suggests the "international community" has been undermining Dayton from the very beginning, imposing "reforms" such as this one that have only marginally to do with functionality but everything to do with abolishing the Serb Republic and "reuniting" Bosnia. Why else has no one ever proposed doing away with a 10-canton Muslim-Croat Federation, which has more government ministers per capita than any place in the world, instead?

False Promises

Besides, Dayton is not an issue any more. Serbs may be the only ones who still care about it. Everything is about Brussels now; hence viceroy Ashdown’s claim that the rejection of "reform" threatens Bosnia’s accession to the EU. That’s what he says about every act of tyranny his office tries to impose, and it is always the Serbs’ fault. Before this, it was the joint military, and before that, the joint customs. Tomorrow it will be "war criminals" again.

It used to be that viceroys would cite violations of the peace agreement when purging native political leaders they disliked; now, since the greatest violations of Dayton are his own, viceroy Ashdown uses the "obstacle to EU integration" as an excuse.

There is a universal assumption in and about Bosnia that it has no choice but to join the EU and NATO ("Euro-Atlantic integrations"), a contention that is entirely fallacious. How is the EU different from Yugoslavia, from which the Muslim and Croat leaders in Bosnia so eagerly seceded? Why would a country that has been through a terrible civil war want to join an aggressive military alliance that has been occupying it for almost a decade? These are obviously fundamental questions, but they are not up for debate. Nothing of substance in Bosnia ever is.

Battle for Bosnia

Bosnian Serb lawmakers may not realize it, but they are fighting what could be the last political battle for the preservation of Bosnia’s fragile peace. Under relentless pressure from the Empire, the Serb Republic has been driven to the brink of vanishing. With it would go the threadbare compromise that makes Bosnia possible, reopening the issue at the root of the 1992-95 civil war.

Ten years after the war’s end, with Balkans interventionists again riding high in Washington, and the EU determined to project power so as to hide its internal weakness, Bosnia – along with Kosovo – is once again in the focus of global power plays. Those who believe their will redefines reality are determined to put that belief in practice, at the expense of those who – seeking reason where there isn’t any – cling to obsolete ideas about politics and statecraft. The only way to stop the Empire from finishing its monstrous project in the Balkans – and elsewhere, mind you – is to jettison the naïve belief in politics, reject the lies, and see the Empire for what it truly is – an enemy of liberty, prosperity, and human dignity.

Taking a Page from Tito

History does not predict the future, but it does offer lessons from the past. No multi-ethnic land under British viceroys has ever found peace: think Nigeria, Cyprus, South Africa, the Palestine Mandate, India… The EU is not only a false promise of prosperity (the Soviet Union, the world’s largest mega-state, was just a fount of liberty and abundance, wasn’t it?), but an increasingly empty one.

Empire’s politics of fear, force, and hatred have only brought further misery on the already suffering and conflict-ridden Balkans. Far too many of those who wax nostalgic for the halcyon days of Tito and Communism tend to forget that Tito emphatically did not allow foreign interference in Yugoslavia, whether from Moscow, Washington, or anywhere else. If there is anything of Tito’s legacy they should want to emulate, it should be throwing the Empire out on its ear – with the horse it rode in on.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.