With the Empire’s attention focused almost entirely on Ukraine, it’s easy to miss the "rules-based world order" beginning to crumble elsewhere. There are stress fractures all over Europe, while things in the US have reached the point where the regime is resorting to redefining the meaning of words, from "recession" to "woman," to maintain narrative control.
It comes as no surprise that one of the flashpoints is Bosnia-Herzegovina. The former Yugoslav republic is arguably the birthplace of the American Empire, where the UN first got replaced by NATO, Europe bent the knee to "muscular" US diplomacy, and the unipolar superpower got to carve up the world into vassals and victims. The US-imposed Dayton armistice ended the kinetic part of the Bosnian civil war and has miraculously held ever since. Almost 27 years later, though, the Empire’s weakening grip is making the locals restless.
Thousands of Bosnian Muslims took to the streets of Sarajevo last week, braving the scorching summer heat to picket the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the imperial viceroy who technically has absolute power in the country. The current pretender to that position is Christian Schmidt, a former German agriculture minister, unilaterally appointed by the EU and the US without Russia’s blessing at the UN. The Serbs, therefore, consider him illegitimate – even more so after he opposed the Serb Republic’s attempts to reclaim its powers previous viceroys had seized in the name of "spirit of Dayton" and highly hypothetical EU integrations.
Meanwhile, the Muslims liked Schmidt and had no issues with his powers – until he threatened to act against their interests, that is. When Schmidt said the Bosnian politicians failed to implement the required election reforms and that he would impose them by fiat, he became a villain overnight. Suddenly the OHR was tyranny, he was unfair, Bosnia was supposed to be a sovereign country, what kind of democracy was this, has anyone thought of human rights…
Yes, how dare an unelected viceroy impose an electoral system… that was originally imposed by OHR in 2002, Croatian attorney Luka Misetic pointed out on Twitter. Understanding this sort of irony would require self-awareness, though, which many in Bosnia sorely lack.
While most of the Western coverage of Bosnia focuses on the enmity between the Serbs and the Muslims, the current crisis has little to do with it. Rather, it stems from the prevailing attitude among the Muslims – one of the reasons for the war in the first place – that Bosnia is really their nation-state, with the Serbs and Croats as unwelcome interlopers. As the Dayton armistice partitioned the country between the Serb Republic (RS) and the Muslim-Croat Federation, this means that while Muslims perpetually struggle to dismantle and abolish the RS, they get to constantly dominate the Croats. The most prominent example is the fact that Zeljko Komsic – a soldier in the Muslim-dominated army during the war – sits in the tripartite presidency as the Croat representative, elected by Muslim votes.
Reforming election mechanisms to prevent that sort of thing from happening is what the Bosnian Croats – and their big brother Croatia, the EU and NATO member next door – have been demanding of Schmidt. But after the protests in the streets and outcry by all Muslim political parties and NGOs, the beady-eyed German blinked. On Wednesday, he imposed "technical" amendments to the election law – which he expects the legislature to rubber-stamp – and gave Bosnian politicians six weeks to agree on more substantial ones.
The amendments don’t resolve any of the problems plaguing Bosnia, only expand the opportunities for lawfare and mudslinging. The most substantial provisions establish "hate speech" as something punishable by law and expand censorship rules to social media and online outlets.
It may sound nice to ban "any form of public expression or speech that provokes or encourages hatred, discrimination or violence against any person or group of persons, based on race, skin color, nationality, sex or religion, ethnic origin or any other personal characteristic or orientation that incites to discrimination, hostility and violence." As with all laws in Bosnia, however, this too will be selectively enforced.
Meanwhile, local politicians have zero incentive to make a deal, especially since Schmidt showed he could be intimidated. Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic says that Muslim parties "prefer the status quo and the electoral system that will continue to marginalize and disenfranchise Croats and Croat parties in Bosnia."
President Zoran Milanovic, who had threatened to hold up NATO expansion unless the issue of Bosnian elections was resolved, went even further and said in a speech on Friday that Croatian troops and not NATO bombers "liberated" Bosnia and that "without them, there would have been no Dayton."
Earlier in the week, Muslim leader Bakir Izetbegovic – son of the wartime leader, Alija – said his people "counted ourselves, and figured out how many huntsmen and young people and drone instructors" they had. That evening, the demonstrators outside OHR shouted that they had counted the Croats, too – all "two train cars’ worth" of them. The message was as clear as it was ominous: If it comes to war, we outnumber you.
Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb member of the presidency, felt compelled to respond. "No one’s going to count us Serbs, not even the Muslims, but they should know there’s enough of us," he tweeted.
It was at this point that the Imperial embassy got involved, condemning both Izetbegovic’s "inflammatory comments" and Dodik’s "irresponsible response" and whining about how "BiH citizens deserve leaders who will work toward the common good and make the difficult decisions necessary for BiH to secure its place in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations."
The tone (and lack of self-awareness) at display here are about on par with the Washington establishment sending each other soothing emails about "avoiding the news" from Kabul about this time last year. Mere days after that, panicked Afghan collaborators began clinging to the wheels of departing American planes and falling to their deaths, the Taliban rolled in, and the entire proxy government the US had spent billions building and propping up over 20 years folded without a fight. Perhaps this is why everyone in Bosnia is so agitated now, as vassals and victims alike feel that the energy has shifted – and winter is coming.
Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and ended up in the US. He wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and has been a pundit and reporter for RT.