Aims and perspectives of this blog

By Johan Galtung, Jan Oberg and Håkan Wiberg
September 2, 2014

Introductory note by Jan Oberg

Exactly 23 years ago, on September 3, 1991,  TFF’s conflict-mitigation drove from Zagreb to the war zone of Osijek in Eastern Slavonia, close to Vukovar. We had negotiated our way through at a local para-military checkpoint outside the town where the less-than-reliable looking soldiers advised us: Sit on your flak jackets, there are mines here. Drive as fast as you can, no belt on and don’t lock your doors, you may need to get out fast.

Later in the desolate centre we met with the “Gandhi of Croatia”, Mayor Kramaric, who like we was unable to believe that it could get much worse than it already was. Thereafter, visiting shelters where refugees had gathered, all ages.

In the clear, cold September night we drove back toward Zagreb, passing St. Peter’s Cathedral in Djakovo where mass was held for those already killed. Intense atmosphere, deeply moving, forever unforgettable.

Drove high-speed in the night on the ‘Autoput’ to Zagreb. Hotel Dubrovnik in the city centre filled with Croatian soldiers and paramilitaries watching propaganda movies and news. Everywhere converted to a war zone, including the mind.

The next morning the main news reported that local Serbs had cut off traffic on the ‘Autoput’ and confiscated the cars and whatever people had in them. About half an hour after we had passed. That was the end, in more than one sense, of the relations between Zagreb and Belgrade. Yugoslavia had broken up. And we’d been lucky. Very very lucky.

It was the first of some 70 peace missions to all parts of former Yugoslavia, 3000+ interviews with all conflict parties and at all levels – courses, seminars, peace plans, press conferences, co-operation with all UN missions in the region, and more.

What could justify yet another publication about former Yugoslavia and its dissolution processes? Probably only that it offers a systematically different angle and differs in a number of respects from most other publications on this subject. This blog does exactly that since it:

• Uses a conflict-analytical and peace policy-approach, based on modern systematic theorising; most other books take a historical, strategic, political science, international relations, anthropological, journalistic, or travel book approach – and combinations of some of them;

• Focuses on the conflicts in a long-term perspective rather than on the violence in a short-term perspective and, thus, does not begin its analysis around 1990 because the underlying conflicts began much earlier than the violence;

• Treats the conflicts in Yugoslavia in a macro-perspective: in the perspective of regional-European and global-US-Cold War conflict formations and does not believe that what happened can be explained by reference to inner-Yugoslav dynamics alone;

• Builds on the view that everything is related to everything else – inside Yugoslavia as well as between it and the international so-called community;

• Disputes the view that this international community has played the role of an impartial, historically innocent, goodwill actor that tried only to help the Yugoslav peoples to make peace; rather, we treat the international community as a number of active participants to the conflicts and wars, i.e. as part of the overall conflict formation;

• Refuses to take the side of any nation or republic. Our analysis may appear pro-Serb to some, particularly those who are predominantly informed by mainstream Western media and discourse, but it isn’t. Rather, it is less apologetically pro-West and less uncritically, less biased, pro-Croatian, pro-Bosniak and pro-Albanian than most; and therefore less black and white;

• Takes a structural perspective and refuse to accept at least two types of reductionisms, namely a) that conflicts can be reduced to what (more or less demonised or embellished) top individuals do, and b) that it is all a matter of only two parties (one all black and one all white) pitted against each other. We know of no conflict anywhere in which there are only two parties and have never seen a conflict actor in which all members were only white or only black;

• Does not deal with blame and apportioning guilt but with understanding issues; it is, if you will, soft on people and hard on structures and underlying paradigms – as well as the stuff the conflicts in this drama are made of;

• Is both analytical and critical but also constructive; it has a historical perspective but maintains an emphasis on what could have been done differently or better and what can still be done. Admittedly such a counter-factual history writing is a risky and disputable project, but we aim to try it at least for pedagogical, heuristic and illustrative purposes. Not trying it means bowing down to the equally, if not more, disputable position that the decisions and course taken throughout the Yugoslav crisis and wars were the only one possible;

• It emphasizes that it is time to say something about the whole process including the end game around Serbia/Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia, perhaps Bosnia-Hercegovina too. [Read more…]

Kosovo – the West’s predictable fiasco

Baffling Kosovo mass exodus exposes domestic hardships – Al Jazeera
5% of the people have left, 100,000 this year.

Funny how in the 1990s the only problems were Serbs and Belgrade. NATO bombed and forced Kosovo out of Yugoslavia.
Billions of dollars have poured in from the world; EU, NATO etc. helped build the country.

As you will see from other articles here about our work in Kosovo, when TFF was there as mediators (1991-2001), we always said: Discuss first what kind of Kosovo you want, then decide its status vis-a-vis Serbia. Nobody listened: Independence was everything, no one bothered about the day after. There was no expertise on economy,  production, society’s development and how to run a complex society as an independent state; there were traders and people of culture – ad then the West threw out, literally, all Serbs who operated the infrastructure, the energy system and managed the institutions. (The method was repeated in Iraq…)

Today we see the predictable results when you make quick military fixes, let war criminals run a new, deeply corrupt state and all sides run on obsessive nationalism.

It’s feels very tragic to be proven right.

Equal right to self-determination – A dialogue

By Johan Galtung

March 2010

Conflict Worker: What is it you really want? What are the goals?

Slovene: We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination for the first time to have our own state. We want to be ruled neither from Vienna nor from Belgrade, but from Ljubljana and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our small minorities are safe in a democracy with human rights.

Croat: We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination, again to have our own state. We want to be ruled neither from Vienna nor from Belgrade, but from Zagreb and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our minorities can feel safe in a democracy with human rights.

Serb in Croatia:  The Croats can have their own state, but they have no right to take the Serbs in Croatia with them. We do not want to be ruled from Zagreb that killed us during the war, in an alliance with Nazi Germany.

Bosniak:  We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination, once again to have our own state. We want to be governed neither from Istanbul, Vienna nor Belgrade, but from Sarajevo, and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our minorities can feel safe in a democracy with human rights. [Read more…]

A future Yugoslav Community for the Yugosphere?

By Johan Galtung

April 10, 2010 – Belgrade

Oh yes, Yugoslavia is ex, will the nostalgics please accept that it was not viable, and that out of the ashes six-seven countries have emerged!

And yet it is on everybody’s mind, on the inner map, not as unitary state or a more or less loose federation, but as an idea, a relation, a configuration; not as political actor but as some kind of togetherness, a Hegelian spirit searching for a place to come to rest.  The countries were born in deep anger, much too quickly, much too violently, traumas being heaped on top of old and new trauma mountains.  Time passes, no wounds are healed, but a new decade has sedimented new events on top of the 1990s horrors.

For a new generation this is already history.  But history has much to tell.  Stories of conviviality come up. Dreams of something more than a sphere, yet less than a community start getting contours and colors. [Read more…]

Key goals for the West, meaning the U.S. and EU

By Johan Galtung
Research note of March 12, 2010

Mihajlo (Markovic) stated this in fall 1991 at a UNESCO conference on democracy, in Praque:

“Yugoslavia as it was cannot be saved, it is doomed. But when it breaks up there is one thing we Serbs will never accept: living as minorities under those who killed us during the 2nd world war as allies of Hitler and Mussolini, and they lived and live in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Pristina.” [Read more…]

Yugoslavia in me

By Johan Galtung
March 10, 2010

July 1954
I came from Vienna on a tiny motorbike heading for Perugia in Italy and had two weeks to explore that great unknown on the way. A road so steep that I had to walk the motorbike up to some pass and almost burnt out the brakes on the way down brought me to flatlands close to Ljubljana – and the police. A massive stop, and a wait by the main road. [Read more…]

Serbia – Past and future

By Johan Galtung

February 15, 2010

In Belgrade: The NATO attack May-June 1999 left scars still not healed, like the bombed out Ministry of the Interior (Israelis want to invest in a hotel at that site).  But the place is as vibrant with culture and restaurants-cafes and intellectualisms of all kinds as ever.  An enviable resilience.  Orthodox optimism?

Processing the past is not easy.  This authors’s summary of Serbian history adds up to three words: defeat, retreat, return.  There is the Abrahamic idea of Chosen People with a Promised Land from Genesis, focused on today’s Kosovo-Kosova. Hypothesis: whatever else happens, there will be some kind of return.  To put this author’s cards on the table I see only one relatively stable equilibrium not maintained by violence and the threat thereof (1):

• an independent Kosova in the name of self-determination,
• with a Swiss type constitution and a flexible number of cantons,
• maybe three Serbian cantons in the North and close to Pristina,
• each canton governed in that nation’s idiom as a federation,
• with open borders to the key motherlands Serbia and Albania, and
• those three countries woven together in a confederation.

The present “independence” – using a Finn as an instrument for US-Western goals and based on three points is of course not sustainable: [Read more…]

Peace by peaceful means (Book launch)

By Johan Galtung

December 2009 – Foreword to Serbian edition of Peace By Peaceful Means.

Let me first express my deep gratitude to Professor Radmila Nakarada and her colleagues for this Serbian edition of my book Peace By Peaceful Means.  And let me then try to say something about the message of the book for the conflict over Yugoslavia, a country I still love, well knowing its sustainability was limited.  And that will be done from the four angles of the four parts of the book: peace, conflict, development and civilization.

Peace has direct, structural and cultural conditions, and Yugoslavia had many components. There was a terrible history of direct violence related to the German-Italian attacks and some cooperation with the attackers, particularly in Croatia, BiH and Kosovo. There was never any real conciliation, hoping that time will mend the wounds, that they were “quits”.  Instead they were reopened, and new wounds added.  Direct peace was not achieved. [Read more…]

What’s in a name ?

By Håkan Wiberg

Originally published here.

There are many cases of conflicts where one party (sometimes both) makes demands that appear absurd to an outsider, not least because they will obviously be unacceptable to the other party. The eight points in the Greek position on the name issue of Macedonia looks like a good example.

Sovereign and internally recognized states sometimes change names. “The kingdom of…” becomes “The (people’s democratic, Arab, or whatever) republic of….”. In recent decades, several states changed their names entirely to become Benin, Myanmar, etc.; Cote d´Ivoire even notified the UN that its name was now the same in English, rather than Ivory Coast. When recognition is an issue, one state may refuse to use the name the other state has taken, such as German Democratic Republic (Soviet occupation zone), Republic of China (Taiwan), Israel (the Zionist entity).

Greece, however, seems to be only state that has demanded that an internationally recognised state change its name and makes a vast issue out of it. I can imagine the mixture of outrage and laughter that would result from Great Britain demanding that Ireland change its name to “Southern Ireland” or China asking for Mongolia to become “Northern Mongolia”. [Read more…]

Ohållbart om Kosovo

Av Johan Galtung, Håkan Wiberg och Jan Öberg

Aftonbladets Debatt – March 5, 2007

Ahtisaaris plan är orättvis och kommer att leda till ökat våld

Västvärlden har en fri press, och i en fri press kan man finna många synpunkter.
Hur kommer det sig då att historien om Kosovo har varit så likriktad de senaste femton åren?
Och varför är Martti Ahtisaaris så kallade medling om Kosovo och presstäckningen av denna så partisk och så lite objektiv?

Det är sant och visst att kosovoalbanerna blev brutalt förtryckta i det Serbien Milosevic regerade. Den andra sidan av saken är deras extrema tendenser till nationalism och utbrytning alltsedan kollaborationen med Mussolini.

År 1974 gav Tito dem vad som troligen var den mest långtgående autonomi en minoritet har åtnjutit. Internationella samfundet visade aldrig engagemang för den lika förtryckta serbiska civilbefolkningen i Kroatien, Bosnien och Kosovo.

Det är obestridligt att Serbien hade en massa makt i form av militär och polis. Men det nämns aldrig att Tyskland och USA 1993 inledde en hemlig beväpning av kosovoalbanska extremister och skapade KLA (Kosovos Befrielsearmé) bakom ryggen på ickevåldsledaren Dr Ibrahim Rugova. [Read more…]

Montenegro – A state is born

By Håkan Wiberg and Jan Oberg

Originally published here

The 192nd member has recently been admitted to the United Nations. Montenegro with its 600,000 inhabitants recently had a referendum, where 86.6 per cent of those enfranchised voted. Out of these, 55.5 per cent voted for independence, and 44.5 against. Another way of presenting the same data is that 48.1 per cent voted for, 38.5 against and 13.4 not at all.



There are reasons to dig deeper into what happened. What is the internal and external background to this event? Does it increase or decrease the stability of the region? Could this decision cause trouble at some point in the future? Could it have an impact on the question of independence for Kosovo? Indeed, is the Montenegrin drive for independence mainly a result of external – at the time, anti-Milosevic – pressures by the West and, thus, an unintended result of short-sighted policies years ago? And what about the fact that there live about as many Montenegrins in Serbia as in Montenegro, but the former could not vote?

 
A few historical notes



Two Balkan states managed to preserve their independence throughout the Ottoman period. Republica Ragusa (Dubrovnik) did so by being rich and having a vast navy, very thick walls and a very complex diplomacy, cautiously balancing among all the surrounding powers, that earned it the nickname “Cittá delle sette bandiere” – the city of seven flags. Montenegro also had an impressive international diplomacy, but otherwise its security basis was just the opposite of Ragusa: it was very poor, had mountains instead of walls and could mobilise most of the male population within days. A small army entering it would quickly face defeat, a big one would slowly starve to death. [Read more…]

Economic sanctions – social and economic effects

By Johan Galtung

Written 1993 and edited 2006

The following six points are based on observations and dialogues in the conflict area:

[1]  The Security Council has succeeded where the Milosevic regime might have failed: in unifying the population and thereby prolonging the war.  The Democratic Opposition, very much at odds with the regime and especially over issues of violence, shares the basic view of the government: the sanctions are unjust, based on a misreading of the situation (that Belgrade is behind everything Serbs do), possibly against international law (the conflict is more a civil than an inter-state war although there are aspects of both).  Since the sanctions are an important part of everyday life, more important than the war itself in non-war zones, attitudes toward sanctions may overshadow other attitudes, and unify.

[2]  The Security Council and foreign governments are seen as responsible for the economic predicament, not the government.  The idea that the sanctions are due to government policy stretches the causal chain. The immediate cause, the Security Council resolution, will more easily be held responsible.  But the major reason is deeper: a feeling that the aim is to bring down the government which, right or wrong, then becomes “our government”.  The sanctions are seen as illegitimate intervention in internal affairs, going beyond what the government has done: “they are out to get us, not just trying to change some policy.”

[3]  The sanctions confirm rather than counteract Serbian images of the outside world and strengthen their resolve.
The Serbs have a richly developed and well internalized CGT-complex (a sense of being chosen, with glories and trauma).  The sanctions have been nicely integrated into the long litanies about suffering imposed from the outside. But at the same time strength is derived from the Orthodox faith that Justice and Truth will prevail, with Redemption; Orthodoxy being the most optimistic of the three Christianities.  One day the world will understand how unjustly the Serbs have been treated, the sanctions will be lifted, and Serbs will live in their homeland.  The injustice that has fallen on the Serbs is what one can expect from the outside world (except Orthodox countries); but even so injustice will run up against its limits.

In other words, the sanctions are interpreted in a historical and symbolic context; probably incomprehensible to people with economic material cost-benefit analysis driving out any sense of history and symbolism. [Read more…]

The challenges we failed – some lessons to be learnt

By Johan Galtung

Written erly in the 1990s, edited in 2006

Nothing good has come out of this conflict “over and in Yugoslavia”.  The conflict left not only B-i-H and Yugoslavia but also Europe and the world a poorer place. Of course, some kind of Yugoslavia will ultimately come together again, hopefully as a community, at most a loose confederation the third time. Yugoslav love-hatred dialectic is a good illustration of yin/yang:  if the love is overdone hatred comes up, if hatred is overdone, love comes up. It was like that in the past, no reason to believe otherwise.  First more division and separation, then – loosely please! – together.

But Europe will not easily come together for the simple reason that there is so little love across the two fault-lines into the heart of Slavic Orthodoxy and Islam. If Yugoslavia is micro-Europe, then Europe is macro-Yugoslavia with the difference due to scale. Sarajevo, B-i-H and Yugoslavia have much more training in living together than Western Europe with Russia and Turkey, and we know what happened. And yet, communication/transportation shrink Europe and the world.  They will have to relate to each other, and for that they better put into practice Pérez de Cuéllar’s advice: Go slow, have a long-term plan and listen to the parties!

However, the leading Western powers are likely to interpret what happened as a “success”, only that they should have intervened and mediated with muscle at an earlier stage. They are highly unlikely to admit that they made a catastrophic mistake that night between December 15 and 16, 1991 against the sound advice of a Peruvian Secretary General. Hopefully others will draw the opposite type of conclusions. What the present authors thinks would have worked much better is developed in another blog entry here – “What could be done: The politics of conflict-resolution”.  And it is not too late, a realistic process of peace-keeping, -making, -building can still be initiated, as opposed to a “realist” techno-orgy.

Modern society can be seen in terms of four components: State, Capital, Media and Civil Society.  There are people everywhere, but only few of us are running the first three.  Most people are in civil society, organized by kinship, vicinity and affinity.  Yugoslavia has suffered, hit by a Euro-quake of immense proportions.  How did the four stand up to this challenge? [Read more…]

The disasters of December 15-16, 1991 and April 6, 1992 and its consequences

By Johan Galtung

Germany, meaning here the former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (and behind him the chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and Alois Mock of Austria) were the key responsible for the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia 15 January 1992, actually agreed upon 16 December 1991, and of Bosnia-Herzegovina 6 April 1992.

There were enough clear warnings, however. Lord Peter Carrington, then the EC negotiator, wrote in a letter of 2 December 1991 to Hans van den Broek, foreign minister of the Netherlands, then President of the EU (then still EC) Council of Ministers:

“There is also a real danger, perhaps even a probability, that Bosnia-Herzegovina would also ask for independence and recognition, which would be wholly unacceptable to the Serbs in that republic in which there are something like 100,000 JNA troops, some of whom have withdrawn there from Croatia.  Milosevic has hinted that military action would take place there if Croatia and Slovenia were recognized.  This might well be the spark that sets Bosnia-Herzegovina alight”.

And from Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, then Secretary General of the United Nations, in a letter to him of 10 December 1991:

“In his report to me today, Mr Vance has described widely expressed apprehensions about the possibility of premature recognition of the independence of some of the Yugoslav republics and the effect that such a move might have on the remaining republics.  Leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia were among the many political and military figures who last week underscored to Mr. Vance their own strong fears in this regard.  More than one of his high-level interlocutors described the possibly explosive consequences of such a development as being a “potential time bomb”. [Read more…]

Mapping the Yugoslav conflicts

By Johan Galtung

Written around 1992, edited in 2006

This blog favors the conflict/peace more than the threat/security perspective.  And standard conflict analysis demands a comprehensive listing of the key actors, of their goals, and of the clashes among those goals.  A point of departure is a list of standard fault-lines often separating individuals and groups, assuming that the conflict is not only among states and republics because only they have arms.

Conflict analysis – it was a bit more complex than assumed by most

And that is a first and major point to be made: the conflict in and over Yugoslavia went far beyond nations only.  Here are ten conflicts, all within Yugoslavia, certainly not only one:

I.    Nature: military destruction vs the eco-balance of nature, particularly through the use of depleted uranium
II.   Gender: macho attitude-behavior, including large scale rape, probably also as a backlash against socialist gender parity
III.  Generation: passing hatred, revanchism through generations, from the past via the present way into the future, at the national, local and family levels, not processed through reconciliation
IV.   Race: by and large irrelevant, except for some UN troops
V.    Class: we have to distinguish between four kinds:

– political: a revolt against Beograd as the Titoist center of decision-making, also among Serbs as a perpetuation of the Tito-Mihajlovich, partizan-chetnik conflict from the Second world war;
– military: a revolt against the Titoist near monopoly on military violence through the largely Serbian controlled JNA, the Yugoslav National Army;
– economic: the under-class revolt against the technocrats; and the revolt of the less well-to-do against the more well-to-do;
– cultural: a revolt against any perceived cultural dominance, linguistically, religiously, ideologically – within and without.

VI:   Nation: shallow in terms of religion; deeper for language, and in terms of sacred times (dates) and sacred spaces (sites) for the nations.  Also “Yugoslavs” vs. “constituent nations”.

VII:  Country: only Slovenija was uni-national, the other republics were all multi-national with problematic borders

VIII: State/Capital: the socialism/capitalism controversy

IX:   Capital/Civil Society: inter-nation exploitation issues

X:    State/Civil Society: human rights infractions, killed and wounded, peace movements inside/outside Yugoslavia; NGOs.

Almost everyone of these is important.  But “nation” has to be spelt out. [Read more…]

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