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…]