From mistakes toward an end of the war in Bosnia?

By Johan Galtung

February 1995

Of the many mistakes made by the EU, the U.S. and the UN (Security Council) a major mistake was the recognition of BH as a country member of the UN within the administrative borders of the Bosnia-Hercegovina (BiH) of former Yugoslavia.  As Kissinger said, this was a “country” in which 52%  (the percentage can be discussed) of the inhabitants did not want to live.

But since this mistake was committed by the Holy Trinity of EU/US/SC to admit a mistake is almost impossible.  The doctrine became sacred, like Vatican doctrines.

So when the Contact Group, adding Russia to three EU members and the U.S., came up with its peace plan last July, the only question discussed was the internal division, and in highly unrealistic terms as if there were only two parties in BH, with a 51-49% formula.

In addition there was also the old idea that all problems derive from Serb, meaning Beograd, aggression, seeing the conflict as Beograd against the rest. Serbs were Serbs, socialist or tchetnik, Beograd or Pale; and the same for the Croats. They never understood the old and new tensions between Beograd and Zagreb, and Serbs and Croats in BH.

However, the conflict, and indeed the war in BiH, is over self-determination for the Bosnian Serbs (and, possibly, for the Croats).

Only one thing is certain: the Serbs in BiH, Republika Srpska, RS, do not want to live under Bosnian Muslim rule.  Alternatives include: RS independent country, confederation with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, federation on line with Montenegro (and, possibly, Krajna), integration in a unitary state (unlikely).

That leaves open the problem of how to relate to the other parts of BiH: Confederation?  Federation?  Or integration in a unitary BiH state (ruled out, as mentioned, that is what the war is about, more a Serbian war of liberation than a war of aggression).  The contact group gave insufficient, or no, attention to this issue, and focussed on land division inside BiH.

Then came the change in the U.S. position: suddenly, all of this could be discussed.

The package called BiH, with President and Prime minister was opened up and there has been talk about RS confederating with FRY, at the same time as BiH is a federation.  A great step forward, trying to address what the war is about! (My own view, as an engaged outsider, however, is that the best combination would be RS federating with the FRY, and that BH becomes a relatively loose confederation with 2 or 3 parts, the latter depending on the Muslim-Croat alliance, forged by the US.)

How did this come about?  Jimmy Carter probably played a major role, and one of his basic points was that the US so far had heard only one side of the conflict, not the Serbian side.  My own guess is that this is the general method of that remarkable man.  As ex-President, he knows how biased US media are – in this case even more biased by public relations firms such as Ruder & Finn).  That means, he can enter a conflict (North Korea, Haiti) trusting that he can come up with new insights simply by listening to the non-US part, demanding their compliance in return for presenting their views.

But why should State Department go along?  Possibly because they see a chance  of becoming the conflict manager after all others have failed (Carrington, Vance, Owen, Stoltenberg, the Contact Group), with the possible exception of Akashi.

With some flexibility in Washington, Pale and Beograd the end may be near.

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