Peace-prevention: Western conflict management as the continuation of power politics by other means

The Violent Dissolution and Its Underlying Conflicts

By Jan Oberg
June 2004

The breakdown of former Yugoslavia has been explained in dozens of books the last five years with reference to ethnic war, aggression, traumas, nationalism, the dissolution of Communist ideology and the Soviet Union, the impossibility of non-alignment when the blocs disappeared, by expansionist national myths (Greater Serbia) etc. In short, black and white images, reduction to two parties — one good and one bad — in conflict and a need for ”third” parties to intervene to judge and set things right.

My first observation is that there may well be an element of truth in each but that they are surface appearances or instrumental features of the war through which deeper lying, essentially political-economic root causes of the conflict were played out.

My second, perhaps to some provocative, argument is that the international so-called community (1) is fundamentally incapable of perceiving and diagnosing conflicts as conflicts but see events such as Croatia, Bosnia, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq in the perspective of foreign policy, security, alliance-building, world domination, national interests, or in the light of the division of labour among international organisations.

To my knowledge, very few independent non-Yugoslav scholars have placed the political economy of former Yugoslavia together with an analysis of external factors behind the dissolution at the centre of their analyses. To mention some, there is Susan Woodward (2) and Michael Barratt Brown (3) who both have a life-long, intimate personal experience with the country as well as Michel Chossudovsky (4) and Diana Johnstone (5).

During TFF’s conflict-mitigation work in all parts of ex-Yugoslavia since 1991, we have been driven to search for deeper answers (6) to questions such as these: What propelled these people to go for nationalism, hate, ethnic cleansing, killing and dreams about Greater Serbia and Greater Croatia etc? What kinds of needs were unsatisfied, what kinds of experiences and fears could make neighbours kill each other?

What were the root causes of the conflict that, because it was ignored and mismanaged internally and externally, sparked off the war? How could people be made to destroy this country which they also loved for many and good reasons?

Woodward summarises what I believe is an essential argument:

”The real origin of the Yugoslav conflict is the disintegration of governmental authority and the breakdown of a political and civil order. This process occurred over a prolonged period. The conflict is not a result of historical animosities and it is not a return to the precommunist past; it is the result of the politics of transforming a socialist society to a market economy and democracy.
A critical element of this failure was economic decline, caused largely by a program intended to resolve a foreign debt crisis. More than a decade of austerity and declining living standards corroded the social fabric and the rights and securities that individuals and families had come to rely on…
By the 1960s that viability had also come to depend on access to foreign credits and capital markets on the basis of Yugoslavia’s strategic position in the Balkans and its independent foreign policy…
The West’s euphoria over the collapse of communist states and its insistence on market reform, privatisation, and slashed budgets as conditions for economic aid and trade paid little regard to the alternative hypothesis — that the crisis of these countries grew from governments that were too weak…
Economic reforms such as those demanded of Yugoslavia by foreign creditors and Western governments ask for political suicide: they require governments to reduce their own powers…Without a stable civil and legal order, the social conditions that are created can be explosive…”
(op.cit. p. 15-17).

Yugoslavia had experienced a GNP growth rate of 8-10 per cent per year before the crisis unfolded. It had opened its economy to the West from the mid-1960s. As recession set in in the West, remittances from workers abroad – which had financed half of the Yugoslav trade deficit since the early 1960s — fell to 25% of the deficit. After 1982 all economic indicators were negative. Official unemployment was at 14 per cent by 1984 (full employment in Slovenia, 50 per cent in Kosovo, 23 per cent in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in large parts of Serbia). Inflation passed 50% that year, too. By the end of 1984 the average income was approximately 70 percent of the official minimum for a family of four, and the percentage of the population living below the poverty line increased from 17 to 25 percent.

One must remember that this happened in a country that was already displaying features of ’rich world-versus-poor world’ inside itself. The average living standards in Slovenia and Croatia were 7-8 times higher than in the South of the country, with disparities increasing over time. In addition, each republic – except Slovenia — displayed increasing income differentials over time.

Among the important sectors of Yugoslavia’s industrial base were textile, electronics, shipbuilding, electrical appliances, household goods, and armament. Due to the ’global sourcing’ strategy of Western multinationals, East-Asian low-wage countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Thailand increasingly took over this production which only aggravated Yugoslavia’s crisis.

Michael Barratt Brown points to the fact that debt payments began to absorb 30% of all foreign earnings and inflation reached 200 percent in 1985-88 and 1300 percent in 1989. The dinar was valueless. Yugoslavia ceased to be a single market; each republic tried to work its way out, the Northern ones through deeper economic ties with other European countries. It is worth noticing that the IMF demanded already in 1986 that the voting procedures of the National Bank be changed from consensus to majority. Anyone who had understood anything of Yugoslavia’s politico-constitutional character of a ”balances-of-balances” in almost all respects would have understood that conditions/ conditionality of this sort would become nails in the Yugoslav coffin.

When Ante Markovic took over as prime minister and miraculously managed to bring down the inflation, the Soviet Union had collapsed and his overtures to the US fell on deaf ears because, with that collapse, the US no longer saw a need to grant Yugoslavia any special politico-economic attention.

Michel Chossudovsky notes that already in 1984 a National Security Decision Directive (NSDD 133) under the Reagan administration entitled ”United States Policy towards Yugoslavia” conformed to NSDD 54 on Eastern Europe the objectives of which were ”expanded efforts to promote a ’quiet revolution’ to overthrow Communist governments and parties…” and integrate these economies into the orbit of the world market.

Economic ”therapy” was, thus, applied from the end of the 1980s. State revenues which should have gone as transfer payment to the republics and autonomous provinces (Kosovo and Voivodina) were instead funnelled towards servicing Belgrade’s debts with the Paris and London clubs. This crippled the economy further and fuelled the process of secessionism, nationalism and national mistrust. He points out that the ”bankruptcy program,” as he calls it, of 1989-90 led to the lay off of more than 600,000 workers, and 500,000 industrial workers were not paid from early 1990.
Part of the IMF and World Bank program was also the deregulation of trade from January 1990, flooding the market with foreign goods and further destabilising the domestic sectors.

This long-time internal economic crisis unfolding over two decades was dynamically intertwined with the external world, its economy, institutions and policies. It paved the way for, caused, aggravated or reinforced — the verb here is delicate — the concomitantly unfolding social, psychological, constitutional, political conflicts that shrewd local power politicians on all sides could translate to their own benefits into a mass mobilisation based on nationalism, ethnically-constructed enemy images, hate speech and propaganda.

As I see it, it is this much more complex dynamics which, in the objectively complex, specific Yugoslavian reality, ended logically and predictably in the wars and social violence we have so painfully witnessed.

In summary, the conflict(s) is not the same as the war. The war is the result of a complex set of deeper problems either not attended to or attended to in counterproductive ways by international actors.

The Yugoslavian theatre of violence consisted of a series of wars by political, military and economic elites against that yet non-realised civil society (7) which they knew would be a necessary element in any full transition from authoritarianism to genuine democracy. These elites also knew that a full realisation of civil society’s potentials spelled the end of the authoritarian power structures they commanded, for which reason they shared an interest in derailing such a development.

Unless the international community recognises the root causes of conflict, it is bound to repeat its structure-, history- and psychology-blind programs and wreak havoc through the dynamic interplay between these programs, on the one hand, and the local/ regional realities on the other.

This is not to say that crises such as Yugoslavia’s ”was all the fault of capitalism” or ”a political conspiracy by the international community.” There is no way to perceive the Yugoslav people themselves, in particular their leaders, as innocent or helpless victims only of international development and motives (8). But neither is it intellectually or morally possible to cast them as dark and primitive and the international community and its ”conflict-managers” as driven by solely noble motives and love of peace.

Deficient Diagnosis, Failed Conflict-Resolution

A conflict is a problem that arises out of incompatible expectations, needs or values among two or more actors. The sine qua non of effective conflict-mitigation (-resolution or -transformation) is comprehensive analysis of the root causes (diagnosis) of that problem. Without it, interventions to ‘manage’ or help solve somebody else’s conflict will invariable fail – as will surgery on a patient by a doctor who doesn’t know the diagnosis, or does not have even basic knowledge about medicine. Violence is usually not the root problem, but a consequence of maltreated, ignored or otherwise non-resolved conflicts.

There is a tendency – perhaps pronounced in Western culture – to locate conflict and violence (the two are not identical) in individual actors only. Thus, conflict is often defined as a good guy being attacked or quarrelling with an evil guy about one object such as land, rights, resources, etc. Many thus believe that conflict-resolution is about punishing the designated bad guy, rewarding his counterpart after which things will be fine and, unfortunately, believe that when they have looked at the parties’ behaviour only (on TV) and not at their needs and fears and when they have apportioned guilt and blame – then they have the key to the solution.

Unfortunately, all this is ‘conflict illiteracy’ – a recipe for failure: conflicts are not only rooted in individuals (although, of course, acted out by and through them) but also in structures, circumstances and trends – in the “Karma” of time and space.

No conflict in has only two parties; most actor behaviour display shades of grey rather than only black and only white and, last but not least, making “evil” the root cause is much too imprecise to serve as a diagnosis (as it is to say that a disease is caused by demons in the body). In addition, it begs the philosophical question: what drives humans to do inhuman things to each other?

The ”International Community: A Party to the Conflict, Too

One of the discourse’s problematic domain assumption seems to be that more highly developed countries, whatever that may mean, intervene for the good of a higher, noble cause to stop somebody’s violent struggle about a lesser, evil cause. But in most cases, the international community was and is a party to these conflicts; they have national, strategic, economic, or ‘civilising’ interests or reasons and they play roles as, say, arms traders and peddlers for influence in politics, security and intelligence.

Furthermore, the Western-based global economy display persistent, aggravating features of maldevelopment (overdevelopment causally related to underdevelopment) resulting in poverty and alienation for millions – another fertile ground for nationalism, fundamentalism, frustration, violence and aggression. Contemporary conflict regions are shaped by a history of foreign interventions, wars, border changes and ‘scrambles’ for power among leading Western nations – none of which is stated here to diminish the responsibility of leaders and groups for wars fought in their countries.

In an ever more integrated ‘global village’ the distinction between “them egoist war makers” and “we altruist peacemakers” is nothing but a convenient myth in the hands of powers that be – much helped, of course, by the “present-ism” of our age: fixation on the present, disregard for the past, electronics over printed media, image(making) over words, superficial rather than in-depth coverage of events over trends – and ever increasing conglomeration of media power and concomitant marketisation of news and ‘stories.’

By ‘international community’ we mean those who had ‘Realpolitik’ or state power to shape the course of events from outside Yugoslavia, i.e. main top-leaders of organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union, OSCE, NATO, the Contact Group and similar bodies and, above all, the United States as the single most influential country. In fact, this is a quite small group. Thus, we do not use the term the way it often is by media and the top decision-makers themselves, namely to (implicitly) mean ‘the world’ or ‘on behalf of the world’s people’ or ‘all UN member states.’The mentioned small group is neither a ‘community’ nor does it represent, de facto or de jure, humankind.

But, we may ask: What is meant here by ‘mistake’? First of all, that the activity does not produce – and even is sometimes not like to contribute – to a viable, sustainable solution to the problem(s) that stand between the parties. Secondly that, based on its own criteria or expected effects, the action turned out to be counterproductive, i.e. it is somehow reasonable to maintain that something could have been done that would have produced a situation more conducive to longterm peace, stability or to a settlement.

Admittedly, the word mistake is judgmental and speculative: it is a statement to the effect that, given the situation, something else could have been done – that there was a choice, an option, some alternative(s) – and that had they been employed, we would have come closer to a solution to the problem, a settlement or transformation of the roots of the conflict.

By its very nature, none of this can be ‘proved’ in scientific terms. But it does serve heuristic purposes and through dialogue it should be possible to establish a common ground for exploration of the question: what, if anything, has gone wrong, what could have been done and what lessons to learn? The obvious analogy is the science of medicine and the ‘management’ of the illness by various types of treatment and surgery: we can always legitimately ask whether a patient has been diagnosed, prognosed and treated in an optimal manner and, if not, what to learn from that when treating the next patients?

The Conflict-Illiteracy in the Dayton Accords

Here is an excerpt of what the author wrote in 1998 – just to exemplify how predictable the present situation is in the Dayton Bosnia-Hercegovina:

”The international community’s imprudent, conflict-blind economic and world order policies in the 1970s and 1980 served as one root cause of Yugoslavia’s dissolution. One is immediately struck by the facts that a) the Dayton Accords provides for an almost complete foreign administration of this otherwise sovereign state, and b) its Constitution is subordinated this foreign-based approach.

Significantly, the Dayton Accords were signed by three presidents, the president of Serbia (on behalf of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), the president of Croatia and by one of the ‘rotating’ presidents of BiH who at the time of signing was not the legal president; in short by no one who represented the citizens of that country (9). The idea of a referendum about the Accords, the idea of involving the ordinary citizens who were the true victims, more than leaders, does not seem to have occurred to any of the Dayton negotiation parties or international mediators.

Further, it is a fact that c) apart from the provisions concerning elections, there is no mention of civil society and no provisions for citizens or NGOs to participate in the implementation of the Dayton Agreement, in peacebuilding and future development of their country. Thus its role as a model of democracy will be extremely limited, if not counterproductive.

The catchwords of this strategy are foreign, top-down international (and top-down from Bosnian elites to citizens), interventionism, military back-up, lack of diagnosis of the problems, and delivery of aid and goods which are deemed appropriate by existing organisations where it ought to take its point of departure in an analysis of the needs of citizens and civil society.

In short, what we increasingly witness is a process of clientilisation and emulation of Western ideals, coupled with the instalment of a socio-economic system foreign to local circumstances and therefore necessarily operated by internationals.

Among the stipulations of the Dayton Accords, also called Peace Agreement, we may notice the following which are relevant to various aspects of civil society:

• The High Representative — Mr. Carl Bildt as the first, then Carlos Westendorp — is appointed in consistency with UN Security Council Resolutions to coordinate, monitor, negotiate and facilitate the implementation of the civilian aspects of the agreement. The High Rep has no authority over the IFOR/SFOR and shall not interfere in the conduct of military operations or the IFOR chain of command (Annex 10, Article II.9) but the High Rep is the final authority in theatre regarding the implementation of civilian aspects of the agreement (Annex 10, Article V), i.e. his interpretation overrules that of the local Bosnian parties.

• Economic growth and a market economy is written into the Constitution; thus, the preamble states ”desiring to promote the general welfare and economic growth through the protection of private property and the promotion of a market economy…” (Annex 4, Preamble).

• The international military force (first IFOR, presently SFOR) is established by NATO and will ”operate under the authority and subject to the direction and political control of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) through the NATO chain of command” (Annex 1-A, 1(b)), i.e. not in a manner that can be influenced, let alone decided or controlled, by the leadership of Bosnia-Herzegovina and neither, in any way, by civil society.

• The ethnic composition of the House of Peoples is also stipulated in the Constitution, thus ”The House of Peoples shall comprise 15 delegates, two-thirds from the Federation (including five Croats and five Bosniacs) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (five Serbs) (Annex 4, Article IV.1). The underlying assumption seems to be that ethnic identity is basic and that anyone not considering him- or herself as pure Croat, Serb or Bosniac — originally not a negligible proportion of BiH’s citizens — have no influence at that level, although such citizens can presumably be elected to the other chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly, the House of Representatives.

Among those who might not be represented are Yugoslavs, Bosnians, Jews, children of mixed marriages, marriages of (former) Yugoslav nationalities with others such as people of Italian, Hungarian, Albanian etc. origin.

Furthermore, the following provisions are relevant for the reconstruction of civil society:

The Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, BiH, appears only as ”Annex 4” in the Dayton Accords, presumably written by non-Bosnian lawyers before and during the Dayton negotiations. The OSCE chairs the Election Commission and appoints its Bosnian members (Annex 3, Art 3.3). The Governor or the Central Bank of BiH shall be appointed by the IMF and shall not be a citizen of BiH or of any neighbouring country (Annex 4, Article VII.2). The Human Rights Chamber members shall have fourteen members eight of whom are appointed by the Council of Europe and can not be citizens of BiH (Annex 6, Article VII.2).

It is evident that neither ”peace” nor “democracy” are not appropriate terms for what was decided at Dayton. It is unlikely to qualify as much more than a comprehensive, extended cease-fire agreement, since it does not address the causes of the conflicts and the wars. Rather, and sadly, it recreates in Bosnia-Herzegovina some of the very same root causes that led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia.”

So much said 6 years ago. Significantly, those who put together this document stipulated that the process would last one year. As of mid 2004, 8 years later, one must be a fundamentalist optimist to see Bosnia-Hercegovina as a peace-making success. It is, rather, a sad example of the international community’s failed conflict-diagnosis, arrogant manners vis-a-vis local people and a ”fixing” mentality that ignores the basics of democratization, peace-making and is utterly unresponsive to the needs and desires of the people who live in that space.

Another Conflict-Management Disaster: Kosovo 1989 to 1999

What was (is) the conflict – the problems that lead to the violence – in Kosovo all about? It is not human rights violations or ethnic cleansing; they are symptoms of deeper lying problems which, unfortunately, were never addressed by leading decision-makers in the international community (10). As in so many other conflicts there is a history going decades, if not centuries, back in time. There was economic maldevelopment, there were constitutional conflict, political and specific Yugo-structural features. And there were extremely complex regional dimensions involving neighbouring countries.

Albanians feel that historic fate has split their nation in three, in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo. Serbs equally legitimately see the province as an integral part of Serbia’s and Yugoslavia’s time and space. Educated people on both sides can make excellent points and both have credible views and perfectly legitimate concerns. Objectively, Albanians and Serbs are more different in terms of lifestyle, religion, language, social structure and values than any other pair of larger national groups in ex-Yugoslavia and perceive the other, to quite an extent, as “lower.” Segregation and polarisation was traditionally deeper here than in, say, Bosnia and Croatia. Lack of trust and a remarkable amount of fear characterised their relations through decades.

Kosovo was the poorest area in Europe. As late as in the early 1990s, the socioeconomic situation was characterised by figures such as these: if the GNP of Kosovo is set at 100, Slovenia (1984) had 766, Serbia without Voivodina and Kosovo 375, Macedonia 249 – and the income gap between the richer and poorer republics and peoples in Tito’s Yugoslavia began to increase rapidly in the 1980s. Structurally more advantaged republics such as Croatia and Slovenia paid considerable parts of their profits to the federal redistribution mechanism, but much of it ended up in corrupted pockets, showplace extravagant public buildings and in land purchases in Macedonia – meaning little left for productive investments in Kosovo.

Depending on the definition, at least 55 per cent of those seeking work were unemployed; illiteracy passed 20 per cent and perhaps as many as 400,000 kids were out of the regular schools; over 40 per cent of the people had no access to tap water, only 28 per cent lived in areas with a sewage system.

The region had the highest birth rate and the highest infant mortality rate in Europe; more than 50 per cent of the citizens were below 20, the average age being 24 years of age. Albanians made up 67 per cent of the population in the province in 1961 (they also lived elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, some say 100.000 in Belgrade alone), they appear to have risen to about 90 per cent in the 1990s. Population pressure, better economic opportunities elsewhere and harassment caused many to work abroad; Albanian sources maintained in 1992 that around 450.000 Albanians left between 1975 and 1991. Serbs made up 24 per cent of the province’s population in 1961, down to an estimated 8-9 per cent in the early 1990s. Some Serbs left because they were harassed or their land bought by Albanians while the majority left because of the ever deteriorating economic situation. (Statistics are manifestly unreliable, the last reliable census is from 1981 and the Albanians have refused to participate in any later census).

Naturally, all this was fertile ground for human dissatisfaction, mutual blaming, fear and violence. If dealt with in a conflict-professional manner and in time – let’s say 1992-93 – the Serb-Albanian war since February 1998, NATOs misguided humanism (and missiles) as well as Serb and Albanian ethnic cleansing could, undoubtedly, have been avoided.

Examples of the International Community’s Peace Prevention

1. The assumption that mono-causal theories and explanations will do (such as pointing to the breakdown of Communism, to the emergence of nationalism, to age-old ‘ethnic’ animosities). The cluster of complex conflicts in thes case of former Yugoslavia defies every such reductionism. But it has dominated among decision-makers and in leading media. Another ‘theory’ that has no resemblance with reality is this: a conflict is a situation where two parties, one good and one bad, fight about one thing and a solution emerges when we punish the bad guy and (perhaps) help the good one. The conflicts in the real world never have only two actors, they are almost never black and white (but mixed somewhat grey) and they never have only one problem.

2. The belief that human evil explains it all. Long story – but it simply doesn’t. But of course this belief automatically casts the Western ‘conflict-managers’ in the role of good guys. Surprisingly, no one has tried to work with human good as a conflict-resolution method.

3. The assumption that Yugoslavia broke down because it was Communist and/or a dictatorship. It was pretty much a mixture on a number of dimensions and much less a communist country or dictatorship than all others categorised by those words.

4. The systematic exclusion of economic conflict causes that could point in the direction of the West itself being part of the problem. When in the 1970s capitalist ‘global sourcing’ developed and sub-production structures were set up in South-East Asian low-wage countries such as Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, and South Korea, Western investments in Yugoslavia’s dynamic industrial base crumbled – as has been pointed out by, among others, Susan Woodward in Balkan Tragedy and by Michel Chossudovsky in The Globalization of Poverty. When the socioeconomic crisis went deep, the IMF and the World Bank intervened with structural adjustment programs that aggravated the crisis further to encompass the sociopolitical and national-psychological spheres of the Yugoslav mosaic. So, the conflict did not start in 1991, but way before. What started in 1991 was, rather, the use of violence.

5. The belief that this is predominantly an ethnic conflict and that people have always fought each other down there. Ethnicity was rather a tool or vehicle for playing out other conflicts and it is simply false that people have always fought each other. It conveniently omits mention of the historic fact that other actors have used and exploited the people of the Balkans for less peaceful purposes.

6. The assertion that “it” all started with Slobodan Milosevic. Whatever the roots of the Balkan drama, they date back way before he was born; and complex conflicts are also caused by economic, historical and other structures and circumstances. Reducing and personifying them to a matter of ‘bad guys’ (be it Castro, Khadaffi, Khomeini, Siad Barre, Muhammad Farah Aideed, Kim Il Sung & Son, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, etc. is simply conflict amateurism even when they are bad guys).

7. The a priori belief that the international community has only noble, mediating, peacemaking goals. If so, the situation simply could not be as bad as it is now in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia. So much can not have gone wrong, there must have been ‘intervening motives’ that tainted the idealism.

8. Working far too much with elites and top-down and very little with citizens. It’s a classical problem; government diplomats meet their peers, there is little vertical interaction. Peacemaking must be done from the top-down and from the ground-up.

9. Unequal, unprincipled treatment of minorities and their wishes for self-determination. Croatia argued for self-determination from Yugoslavia, but against self-determination within Croatia; the international community intervened to help the Albanian minority in Serbia, not so in Krajina or Bosnia. And while it endorses de facto independence for Kosovo-Albanians it knows that a similar policy in Macedonia would spell the end of that country.

10. Underestimating complexity, working with 3-4 actors isolated, not 30-40 interconnected. One of the actors ignored everywhere are the true dissidents who, since 1990, have worked against their own governments’ authoritarian policies. International conflict-management has had a constant focus on one place at a time instead of the whole, on war lords rather than peace lords and on isolated issues without even trying to understanding that everything is related to everything else in former Yugoslavia.

11. The international community’s systematic mixing of roles. Its actors tried simultaenously to: be peacemakers and arms exporters, peacekeepers and peace enforcers, give humanitarian aid and bomb, be impartial mediators and allies, introduce economic sanctions and show humanitarian concerns; serve their own national interests and conduct collective ’common’ (EU/Western/NATO) foreign and security policy; relying on the UN and undermining its authority; violate (international) laws and tell people to respect laws and human rights; and – finally – to bomb a country and kill about 2000 innocent civilians and insist that it is not at war and not at war with the people of that country.

12. Lack of Diagnosis, Prognosis and Treatment philosophy. There is no evidence that professional conflict-management was ever applied or that diplomats had a necessary minimum training in that profession. If their had, their mandates were tied from home.

13. No focus on root causes or attitudes such as suffering and history. Only looking at behaviour. Simply put, there is an ABC to conflicts: Attitudes, Behaviour and the Conflict’s substance or root causes. Political action was taken (in some cases) in response to atrocious behaviour but without due consideration and understanding of A and C.

14. No early listening and early action, lack of violence-prevention. For ten years, competent journalists, diplomats and connoisseurs predicted troubles after Tito’s death. About Kosovo it may be said that no other conflict region has caused so many early warnings for so long. None of it compelled governments to take appropriate early action.

15. Promotion of multiparty system at the worst possible moment of history. Mechanic definitions of democracy were imposed from outside into a crisis-ridden space and time lacking what democracy must be built on, namely a political culture of tolerance and dialogue. With one exception, all parties were nationalist, based in each republic and more or less one-man power structures aiming at centralisation rather than decentralisation.

16. Promotion of market economy at the worst possible moment of history. Triumphalism rather than common sense dominated here,too. Result: social property has been appropriated by a new capitalist nomenclature that is more or less identical with ruling party structures – coupled with corruption and black markets. Ordinary citizens in most republics of former Yugoslavia, particularly the elderly, feel robbed of their possessions, worse than any time since 1945. And arrogantly the West tells them that this is what, unfortunately, they have to suffer through to come to the gates of Paradise – later, much much later.

17. Post-Cold War imagery in an intellectual vacuum. The old East-West conflict-formation seems to have been transferred to the Balkans; thus, Serbs were seen as a kind of local expansionist Soviets/Russians while Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo played the role as innocent Western-oriented, peace- and democracy-loving but subdued countries a la the Baltic Republics and the rest of the Soviet near-abroad.

18. Sanctions hit the wrong people, the innocent, created paranoia, and destabilised other countries. The terribly human costs of sanctions and how they play into the hands of powers that be and of mafiosi is well-documented in the literature and in other areas were sanctions have been applied. The psychological effects – feeling unfairly punished – may be even worse. Macedonia’s economy, for instance, would have been much better off today had it been able to trade normally with – and through – Serbia.

19. Bringing Bosnia-Hercegovina into war, marginalising one-third of its people. The early and premature recognition of Slovenia and Croatia made war unavoidable in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The 33 per cent of that republic’s citizens who happened to see themselves as Serbs boycotted, with a few thousands as the exception, the referendum as this substantial minority did not accept the procedure leading up to the referendum and did not want an independent Bosnia-Hercegovina.

20. Conniving at Croatia’s military involvement in Bosnia-Hercegovina. It is well-documented that Croatia was heavily involved militarily there and has run the mini-state of Herceg-Bosna with Mostar as its capital from Zagreb ever since. However, unlike Serbia , Croatia paid no price for this, the entire West turned the blind eye.

21. Ignoring the potentials of civil society, democratic and peace forces, no respect for local civil society or the voice of ordinary citizens when it comes to peace plans. Dayton is an example: none of the three presidents who signed it were legitimate representatives of anybody in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Also, the idea of holding referendum to delineate sustainable new borders between the new republics – as in Schleswig-Holstein – seems never to have been seriously considered.

22. The West in effect supported hardliners on both sides in the Kosovo conflict. For years, there was lip service to moderate Albanian leader Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, the only legitimate, elected representative of the Kosova Albanians. But although he told every foreigner he met in Kosovo and during extensive diplomatic travels that he could not keep the struggle at the pragmatic, nonviolent if no negotiations and other support was given, Kosovo was kept out of any conflict management framework for far too long. It was not seen as a parallel to Krajina at the time, not integrated into or taken up immediately after Dayton; indeed, the West recognised FRY as a sovereign state with Kosovo inside in 1996 – after which Rugova and his team lost creativity, initiative and legitimacy. Instead the West, fully aware of it, we must presume – and probably even helping – let the KLA build an army and radicalise politics. On the Belgrade side, the West never understood that the best opportunity for a negotiated, peaceful solution was 1992-93 when prime minister Milan Panic and his excellent ministers where in charge, wanted a solution in Kosovo and fought a battle against Milosevic.

23. NATO’s Balkan bombing blunder. If there is any single event that proves that military might does not solve conflicts, it is this. It created a humanitarian catastrophe, directly by itself and indirectly by Serb revenge against the Albanian population who was seen to have succeeded in commissioning NATO to destroy the Serbian motherland. It wrought havoc on all the country and destabilised Macedonia and Albania and, in effect, carved out a territory of a sovereign state. It violated international law, the UN Charter as well as NATO’s own Charter and, to put it bluntly, created a mess in today’s Kosovo under KFOR/UNMIK. It is reasonable to assume that nobody knows what to do with the place in the future.
As if this was not enough, perhaps 90 per cent of the non-Albanians have been driven out under the very eyes of NATO and KFOR and the Albanians themselves – wanting freedom and independence so badly – now live a) under an authoritarian, self-styled ‘government’ established by KLA, b) under an international administration that simply does not work, and, finally, c) under socioeconomic circumstances that have increased the levels of insecurity, mafia activity, general lawlessness and chaos way beyond what it was before. And if NATO’s intervention was meant to prevent an anticipated ethnic cleansing campaign or even ‘genocide’ – as was maintained with reference to ‘Operation Horseshoe’ – we are still waiting (October 1999) for the solid evidence those must have had who started planning the bombing around New Year.

24. The assertion that there was no other option but to bomb. Given all the missed conflict-management and -mitigation opportunities throughout the 1990s, this is probably the biggest myth of all. Those who believe in it lack basic knowledge about conflict resolution techniques in general and the Kosovo problem in particular.

25. Dealing with conflicts as if human beings did not matter. The human, or existential, dimensions of conflict is another factor sadly overlooked by diplomats, by the media and by more or less self-appointed conflict-’managers.’ Catchword are: identity, self-assertion, hopes for the future and fear: fear of past deeds that hang on in the present, and fear about what the future may bring. Fear – much more than evil – may help us understand why (even good) people can do bad things. The same can be said about frustration because of non-addressed conflicts/problems. Psycho-social dynamics follow the entire conflict ‘wheel’ from the stage of early warning to that of reconstruction, reconciliation and normalisation.

Perhaps the greatest problem of all is that the international society is not geared to deal with the human dimensions of the types of conflicts that have surfaced after the end of the Cold War, i.e. the last ten years. All international organisations are geared to traditional inter-state politics, military affairs, East-West confidence-building. The only one going beyond that is the United Nations with its remarkable peacekeeping experience since the days of Dag Hammarskjöld. And this is the very organization that has lost most during these years!

Few diplomats and appointed mediators are trained in understanding conflicts in general and humans in conflict in particular. (If the present author who is a professional in social science and peace research was asked to perform surgery on a cancer patient, the risk is high that that would go terribly wrong, too!).

The present world order is quite effective when it comes to mobilising material resources for various types of violence, while it is sadly underdeveloped and immature when it comes to mobilising intellectual and financial resources for non-material aspects of conflicts and for non-violent means of handling them.

This structural deficiency is, all said, the main reason that so many conflict-management operations have gone wrong since 1990 – ignoring early warnings, using wrong or grossly deficient, reductionist diagnoses and using the wrong means at the wrong time. In short, they often aggravated the situation, caused more hurt and harm or even new conflicts – in spite of a belief in many a decision maker that they were doing the right thing.

To understand conflicts, to handle and solve them and move toward genuine peace and democracy, we cannot go on acting as if human beings did not matter or deserve treatment only as a residual category when everything else – material, economic, political, constitutional, military and territorial matters have been addrressed. In short, professionalisation, education and training as well as institutions must be created that allow for a completely different approach to the type of emergencies we have witnessed the last ten years, not the least in the Balkans. I believe this is an essential lesson to learn.

The question, hoqever, is whether those conducting Realpolitik are willing to see that Realpolitik is not the same as conflict-handling and peacebuilding.

How come we so often talk about restoring peace after wars’ hurt and harm without paying attention to the human aspects of conflicts in general and that of forgiveness and reconciliation in particular? Take a look at Bosnia and Croatia since 1995, look at Kosovo now, or Somalia, or…Have people really held out their arms or said ‘I forgive you’? Come together in trust? Have they learnt how to deal with the past, not in order to forget it or to blame each other, but to acknowledge what happened and find ways to avoid it ever happening again? Can that even be said about South Africa? It is easy to repair houses and infrastructure, it’s easy to throw money around and talk about human rights.

But what if people deep down keep on hating each other? Will they ever be happy and at peace with themselves? Will their children? What kind of society will it be if we cannot also speak about how to, so to speak, repair souls and help create tolerance, co-existence, even cooperation and love?

We need to make forgiveness and reconciliation a central objective: in research and studies, in training and education and, above all, we should empower every civilian and military – and every international organisation engaged in war-torn societies – to work for it with the locals. In short, the world needs a new attention to the human and non-material dimension and a transfer of peace-making resources from the military to the civilian society and organisations.

Intellectual and financial investments into finding solutions to the enigmas of human violence and human reconciliation through dialogue and conflict-resolution could well prove to be the most cost-efficient violence-prevention mechanism. But then, we must admit, there are powerful elite interests who benefit from more rather than less violence in human and global affairs; the grotesque global imbalance between military investments and investments in satisfying the basic needs of the most underprivileged bear witness to this and would justify a new kind of humanitarian intervention quite different from that conducted with military might in selected cases.

2004: Peacemaking in Kosovo Is Coming to an End

Slowly but surely – and sadly – the efforts of the international community to create peace in Kosovo/a are coming to an end in spring 2004. The reasons are simple: mediation and conflict-resolution in complex conflicts can not be done the way it was between 1989 and 1999. And you won’t succeed with peace-making the way it was done by the bombings in 1999 and the efforts since then. (The author made that prediction not ex-post but before the bombing started, among dozens of places, on the Danish Television).

Had anyone in the EU and the U.S. had the intellectual will and the political courage to draw conflict-management lessons from the Balkans, we would hardly have experienced the succeeding quagmires called Afghanistan and Iraq where the opportunities for peace and reconciliation are also decaying by the day.

The Western world’s self-appointed conflict-managers and mediators probably now hope that their “condemnations” of the most recent bout of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in March 2004 will do the trick, prevent Albanian extremists from further attacks and keep the Kosovo calamity away from the headlines. If so, there is a high probability that they are in for nasty surprises.

The truth is simple and will out: the international community hasn’t got the faintest idea about what to do with Kosovo. There are no solutions anymore that will be fair in the eyes of the parties. Any future status will create serious problems in the region and possibly for the international community. To put it crudely – if the international conflict-managers are doctors, their patient is dying because of a bad diagnosis and a seriously failed surgery.

Embarrassing as they are, the reasons are quite simple but remain virtually untold: they would require an ounce of self-criticism in a series of European ministries of foreign affairs, in Washington and Brussels to talk about and be implemented in the future.

For the decade 1989-1999 the international community operated on a standardised, one-truth, black-and-white explanation of what the conflict was about. They blamed the Serbs in general and Slobodan Milosevic in particular for the Kosovo conflict. They ignored the complex framework in space and time of which Kosovo was a part: the dissolution mechanisms of former Yugoslavia, the wider context of the Balkans and the restructuring of the world order as well as the transition from the Cold War paradigm to something different.

Like we see in today’s Iraq, there were no limits to the political hubris-cum-ignorance. Both Albanian and Serb citizens were treated as pawns in much larger games and they are realising it now.

Below follows a list of some of the conflict mismanagement and long-term root causes that explain the unfolding dissolution of the peace-making efforts in Kosovo we now witness. (Numbers do not indicate priority or relative importance.)

Some root causes of the failed peace-making in Kosovo

1. Not understanding that former Yugoslavia fell apart – also – because of a series of structural changes such as the oil crisis of the 1970es, European immigration policies and the end of the Cold War with lost neutrality between two blocks. Furthermore, multinational corporations’ exploitation of low-wage labour in South-East Asia which destroyed Yugoslavia’s industrial base and brought huge unemployment – followed by IMF structural adjustment programmes that further devastated the economy and welfare. The international community itself was a co-producer of the Yugoslav crisis and provided the outer conditions that made ethnic scapegoating possible.

2. Not understanding that the autonomy of Kosovo and Voivodina presupposed the existence of Yugoslavia; Serbia proper could be overruled by the two provinces in its own parliament if and when the other Yugoslav republics had left the balancing act. Thus, the Western policy of advocating and promoting the partition of Yugoslavia could not but create terrible problems, in Kosovo and elsewhere.

3. Turning the blind eye to the strong Kosovo-Albanian nationalism and exclusivity; they profited politically from having an arrogant strongman in Belgrade who repressed their basic human rights – for which reason they never supported the opposition in Serbia. When the international community talked about human rights, Kosovo-Albanian leaders meant independence. Ask yourself why what happened in Kosovo did not happen in Voivodina, the other autonomous province.

4. The short-sightedness of teasing Milosevic by supporting an independent Kosovo – like supporting the independence of Montenegro – and dropping that policy as soon as Milosevic left the stage. Go to Podgorica today and you will be overwhelmed by the disappointment with the EU and the Americans; the Montenegrins too have realised how they were treated as pawns.

5. The policy of treating equally repressed minorities differently depending on their nationality; the Serb minority in Croatia never got any serious attention by the West; politically the EU and militarily the U.S. helped Tudjman drive a quarter of a million Croatian Serbs out in 1995. With few exceptions, they are still refugees in Serbia.

6. Instead of providing real support to the pragmatic non-violent policies of Dr. Rugova – the only one of its kind in former Yugoslavia – Western countries, Germany and the US in particular, armed Kosovo-Albanian extremists from 1993 and created the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, of about 20.000 well-equipped soldiers. This was what, in 1998, turned the Kosovo situation into a real war. For a short while the US had formally defined KLA as a terror organisation but later used it as NATO’s ally on the ground during the bombing. Thus a conflict that could have been mediated years before with diplomatic means, became militarised.

7. In spite of all warnings in the 1990es, the international community never even suggested a serious, comprehensive negotiation process for Kosovo. The Rambouillet “negotiations” was a fraud; the Serbs and Albanians never met face-to-face there. The introduction of the military appendix that would have allowed NATO free access to every corner of Serbia was a Maffia-like “offer” any responsible European statesman would have to refuse (as Milosevic did).

8. The international community got various missions into Kosovo. The latest, negotiated between Milosevic and Richard Holbrooke, was the OSCE ‘Verification’ Mission of 2000 people. Unfortunately, Western governments were neither able nor willing to get enough qualified people on the ground in time, so 70% of them mysteriously had military backgrounds and about 100 were allegedly CIA – not so surprising given that the head of mission was William Walker. Since OSCE failed in that mission, the usual fallback argument had to be used: it was all Milosevic’ fault. Truth is that he let them into the province (at the same time as he was accused of intending to drive out every Albanian) and kept his part of the agreement.

9. By the bombing and the diplomacy surrounding it, the Albanians could not but get the impression that the international community, Washington in particular, were granting them their independent state (without consulting Belgrade, the loser). Today five years later, they have very good reasons to feel cheated. This of course does not explain Albanian ethnic cleansing or make it acceptable – as argued by the “prestigious” International Crisis Group which functions as a NEGO, NEar-Governmental Organisation.

The author met Americans and others in Kosovo right after the de facto occupation who did not know (or no longer perceived) Kosovo was a part of Serbia and repeatedly called it “this county” with a wry smile.

10. Completely ignoring the human dimension of conflicts. Billions of dollars has have poured into Kosovo since 1999; hundreds of government and non-governmental organisations have promoted courses in media, human rights, empowerment and other civil society measures. The only things nobody dared touch was history, hatred, cultural differences, reconciliation, forgiveness, truth commissions and that sort of thing. The belief was that if the international community simply put up history’s largest international peace-making mission in a tiny province, the locals will greet them with flowers and those who didn’t would soon be convinced about the inherent goodness of the international mission. They made the same mistake four years later in Iraq.

11. After the bombing the international community monitored – but did nothing to prevent – the reverse ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians, some 200.000 who are still in Serbia and Macedonia, including the always ignored Romas. They were not helped to get back as were the Albanians fleeing the 13-month of war in Kosovo and the NATO’s bombs (the war and the bombing were much more important as causes for fleeing than was the manufactured nonsense about Milosevic already implementing an certain “Horseshoe Plan” aiming to get rid of no less than all 1,5 million Albanians living in Kosovo).

This happened under the very eyes of 43.000 NATO soldiers and thousands of OSCE, UN and EU staff as well as Western NGOs in Kosovo. The world was told that it should be seen as a psychological reaction to the repression of their side earlier. So, Westerners endorsed ethnic cleansing continued over the years; the latest but hardly last round we saw in March 2004. This time it was “explained” by two arguments; a story that went through the world’s media about Serbs chasing Albanian kids into a river so they drowned; no retraction were printed when the story turned out to be untrue. The other argument was that the Albanian “criminals” and “mobs” (it wasn’t political!) were “frustrated” over the status issue and the socio-economic situation in the province.

12. The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was officially disarmed and closed down, being replaced by the Kosovo Protection Corps that would, we were told, have only civilian tasks. It leader was Agim Ceku, an Albanian general central in developing the KLA from 1993 while also serving under Croatian president Tudjman and being instrumental in driving out Serbs from Croatia in Operations Storm and Flash. This was yet another fraud by factors in the international community. The Serb forces did leave, but the Kosovo-Albanian army was, for all practical purposes, preserved. Only the conveniently naive could believe that the very same United States/NATO that are able to bomb Afghanistan to rubble and occupy Iraq, together with other NATO-KFOR forces were unable to prevent KLA from ravaging the region?

Some should wonder today how it was possible for KLA to destabilise and conduct war outside Kosovo, first in Southern Serbia and then in Macedonia? Isn’t it strange also how an allegedly disarmed people had weapons to kill Serbs and internationals as well as moderate Albanians and cause very serious destruction of homes and quite solid Orthodox churches throughout Kosovo in March 2004?

13. Like in Iraq, the occupying powers dismissed virtually every competent person who knew how to operate and repair the infrastructure, water, electricity, the health sector, schools, even if they had not taken part in Milosevic’ repressive policies. In consequence, nothing worked at a time when the Kosovo-Albanians had good reasons to believe that things would finally begin to work properly in their republic that had been liberated with a little help from their friends.

14. For about a decade everybody thought that sanctions was a great tool by which to put pressure on Milosevic but it only impoverished the people and trading partners such as Macedonia and, worse, created or boosted a Mafia economy everywhere. That Mafia is very influential in today’s Serbia and no less in today’s Kosovo. Sanctions and the black economy, combined with imposed privatization policies, created a class society with enormous poverty among ordinary citizens. Some in the international community, among them the International Crisis Group do not see the absurdity of their argument that we must understand that the Kosovo Albanians do bad things because their economic situation is so poor. They never justify Serb politics in similar terms and conveniently leave unmentioned the Albanian trafficking and prostitution, the cigarette smuggling, Kosovo’s several hundred money-laundering petrol stations, the drug trade from Afghanistan (where Western policies have brought back opium production) and Kosovo’s relation to the European underworld. Lack of money would be about the last thing that could decently explain why Albanian extremists commit ethnic cleansing!

15. The handover problem. The international missions in Kosovo are in the same dilemma as the US-led occupation in Baghdad. They want to hand over everything as quickly as possible to the locals – but also secure that they do what “we” want them to. The buzz word in Iraq is “sovereignty,” in Kosovo “independence” before which we heard all the other hollow marketing words: liberation, democracy, human rights – hollow because the occupiers practise not the simplest respect for the locals or for their own Western “standards.” It is not far fetched, therefore, to predict that there will soon be a resistance movement in Kosovo too.

16. Oil, gas and military bases. Realpolitik is more about material matters and strategic positioning. This is where the huge American bases in Kosovo, Bulgaria and Romania as well as the 14 bases in Iraq enter the picture. This is where the larger strategic game emerges: the triangle between the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia with its resources, transport corridors, gas and oil pipelines – and long-term strategic battle between the over-militarised, but crumbling West and the rest of the world. The Albanians are waking up to the reality that the West, the US in particular, did not come to Kosovo for the sake of their human rights or their independence unless, that is, it suits larger strategic plans.

17. The counterproductive treatment of Serbia. After Milosevic’ delivery to the Hague, the West never got its act together; conveniently therefore, it blames Serbia for not getting its act together. If you live yourself into the situation in Serbia, it’s been one long political harassment ever since. The list is indeed long if you want to see it: totally inadequate assistance for reconstruction after the devastating bombing and psycho-political humiliation; extreme conditionality on aid and loans; broken promises of the aid that would come if Milosevic was extradicted; only negative views on one of the few political leaders with clean hands, Mr. Kostunica; no willingness to help set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission proposed by him; continuously harping on the co-operation with ICTY in the Hague in ways not required of politicians in Sarajevo, Zagreb or Pristina; ignoring the fact that Serbia has Europe’s largest refugee problem of about 500.000 to 600.000 Serbs from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo; blatant interference in internal affairs of the country; no understanding that Serbia feel deprived of Kosovo and collectively punished because of one leader’s brutality and stupidity.

In addition, the country has all the problems of the East European societies in transition and is required to fulfil extremely demanding requirements on the way to an EU membership that may become true a decade or more into the future.

And then there are those who act surprised that right-wing, populist parties such as Seselj’s Radical Party gains increasing support! Thus, the West is missing a great opportunity to achieve reconciliation and co-operation with one of the most important countries in that part of the world that wants to orient itself towards the West but is constantly rebuffed and humiliated.

Truth is that Serbia is losing Kosovo and knows it. If the West misses the opportunity to offer Serbia an attractive political and economic deal concerning Kosovo and the future of Serbia proper, it stands to lose both Serbia and Kosovo – and the people in both places will lose even more. In the worst of cases it could lead to renewed fighting and breakdown, also in Bosnia.

18. The belief that Kosovo-Albanians are seriously interested in EU integration and in joining the globalising market economy. They are not. They are interested in an independent Kosova and in the fate of Albanians in Montenegro, Macedonia and perhaps in developing not a greater Albania but a greater Kosova. And why not? Kosovo-Albanian leaders tend to see themselves as the historical, philosophical and intellectual centre of the Albanian nation. Anything less than an independent Kosova is unacceptable; and let’s not forget that their leaders have told the young generation the last fifteen years that Kosova was already independent. The importance of the difference between de jure and de facto was lost upon themselves in the heat of the struggle and certainly upon those between, say, 5 and 20 years of age.

Time is running out for the old political elites, the new ones are impatient, and fifteen years of self-deceptive policies by EU countries and the US are, predictably, finally catching up. There are limits to how many games you can play simultaneously, how often you can change policies, how much unprincipled politics you can amass at one place and how much you can fool the locals in the world’s conflicts, be it in Iraq or Kosovo. There will be a boomerang effect one day.

It may be painful to recognise the conflict mismanagement and the peace-making failure given all the prestige and resources devoted to Kosovo. But it will be more painful to more people if it all breaks down. Early warning does not apply to upcoming conflicts only; it should also apply to failed peace-making. But early warning and violence prevention remains a dream in this world.

What we see in Kosovo now could have been avoided if dealt with in civil, political terms some 10-15 years ago by honest, principled brokers. That, it seems to me, is the ultimate tragedy of the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular.

Where are we in 2004?

I am writing in June 2004. It is five years after the bombing of rest-Yugoslavia and 15 years after Milosevic’ speech at Kosovo Polje; it’s 9 years after Dayton, 15 years after the collapse of the Cold War and and 13 years after the outbreak of para-military and police violence in Croatia and 12 years after Slovenian and Croatian independence? And we are in the 3rd year after September the 11th, 2001.

We can state that most units in former Yugoslavia are a) more ethnically clean than before; b) worse off economically with the possible exception of Slovenia; c) more dependent on foreign factors than dependent in the past on Belgrade – i.e. having new but foreign ”masters”; d) Croatia’s political leadership is back in the hands of roughly the same forces as in the 1990s; e) the same applies to Serbia whose politics is a ”complex” of party politics, two Maffia groups, a handful of oligarchs who got rich during the sanctions years; f) instead of peace, reverse ethnic cleansing and complete socio-economic crisis characterises the foreign-administered Kosovo/a and the international community has obviously imprisoned itself there; g) Macedonia as a state formation is extremely fragile after the demise of UNPREDEP, the refugee crisis, the 8-month war and increased ethnic animosity as well as the Ohrid Agreement that is little but a leverage for the international community to acquire influence and conditionality in that space. Finally, h) none of the countries has any real chance or choice: they either join the EU at the will, conditions and time of the EU and the ”transatlantic framework” meaning subordinate NATO membership, or are left on their own to perish in isolation ”outside.”

Media are present in the war theatres, increasingly being ”embedded” with the various forces. When the wars are over, they usually leave. Post-war peace-making – the whole thing that is used to justify military intervention – is hardly ever followed up by the media; the implicit understanding is that peace is boring!

Thus we have far too little discussions in the Western political framework about the long-term successes and failures of the various types of interventions we have undertaken allegedly to re-create some kind of peace, prosperity, democracy, etc.

My personal conclusion is simple: the international community’s deficient diagnosis and self-balkanizing games have prevented peace from unfolding in the former Yugoslav space. Indeed, it seem to me that the international community’s conflict management has – in reality – been little more than peace prevention and the continuation of power politics with other means, to paraphrase von Clausewitz.

Some Lessons That Must Be Learned Again

• Emergencies and their underlying conflicts should be seen in the light of diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. Without proper diagnosis, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations will have counterproductive effects on the ”patient”. To the present author this remains the single most important lesson to build on for the future. Therefore, to develop the overall competence in conflict analysis and peacemaking with an emphasis on the human dimensions – and require a minimum training of anyone who engage in emergency situation – is the sine qua non of better conflict and emergency management in the future.

• Civil society’s capacity for violence-prevention, peacemaking and post-war redevelopment is underestimated in international politics, including in processes of humanitarian aid. There are so many things that can be done if people believe in the axiom of this analysis, namely that conflict management and, ultimately, peace is an art and a science, something we can learn and acquire skills in.

• Prevention is better than cure. One gram of prevention can save kilos of curative medicine later – and save lives. But the international community is not only not geared to the new challenges after the so-called end of the Cold War, it also actively produces humanitarian catastrophes.

• One of the most important resources is the abhorrence of war among the majority of civil society and its nonconstituted leaders – people of culture, priests and monks, dissidents and social movements, elders and otherwise authoritative figures in the particular culture.

At the outset, for example, the 23 million people of ex-Yugoslavia did not want the wars, although many of them wanted to divide Yugoslavia, to divorce from the others. It is doubtful whether more than 1% of them, or 230 000, benefited from what happened as war-mongers, arms- and oil-profiteers, thugs, black marketeers, nationalists and war-heroes. While the West gave some war criminals and presidents responsible for it all a name and fame, the courageous dissidents who fought against them are still largely unknown, never given a face nor a name.

• In top-down peace deals à la Dayton civil society is simply ignored since it is not politically, militarily and economically attractive for the involved parties. Thereby, authoritarian structures and old-type states are reconstructed on the ruins of the old problem-ridden society, in this case with the blessing of Western institutions. Once again civil society is left to fend for itself. This type of ”peace” is doomed to maintain old and create new conflicts and future violence.

• A new type of peace-cum-humanitarian worker is needed who attends not (only) to bodies but to souls, to the broad human, social and cultural – i.e. non-material – reconstruction of postwar societies. They must be educated and trained to perform as an integral part of international emergency management. (This pertains also to societies of the Cold War during which the psychological/intellectual and cosmological damage seems much larger than the physical destruction).

• Local capacities for normalisation/peace always exist, somewhere. It is commonplace that women are often the carriers. The more developed civil society in an emergency is, the more there is for ”Third Parties” to build on. Where entire state structures have broken down and norms dissolved, a fragile civil society may be the only structure to build on. A first task is to identify local liaisons and support those who have not turned in desperation to power politics or fled their homes.

Providing safe space, safe voices and incentives for alternatives to the war is of paramount importance for bringing an early end to war.

• It is more efficient to strengthen local civil society than it is to punish the ”bad guys”. Projects that aim to strengthen civil society and help citizens turn their backs upon war-makers and others who wreak havoc on their societies is far more efficient, but takes more ingenuity, time and skills, than it is for self-proclaimed international ”policemen” to chase warlords.

• The difference between motives and interests. There is a huge difference between officially stated motives and goals (such as creating peace, democracy and protect human rights) and real interests (resources, strategic gains, global power, prestige, etc).

• The media need broader approaches. Media would be more useful if they did three things: a) covered the war/violence but also the underlying conflicts, b) focused on stated motives and goals but also on (less noble) interests, and c) covered the conflict and the war both before, during and after.

• Means and ends are one. Remember the Gandhian dictum that ”means are goals-in-the-making,” i.e. that you can’t achieve good goals with bad means, peace with war, stability with bombing and human reconciliation by World Bank loans. You can’t fight violence with violence and (private group) terrorism with (way bigger) state terrorism. And you can’t install democracy from the outside by telling people to act democratically under an authoritarian foreign administration. In short, what will work is peace by peaceful means – as stated in the UN Charter, and only when all the tools there have been applied and found in vain should military instruments be considered.

• Use the UN and its norms and Charter. In spite of all, UN missions here and there have – ceteris paribus – done a much better (but not perfect) job than, say, NATO and single governments. That is, they have done more good and less harm to the region and where they have operated, such as in Macedonia and in Eastern Slavonia. The OSCE and many NGOs also were more helpful and respectful to the local processes than the ”big guys” with a hammer coming outside or bombing from way up.

If the Balkans Could Only Get Its Act a Little More Together…

Finally, I permit myself to advance a simple hypothesis: The more intellectuals in the Yugoslav space interprete what happened in terms of internal factors only and relegates the criticism of the international community’s role and conflict (mis)management to the sphere of ”conspiracy” (and thus turn the whole approach off), the more they are likely end up in shame, self-blame, endless mutual blaming, submissiveness and – at the end of the road – into blind integration into the transatlantic framework.

If so, they are likely furthermore to operate, more or less subconsciously, on the assumption that ”we in the Balkans are lagging so far behind Europe, European standards and Western civilisation in general.” The end of that road is the wide-spread civilisational trap that states, grosso modo, that Europe and the West does not need the Balkans as Balkans and the Balkans have nothing to offer or to demand from the West. This bizarre, colonial-style viewpoint was advanced recently by Bernhard Kouchner, the first UN leader of Kosovo, who shouted at a press conference with Richard Holbrooke in Sarajevo that ”we don’t need you, you need us.”

However, at a time:
– when the European Union has shown no ability to form a common foreign and security policy and, in spite of that, dangerously moves toward militarization;
– when NATO doesn’t have mission or a leader but does have nuclear weapons;
– when the United States is showing increasing signs of imperial decay, overextension, militarisation and authoritarianism coupled with Christian-neo-con fundamentalism – and
– at a time characterised by arrogant mono-cultural globalisation – the rest of the world must become like us and have no alternative economic, political and cultural values, in short unity in uniformity, not diversity

– the former Yugoslav peoples and intellectuals would do wise to see what they do have in common within and with the larger region, find new strength to guard against and balance Western imperialism, start a new OSCE-like process for the whole space and – permit me – do something smarter than succumbing under foreign pressures like self-effacing beggars. The people living in Yugoslavia were certainly not alone in bringing about the violent dissolution of that country!

The West preaches democracy. Democracy is about real choice between alternatives. It is not about voting yes or no to one future question framed by foreigners, neither is it to be threatened with fait accomplis. Look out for Western triumphalism and emerging Bolshevisation! Try a bit of collective self-reliance and like-mindedness, and present your own conditionalities to the West. Don’t sell out everything to those who want to buy you or profit from you in one or several ways.

The world needs more diversity, not less. We certainly need you, and neither you nor the rest of us need people like Kouchner and Holbrooke…


1. It is doubtful that the the many countries that intervened in different capacities in the Balkan crisis should be called a ”community” given their very different interests and activities that often clashed with each other.

2. Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy. Chaos and Dissolution After the Cold War, The Brookings Institution, Washington 1995.

3. Michael Barrett Brown, The Yugoslav Tragedy. Lessons for Socialists, Spokesman, Nottingham 1996.

4. Michel Chossudovsky, Dismantling Former Yugoslavia, Recolonising Bosnia, conference paper, March 1997 and in his book, The Globalisation of Poverty, Zed Press, london 1997.

5. Diana Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade. Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions, Monthly Review Press, New York 2002.

6. My own experience with Yugoslavia dates back to 1974 when, as a student and later as lecturer, I attended the first of many courses at the Inter-University Centre, IUC, in Dubrovnik and got to know intellectuals, fine human beings, from all parts of Yugoslavia. It is my impression after some 1500 interviews there during 75 visits and missions since then that most causal analysis has been superficial, academic journalism, many made on comfortable distance or on the basis of a one or a few visits to Sarajevo, Zagreb or Ljubljana, and that the majority of such analyses have been highly self-serving for the West, the so-called international ”community”, which from the beginning misunderstood the complexities and denied any co-responsibility for the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
This again has permitted, among intellectuals too, a surprisingly uncritical attitude to the ways so-called peace has been enforced in this region — again with the exception of the above-mentioned four authors who, like myself, have fewer illusions.

7. Or not yet fully realised civil society, one should say. Old Yugoslavia certainly had important elements of civil society as defined here. That was one of the reasons why it was different from other Communist states, if at all it can be categorized as such.

8. I emphasise the external, structural economic roots, along with other roots, also because they are ignored in 98 percent of the analyses and discussions and 100 percent ignored by media and by diplomats, as readers of the recent books by mediators Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg as well as by US ambassador Warren Zimmerman will have noticed.

9. President Alija Izetbegovic who, according to the former Constitution of BiH should have handed over to another member of the collective Presidency of BiH in late 1992, has continued as president both of the country and of the SDA party since then.

10. We do not speak of conflict-prevention; conflicts are part of our lives, points for learning and maturing. What we must learn is to handle conflicts intelligently, in ever less violent ways – i.e. the word intellectuals ought to use is violence-prevention.

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