What lessons to learn? Particularly about the UN and its members?

By Jan Oberg
August 2, 2005

The international community’s conflict-management:
Short status by 2005

This blog explains why, by and large, the security approach – as described in the Prologue – has been a failure. The reasons for judging it a failure are many and pointed out through both the blog and book. They have to do with the paradigm/discourse itself but also with concrete, fatefully counterproductive decisions made throughout the crisis, one tying the hands of decision-makers when approaching the next situation.

Some of the – rather simple – methods and principles we suggest in our writings could have been used irrespective of whether the security or the peace approach had been followed.

For instance, consistently practising a principled policy whenever meeting the similar problem, i.e. using the same criteria and methods to solve the same type of problem irrespective of which group it involved, would have been entirely possible and much more productive. Treating all cases of repressed and threatened minorities the same way would undoubtedly have created more peace now some fifteen years after the outbreak of violence in the former Yugoslavia in comparison with supporting some minorities and ignoring others.

Or, having recognised the principle that everything is related to everything else in a closely knit web of actors and factors, layers and (hi)stories would have contributed to more integrated, general conflict-resolution instead of treating each unit down to the village level as if it were a world of its own. And news travelled fast; at one spot the local citizens would learn immediately that over there they were allowed and rewarded by actors in the international community to do what we were punished for doing – how unfair! And then followed a new bout of violence to make oneself heard!

By mid-2005 fifteen years of international attempts at conflict-management can be summarised in the following few general point:

1. Slovenia – the only one better off than before 1990, but then also the least problematic: not damaged, uni-national and comparatively wealthy.

2. Croatia – more ethnically clean, militarist in the sense of celebrating the military victory over Croatian Serbs in Operation Storm and Flash (1995). Vukovar and other places not re-built, economy weak, only few refugees and displaced coming back; problems with the Hague Tribunal. No popular or parliamentary break with the era of authoritarian President Franjo Tudjman (in contrast to the October Revolution in Serbia that marked the final break with the Milosevic era).

3. Bosnia-Herzegovina – no war, but also no peace, little economic prospects. Dayton-Bosnia (1995) and the 2+1 unit (+ 1 with Herceg-Bosna) state structure hardly sustainable as integrated state. Opinion polls indicate that more than 60 per cent of the young people would leave BiH for good if they could. Widespread corruption. Little wish, will and means to create multi-ethnic, hate-free relations among its citizen groups who, by the way, were never invited for a referendum on the Dayton agreement.

That agreement was signed in the U.S. by three presidents none of whom were, at the time, legitimately representing anyone in Bosnia-Hercegovina (Tudjman was president of neighbouring Croatia, Milosevic of FRY and Izetbegovic had violated the constitution by refusing to step down as stipulated by the rotating presidency). Also no break here with the authoritarian leadership of Alija Izetbegovic, Mujahedeens and Islamist past.

4. Serbia and Montenegro – deep economic misery, mafia politics and economy, still isolated because of allegedly hiding general Mladic and Karadzic (presumably in Montenegro) with considerable influence by nationalists and warlord policies (the Radical Party) in Belgrade. It hosts several hundred thousand refugees from Croatia’s Krajina, Western and Eastern Slavonia, Bosnia and Kosovo with no prospect of being able to return and no international support worth mentioning.

Its citizens still suffers the consequence of a decade of sanctions, 78 days of bombings and widespread destruction. They have been the main net loser of the dissolution of ex-Yugoslavia and have lost control over the Kosovo province; there is a continued risk of break-up and possible war should Montenegro insist on independence. Montenegro is extremely weak economically, divided about 50/50 on the issue of independence. In addition, corruption, trafficking, smuggling, etc. Possible break-up could lead to heightened tension and even violence.

5. Kosovo/a – After 6 years (1999-2005) of security management (by NATO) coupled with foreign administration and peace-making (by the UN), democratisation/human rights training (by OSCE) and economic management (by the EU), it is highly doubtful [at the time of writing, summer 2005] that its present government and leaders will satisfy the international standards required prior to negotiations about Kosovo’s future permanent status.

There is about 70 per cent unemployment, negligible economic production, much trade, but mostly illegal coupled with drug trade and mafia structures, trafficking and corruption. In spite of thousands of NATO troops and local police there is still no security for Serbs, Romas and others, widespread ethnic violence broke out as late as March 2004; minority Serbs live in ghettos protected by NATO. Displaced Serbs and Romas in Serbia and Macedonia have little chance of coming back; decentralisation and other reforms lacking behind; except for one leader (Ramush Haradinaj) no settling the account with alleged war criminals since some of them are high-ranking politicians today ad work intimately with the international missions every day.

There is a very high risk of violence if the province is not granted independence soon because that is what the international community’s political body language has actually promised by the bombings in 1999 and its presence in Kosovo/a ever since. On the other hand, independence will mean the completion of the only-Albanian nationalist project, possible uproar in Serbia and Republika Srpska, and war-like situation in Southern Serbia and Northern Kosovo as well as heightened tension in Macedonia.

6. Macedonia (still “FYROM” – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) – used to be a peaceful oasis, less ethnic tension, not least explained by the humanity of former President Gligorov. This advantageous situation is now virtually destroyed by a series of accumulating events such as the bombing of Serbia, the careless and premature withdrawal of the UN there a week before that bombing, increased insecurity, spill over from Kosovo of Albanian secessionist militarism, 8 months of war (2001), much more ethnic tension and objective polarisation.

The Ohrid Agreement (2001) is grossly destabilising in the eyes of majority Macedonians, almost seen as reward to the Albanian extremists for initiating the war; war lords having turned civil politicians. Extremely volatile economy. Macedonia has also suffered from ten years of sanctions against Serbia-Montenegro, from being forced to receive some 300 000 refugees from Kosovo after NATO’s war had begun, but it has never been rewarded for its relatively peaceful policies nor compensated for its billion dollar loss of economic opportunities forced upon it by the international community’s helter-skelter policies.

The following is common for all units of former Yugoslavia with the exception of Slovenia and, with respect to some points, Croatia – admittedly in varying degrees:

1) a very weak “pizza and pavement” economy,
2) high to extremely high unemployment,
3) negligible foreign and other investment,
4) characteristics of class society – not the least through the war economy’s impoverishment of all ordinary people and tremendous wealth accumulation with a few war profiteers;
5) corruption and black economy,
6) criminality and trafficking;
7) little hope and limited educational possibilities among the young generation;
8) continued ethnic, my-nation-first thinking,
9) weak civil societies,
10) a media situation that leaves much to be desired,
11) little – if any – human confidence-building, trust and going forward as citizens rather than nations. And, not to forget,
12) ecological destruction, including remnants of the use of depleted uranium, huge areas here and there, including arable lands, covered with thousands of mines that will take years to clear.
13) no truth and reconciliation efforts. While Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia have had attempts at setting up truth and reconciliation commissions, these initiatives never took off and became viable. No support was offered by the international community.
14) wherever the West has practised its conflict-management policies there is now more borders, more small units; while compatible with divide-and-rule policies it militates against genuine democratisation and true globalisation, let alone globalism. Sadly,
15) all units with the exception of Serbia-Montenegro, are now more ethnically divided and clean than in the days of that towering figure, Tito – a darling-turned-dictator in the script of a West which, in contrast to the Balkans itself, has forgotten the importance of history and thus can’t compare its own contemporary record and leadership with anything but itself.

It is true that there are no more wars going on, no people being killed, villages burned and women raped today. Any visitor to the war zones at the time, anyone living there on a permanent basis, know to appreciate that deeply. It is one of the consequences of the security approach, a good one which should neither be underestimated nor forgotten.

But its price has been extremely high. Former Yugoslavia is the story about how overwhelming military-technological power can stop open violence while a deficient intellectual, civil understanding have done virtually nothing to heal the pre-war underlying conflicts nor heal the scars created by the wars and the security approach in the process of so-called conflict-management and peace-making.

In moral and intellectual terms, the question that must be addressed is this: Could it have been done differently, with less suffering for all and with better results for more citizens than we seem to be able to find today, about 15 years after the war started and about 30 years after the conflict formations began to crack open?

The above status summary for each republic testifies to the almost complete lack of the peace approach. Where it was practised, it was practised by civil society organisations, local as well as international and in extremely few cases by international diplomats who were systematically sidelined (see examples below). Some may find that this is a harsh conclusion but it seems that the consequences of the international community’s combined security approach and non-professional conflict-management policies since 1990 could be summarized in two words: peace prevention.

Having said so here – and arguing more in details for it elsewhere – we must also commit ourselves to answer the obvious counter-question: Given our critical assessment, what principles would we have used if we were the main mediators? And what policies would we have implemented in concrete places throughout former Yugoslavia?

Some answers to the first of these question in general terms are found in articles under Categories/Themes – Treatment – Proposals, of course. Other answers are found scattered throughout this blog’s many articles.

2. The international community’s approach of the United Nations

It merits saying it again at the outset: the United Nations will never become more or better than its member states, the Security Council members in particular, are willing and able to make it. The UN has been one of the real victims of the Yugoslav drama. In spite of all its deficiencies as a world organisation, the image allotted the UN in most media, parliaments and the public discourse has been anything but fair.

In contrast to this we here promote the hypothesis that if the principles of the UN Charter had actually been applied to the Balkans, things are likely to have turned out better.

The following is based on our multi-year acquaintance with, analysis or co-operation with all the UN PKO missions in the region; thus in Croatia a) UNPROFOR (Zagreb HQ, Topushko, Knin, Daruvar, Pakrac in particular) and b) UNTAES in Eastern Slavonia (Vukovar HQ, Beli Manastir, Vinkovci, Ilok); in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Sarajevo HQ, Mostar, Banja Luka, Tuzla); in Kosovo the UNMIK (Pristina HQ, various UN missions including UNHCR in Belgrade); in Macedonia the UNPREDEP mission (HQ in Skopje).

With these missions one or more of the authors have either conducted systematic interviews and fact-finding or co-operated about local seminars and training, been commissioned by them to do research and training and, with several leaders of missions and local officers, interacted about research and articles.

Thus, the following is based on our interaction, one way or the other, with literally hundreds of UN staff from mission heads to local office staff in the villages.

Like with so many other themes of this book, the role of the UN in the Yugoslav drama would merit a book or two on its own. Thus, what follows is merely a bird’s-eye view of the weak and strong aspects of the UN policies and operations as we have experienced them on the ground.

Croatia and the UN

TFF happened to be involved on the side-line when the possibilities of establishing the United Nations in Yugoslavia was being explored. It’s report from October 1991, After Yugoslavia – What? was the first ever to propose that a UN mission should be established in Yugoslavia. Simultaneously Cyrus Vance, former U.S. Secretary of State and leading UN envoy and mediator worked with Zagreb and Belgrade to push the idea through; it was innovative in the sense that it would be the first time the UN would set up a comprehensive peace-keeping mission in a conflict inside a member state; other similar deployment had been either observer, verifying or other types of missions while PKOs had usually been set up in inter-state conflicts.

Having read the report, Vance invited members of the TFF team for a late evening discussion in his hotel suite in Belgrade in November 1991. UNPROFOR was established with four UNPAs (UN Protected Areas in Croatia) by Resolution 743 of the UN Security Council on 21 February 1992. Swedish Lieutenant-General Lars-Eric Wahlgren served as the second UNPROFOR commander from March 1993 to June 1993 and became a TFF Associates at retirement and till his death.

The mission was to provide security in the zones where the Serb minorities were strong and had set up the RSK, Republika Srpska Krajina after having asked Zagreb, in vain, for cultural and then political autonomy in the event that Croatia should achieve independence out of Yugoslavia. UNPROFOR should also facilitate peace talks, demilitarization and several other initiatives towards normalisation.

This mission was surprisingly successful. Like all other UN PKOs it had three components, namely Blue Helmets or soldiers, police and Civil Affairs staff; the media have almost never dealt with anything but the first component. Based on our frequent and intimate interaction with the UN in all UNPAs and in the headquarters, we are of no doubt that this mission played a key role in two senses: it reached a high level of achievement of its mission, it had extremely competent and committed no-nonsense officers and Civil Affairs leaders and some impressive socially conscious police people. Without them citizens in the war-ravaged parts of Croatia would, beyond every doubt, have fared much worse.

The quite widespread UN presence was an important factor in terms of direct and indirect public education, promotion of human rights, international law, fairness and – as experienced by us – all of it with a human touch, with compassion for the fate of both victimized Croats and Serbs. It stood up repeatedly in words and military-backed deeds against extremist on both sides, the Croatian governments militarist attitudes as well as the Serb warlords.

It is true that you could also meet UNPROFOR staff who didn’t have a clue about what they were doing, where they were or why they were there, could not speak understandable English, or misbehaved themselves. But they were for sure, the exception. If anything, “the UN” is the wrong party to blame. There were countries that sent soldiers, police and civil staff to this and other missions presumably because they were so incompetent that there were of no use at home. The only ones to blame are, of course, UN member states with such selection criteria.

The other problematic category one could occasionally encounter in the UN in former Yugoslavia were individuals who were “in the circuit”, were on the run from family or other problems back home, who were there only for the – demoralisingly – high salaries, etc. International missions of this type will probably always attract the adventurers, the restless, the misfit elsewhere and the cynical careerists. Before pointing fingers at the UN as an organization and management system, one should ask whether the UN is worse than other international organization, including quite a few NGOs, and whether other types of organization such as multinationals, NATO or, for that matter, national governments would come out that much better in a comparative study of such dimensions.

But UNPROFOR in Croatia came to a sad end. By 1995, the Croatian government had been able to arm itself sufficiently in spite of the UN Security Council resolution barring all types of arms exports to any side in Yugoslavia’s civil war. Secondly, it had obtained the full support from the United States. The Clinton administration supported Tudjman’s policies through U.S. ambassador Peter Galbraith in Zagreb; Croatia and Pentagon contracted Military Professional Resources, Inc (MPRI) to cooperate with the Croatian military, especially to train officers and modernize information technology. Operations Flash and Storm ensued in 1995. It did not only chase out 200 000 – 250 000 legitimate Serb citizens from the UNPAs; it also ran over the UN barracks and offices inside them. The UN was virtually sent running!

To make a long story short, a small state, declared independent only in 1992 and on dubious grounds, was not only permitted and never punished for forcefully throwing out the world organization it was hosting; it was directly encouraged and assisted in doing so by the U.S. – par excellence the UN member that has done most to undermine the UN the last good 15 years or so.

This was an assault on Croatia’s own (Serb) citizens but also on the UN, i.e. the world community and thus a crime of exceptional proportions. This perspective went unnoticed by the media. At the time, Tudjman was the West’s chosen ally-cum-war criminal and when dealing with the Balkans, UN norms never played any substantial role in its capitals.

Blaming the UN itself for the disastrous end of UNRPROFOR in Croatia would indeed be to stand reality on its head.

The UNTAES mission in Eastern Slavonia was tasked with re-integrating Eastern Slavonia into Croatia after Flash and Storm had secured the integration of Krajina as well as Western Slavonia into the Croatian state. Here is what the UNTAES homepage states about the mission’s goals:

“UNTAES was set up on 15 January 1996 for an initial period of 12 months, with both military and civilian components. The military component was to supervise and facilitate the demilitarization of the region; monitor the voluntary and safe return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes of origin in cooperation with UNHCR; contribute, by its presence, to the maintenance of peace and security in the region; and otherwise assist in implementation of the Basic Agreement. The civilian component was to establish a temporary police force, define its structure and size, develop a training programme and oversee its implementation, and monitor treatment of offenders and the prison system; undertake tasks relating to civil administration and to the functioning of public services; facilitate the return of refugees; organize elections, assist in their conduct, and certify the results. The component was also requested to undertake other activities relevant to the Basic Agreement, including assistance in the coordination of plans for the development and economic reconstruction of the Region and monitoring of the parties’ compliance with their commitments to respect the highest standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms, promote an atmosphere of confidence among all local residents irrespective of their ethnic origin, monitor and facilitate the demining of territory within the Region, and maintain an active public affairs element. UNTAES was also to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in performing its mandate.”

Each of all these goals is huge and complex. It’s area of operation is one of the most destroyed in former Yugoslavia with manifest post-war hate and widespread resistance and suspicion concerning the UN. One of its remarkable achievements was its no-nonsense de-militarization of the entire region, predominantly by Canadian forces. In an interview, the colourful Head of Mission, US General Jacques P. Klein told me that he had taken pleasure in lecturing General Tudjman on how Croatian forces would be helpless against his troops should he try to take Eastern Slavonia by force and throw out UNTAES instead of waiting for the peaceful integration!

UNTAES’ leadership had to co-operate at the time with an extremely authoritarian, nationalist government under Franjo Tudjman. In addition, this UN mission arrived only six months after that very government had shown its utter contempt for the UN as such through Operations Stomr and Flash, mentioned above. It borders on the bizarre that this mission initially was given all these tasks to complete within 12 months only. Even considering the fact that this was a high-temperature dynamic mission that did show impressive results and that it got a 100 per cent extension, it could not achieve all the goals.

This mission did a marvellous job for Croatia and for normalising the situation in the region as much as was humanly possible under the circumstances. The whole mission cost the tiny sum of US$ 435 million – worth pointing out for those who think that the UN is cost-ineffective organization!

It is another example of a highly effective UN mission with excellent results that was terminated at the wrong time for the wrong reasons (lack of will to fund it + the mistaken judgment that Croatia would be able to make the region flourish again economically and humanly + things were building up around Kosovo).

By 2005, seven years later, there is admittedly no war in Vukovar or the region, but the whole scene is depressing and there is nothing that would merit the use of words such as peace, trust, development, welfare or hope. Like almost everywhere, the human dimensions of the peace-making is lacking far behind the rebuilding of houses, road, bureaucracies and infrastructure.

Surprisingly, one gets the impression that even the government in Zagreb has given up this region. Vukovar, the pearl of the region and a most significant city in the real history of the war and its virtual version, stand rather much as it did when the war ended in 1995, ten years ago. It certainly isn’t the fault of the UN; given the time and the funding, it was mission impossible. This time the UN fell victim to short-sighted, superficial peace-making policies or rather public relation – “everything is going fine there now so let’s close down” – by the U.S. as well as the European Union.

By closing down UNTAES prematurely, they also rewarded Croatia, their ally, without securing that life for the Serbs there would be secured for the future and refugees come back. Serbs as a people did not get the human rights and international law treatment other minorities and Serbia was certainly no ally after Milosevic had signed and delivered on the Dayton Agreement a month before UNTAES was set up.

Bosnia-Herzegovina and the UN

Concerning this republic we shall focus on one theme only: the six safe zones and what happened in Srebrenica. This problematique connects intimately with what had just happened in Croatia (Operation Flash in May 1995) and the August 1995 Operation Storm where UN Protected Areas, UNPAs, were run over by the Croatian army and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians chased out and hundreds of civilians killed. These assaults never got appropriate media coverage or proportional political attention. Srebrenica also connects with the 1999 massacre in Racak, Kosovo, that served as an essential pretext and classical last straw for the NATO bombings of Kosovo and Serbia that followed.

Around the time of the 10th anniversary (July 11, 2005) of the massacre in Srebrenica, one could, once again, experience how biased, spin-doctored and propagandised materials integrate completely with a generalised Western mainstream media interpretation, a chosen story, of reality. I have argued this point with documentation in TFF PressInfo 222 of July 11, 2005, that offers links to a broad variety of relevant articles, official reports and other documentation concerning Srebrenica.

After Srebrenica had seen heavy fighting between Serb and Bosniak forces, UN Security Council Resolution 819 of April 16 had declared Srebrenica a ‘safe area’ and it was demilitarised through agreement and verification by the UN later in April. By Security Council resolution 824 of May 6, 1993 in addition to Srebrenica, Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zepa, Gorazde, and Bihac were declared ‘safe areas’. Here is the relevant passage from the UN homepage on the mission’s development at that crucial point in time:

“The Secretary-General, in his report dated 14 June, indicated that it would be necessary to deploy additional troops on the ground and to provide air support. While the UNPROFOR Force Commander had estimated an additional troop requirement of approximately 34,000 to obtain deterrence through strength, the Secretary-General stated that it was possible to start implementing the resolution under a “light option”, with a minimal troop reinforcement of around 7,600. That option represented an initial approach and had limited objectives… In adopting resolution 844 (1993) of 18 June, the Security Council authorized an additional reinforcement of UNPROFOR initially by 7,600 troops and reaffirmed the use of air power, in and around the declared safe areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to support the Force.”

The agreed de-militarisation in the zones and the ‘safe area’ concept as such did not really take root and could not be sustained. Through autumn and winter 1993-94, the Security Council repeatedly issued resolutions to the effect that all sides, not only the Serbs, should halt military activities and it condemned every military activity inside the safe areas.

In particular, Croatian Army involvement in neighbouring Bosnia, in support of the Bosnian Croat Army there, was condemned in January 1994, the same month in which NATO met to declare its support to the idea that UNPROFOR should be re-enforced and reaffirmed their readiness under the authority of the Security Council “to carry out air strikes in order to prevent the strangulation of Sarajevo, the safe areas and other threatened areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

From October 1992 to February 1994, the fierce Croat-Muslim/Bosniak war – regrettably, conveniently forgotten by most – took place in Bosnia. And in the summer of 1993, the designated ‘safe area’ of the Bihac pocket under the local Muslim leader there, Fikret Abdic, had broken away from Sarajevo’s government and formed a (shifting) alliance with Croats and Serbs against Sarajevo. Not before July 1995 did the Sarajevo government recapture control of the Bihac pocket. In short, while the international community and its media focused mainly on Serb activity and presented the Bosniak/Muslim government in Sarajevo as weak and fighting “with knives and falks,” this side undertook three wars simultaneously: against Serbs, against Croats and against their own, the dissident Muslims in Bihac (and politically against Mayor Beslagic in Tuzla who was much too democratic and peace- and co-existence oriented to take orders from the SDA, Izetbegovic’ party, in Sarajevo).

Just to give a picture of the immense complexity and fluidity of the conflict and fighting in Bosnia, here is what Major Michael O. Beale, himself an F-16 fighter pilot and participant in the deterrence operation, Deny Flight, over Bosnia-Hercegovina writes a few years later in his thesis on the use of air power over Bosnia:

“From the spring of 1993 until February of 1994, the Croats, Muslims, and Serbs were essentially fighting against and allied with each other at various points throughout the country. In Bihac, it was Abdic’s Muslims allied with Serbs, fighting Bosnian government soldiers. In Mostar, it was Croats fighting Muslims; in north central Bosnia, it was Serbs and Croats fighting Muslims; and in Croatia, it was Krajina Serbs fighting Croats. This was in addition to Serbs and Muslims fighting in eastern and northern Bosnia. The battlefield maps and intelligence scenario changed daily.

Convenient for some conflicting parties and for the international community, a lot has been omitted from the history by media, politicians and many experts. While Karadzic and Mladic are repeatedly mentioned, the fact that the Bosnian Army’s military leader in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, is indicted at the Hague Tribunal is ignored. Soldiers from the Dutch UN battalion portray him as “a crook, a robber, a pimp and a murderer”. He is the only Srebrenica Muslim to be tried at the ICTY. His trial, which began on 6 October 2004, has shed light on little-known aspects of Srebrenica’s history. For more, see also Carl Bildt’s account of what happened in and around Srebrenica in his excellent book, Peace Journey: The Struggle for Peace in Bosnia (in Swedish, Uppdrag fred).

The fact that everything is related to everything else in Bosnia as well as in all of former Yugoslavia is ignored. The fact that Muslim atrocities against Serbs preceded those of the Serbs against the Muslims in Srebrenica is ignored. The fact that Srebrenica was one of the “safe areas” for refugees/displaced people but also militarised with the consent of the U.S. and others is never mentioned. That the Bosniaks gave it up, i.e. let it be undefended, because there was a plan to let the Serbs have Srebrenica in exchange for the Muslims taking control over Serb-held parts of Sarajevo – well, also omitted.

Ignored is the relation between the then Bosniak political and military leadership on the one hand and Al Queda and Islamist networks on the other. Are we really to believe that the West has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi Muslims the last 14 years through sanctions, invasion and occupation but have such passion for and solidarity with Bosnian and Albanian Muslims? Hardly, it’s more likely that they have to still demonize Serbs because any other attitude and an open recognition of Balkan complexities would place in doubt the simplified black-and-white image of the conflict on which that international community has operated in ex-Yugoslavia since 1991.

Thus, the complicity of the United States and European countries in making the massacre possible politically and militarily is ignored – because it has to be ignored. The rampant violations of the UN arms embargo and the secret arming of the Muslims by the U.S. is another aspect conveniently left unmentioned when covering Srebrenica. The relevant source on this is the Dutch government report, Srebrenica. A ‘Safe’ Area from 2002 that can be accessed from the mentioned TFF PressInfo 222.

As usual we are told that it was the failure of the “United Nations”. But it wasn’t that simple. It was the failure of each and all of the member states of the UN. Why? Because instead of making available the 34.000 troops required to make the designated Safe Areas safe, only Turkey delivered – and only 1.300. And some parties – the Clinton administration in particular – let the safe areas be filled with soldiers, weapons and ammunition of the Bosnian army. Thus, while protected by refugees all around them inside the ‘safe areas’, the Muslims could shoot out, rather risk-free, on Serb villages and soldiers while they were supposed to not respond in kind.

Furthermore, this is what the UN Secretary-General told the world only 10 days before Srebrenica happened:

“The Secretary-General went on to point out that outstanding contributions to United Nations peace-keeping accounts totalled $1.26 billion in mid-June 1993, while unpaid assessments amounted to $2.236 billion. He said it was “highly probable that in the coming months the Organization will not be able to meet its day-to-day obligations”.

In the discussions about Srebrenica this hopeless funding situation has been totally overlooked. Here was the leader of the world organisation consisting of about 190 member states telling that, due to unpaid member contribution, it was de facto broke. Here was an organisation that had been given mandates that were both broad and blurred, indeed sometimes conflictual. As problems accumulated on the ground, member states saw it fit to just broaden the mandates and shorten extension periods; this prevented the UN from developing and implementing a long-term strategy on the ground. Further, it was burdened with the accumulated consequences of the members’ national interests, their misunderstandings of Yugoslavia’s conflicts and their counterproductive supply of arms to all sides. It is no exaggeration to conclude that the UN was put on mission impossible; the miracle, if any, was that it achieved so much in spite of the conditions and resources made available to it by its members in this dire situation.

Here is what Canadian Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, chief of staff of UNPROFOR in 1992 and first commander of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo had to say at the time of the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in The Globe and Mail on July 14, 2005

“One U.S. senator asked me how many troops it would take to defend the safe havens. “Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 135,000 troops,” I replied. It had to be that large because of the Serb artillery’s range. The new UN commander on the ground in Bosnia, Belgian General Francis Briquemont, said he agreed with my assessment but was prepared to try to defend the areas with 65,000 additional troops. The secretary-general of the day, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, went to the Security Council and recommended 27,500 additional troops. The Security Council approved a force of 12,000 and, six months later, fewer than 2,000 additional soldiers had been added to UNPROFOR for the safe-haven tasks.

Then the Security Council changed the wording of the safe-haven resolution from “the UN will defend the safe havens” to “by their presence will the UN deter attacks on the safe havens.” In other words, a tiny, token, lightly armed UN contingent would be placed as sacrificial lambs in Srebrenica to “deter” the Bosnian Serb army.

It didn’t take long for the Bosnian Muslims to realize that the UN was in no position to live up to its promise to “protect” Srebrenica. With some help from outsiders, they began to infiltrate thousands of fighters and weapons into the safe haven. As the Bosnian Muslim fighters became better equipped and trained, they started to venture outside Srebrenica, burning Serb villages and killing their occupants before quickly withdrawing to the security provided by the UN’s safe haven. These attacks reached a crescendo in 1994 and carried on into early 1995 after the Canadian infantry company that had been there for a year was replaced by a larger Dutch contingent.”

Nothing of what has been said above or those who have been quoted should be interpreted to mean that the media coverage about Srebrenica is only false or only propaganda. A horrendous crime was committed by Serb forces and they must be brought to justice. But we do need some other views both to understand history and its complexity and in order to promote reconciliation instead of continuously falling into the trap of banalising evil and simplifying complex, protracted conflicts.

Srebrenica was an assault on much and many. Decency, international law and the UN were among them. Limitless statements came out to the effect that the UN was weak, that the Dutch troops in Srebrenica were helpless and that, on the whole, the UN lacked clout, credibility and legitimacy. It was repeated throughout the media that the policies and principles of UN peacekeeping were wrong – presumably because it was the comparatively most principled, even-handed and impartial international actor on the ground; it was accused also of being pro-Serb (UNPROFOR was called SERBPROFOR as part of a smear campaign) and, generally, being naïve and ineffective.

Those who explained that the UN was the major reason for the continued quagmire in Bosnia-Herzegovina hardly ever bothered to ask whether the general expectations to what the UN could possibly achieve were reasonable given blurred original mandates, mission and mandate “creep” as things deteriorated on the ground and a remarkable lack of willingness by member states to allocate the funding and the human and other resources needed to stand a fair chance to achieve the goals of these mandates within very limited time and planning horizons in what was must in all fairness be characterised as a uniquely “nasty” war-fighting and psycho-political environment.

Perhaps worst of all, members states abandoned the UN with its very limited requirements for keeping and making peace in Bosnia-Hercegovina. In consequence, they let down the innocent civilians in Srebrenica and other de facto non-safe zones. As the Dutch report documents overwhelmingly, UN member states saw to it that weapons poured in to all sides so the civil war could continue and make the achievement of success for the UN – already on mission difficult – virtually impossible.

While the UN and its leadership may have made many mistakes on the ground in Bosnia-Hercegovina, different actors made more – whether deliberately or not. And while the U.S., France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Russia, etc. for years failed to agree on and follow a common, principled policy in the Balkans, they could agree on one thing: to blame the UN, directly and indirectly, for the ongoing chaos and non-peace.

Exit the UN as peacekeeper from Bosnia-Hercegovina after Srebrenica! The Dayton Agreement was signed in December 1995. NATO whose member governments, with the exception of Turkey, had ignored the call of the UN Secretary-General to supply at least 34.000 troops and had intervened so miserably by its mistaken air strike philosophy – with little effect but to aggravate the fighting on the ground and endanger the UN personnel – took over in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

NATO-IFOR took over from December 1995 to December 1996 after which came NATO-SFOR till December 2004 and since then the European Union’s EUFOR Althea mission. On the civilian side, the UNMIBH mission was present in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1995-2002; its task was to contribute to the establishment of the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina by assisting in reforming and restructuring the local police, assessing the functioning of the existing judicial system and monitoring and auditing the performance of the police and others involved in the maintenance of law and order.

But there is still no peace in Dayton Bosnia. Perhaps the next international mission in support of this failed peace agreement should be called WHATFOR – if member states do not get their acts together and let resources accomapny ambitions?

Macedonia and the UN

UNPREDEP’s mission is described thus at the official UN page:

“Established on 31 March 1995 to replace UNPROFOR in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The mandate of UNPREDEP remained essentially the same: to monitor and report any developments in the border areas which could undermine confidence and stability in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and threaten its territory. Effective 1 February 1996, following the termination of the mandates of UNCRO and UNPROFOR, UNPREDEP became an independent mission, reporting directly to United Nations Headquarters in New York. Despite its new status, the operation maintained basically the same mandate, strength and composition of troops. In conjunction with its major tasks of monitoring and reporting on the situation along the borders with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Albania, the military component of UNPREDEP cooperated with civilian agencies and offered ad hoc community services and humanitarian assistance to the local population. By the end of 1995, UNPREDEP operated 24 permanent observation posts along a 420-kilometre stretch on the Macedonian side of the border with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Albania. It also operated 33 temporary observation posts. Close to 40 border and community patrols were conducted daily, and United Nations military observers (UNMO’s) complemented the work of the battalions.”

This quotation does not quite bring out the important role of the Civil Affairs branch in consulting-liaising with and stabilising Macedonia’s political system. Unfortunately, UNPREDEP’s work was hampered by the simultaneous activities of its own members, the sum total of which was to defeat the UN in that theatre, irrespective of its positive functions. It was finally crushed prematurely by a few member states’ policies, namely the bombing of Yugoslavia in spring 1999.

To provide a background, here follow excerpts of TFF PressInfo 59 of March 18, 1998 (about a year before NATOäs bombardment) with the title Insecuring Macedonia:

“NATO’s build-up in Macedonia goes virtually unnoticed. The Macedonian Parliament has not even discussed the deployment of more than 12.000 heavily armed troops, and NATO bars journalists from investigating what is going on. NATO in Macedonia is now stronger than the country’s own defence. It took the international community, read OSCE, 5 months to get 1500 civilian monitors into Kosovo, but it took only a few weeks to get the military build-up underway in Macedonia.

Here is a reasonably relevant question: Since Christopher Hill, the main author of the Kosovo Agreement on the table in Paris and the diplomat who prepared the ground for those talks, is also the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, did he calculate with this involvement of Macedonia and, if so, did he prepare Macedonian decision-makers in advance – or is this build-up something that has just unfolded as things progressed? Are there any reasons for circumventing normal politeness and democratic decision-making by a host-nation?

Why is NATO all over Macedonia, that already troubled and quite fragile state? For two reasons, namely

a) to “extract” OSCE verifiers from Kosovo who can’t sit there if NATO decides to bomb Yugoslavia, and
b) serve as a base for and reinforcement of the NATO forces stipulated in the Paris Kosovo document. Yugoslavia considers the extraction force a potential aggressor. It was not mentioned in the October 1998 agreement between Yugoslav President Milosevic and U.S. ambassador Richard Holbrooke – or so we assume since that agreement has not been made public.

The Yugoslav military and political leadership now perceive Macedonia as hosting forces aimed at aggression on Yugoslav territory; friends of your enemies are your enemies too. German forces are strongly represented and bring heavy equipment, and it is the first time they may get into regular warfare and not peacekeeping. Not surprisingly, Yugoslavs conscious of history will be reminded of last time Germany came to that region (1941).

Should NATO bomb Yugoslavia it can indeed not be excluded that the Yugoslavs will retaliate against NATO troops where they are nearest, namely in Macedonia, e.g. in Kumanovo where they are co-located with UN Blue Helmets. Thus, paradoxically, countries participating in bombing raids will indirectly jeopardize the safety of their own UN peacekeepers in the region – unless they are “extracted” too. Do politicians in the capitals of these countries not see the connection?

The new coalition government in Macedonia is anything but experienced and cohesive. Two of the three coalition partners are traditional “extremist” parties, the Macedonian VMRO and the Albanian DPA. The third is a newly formed party, the Democratic Alternative, DA. This government’s first foreign policy move was to recognise Taiwan in order to obtain a 1 billion US $ economic deal – that has not materialized yet – and thereby antagonize China (see the fatal game below).

Macedonia is a fragile country, economically and constitutionally and in terms of unresolved problems in the relations between the majority Macedonians and the 25-30 per cent Albanian citizens. It has serious unresolved problems in the fields of education and in relation to its name and relations with its neighbours. The economy is a mixture of a petty market and pavement/pizza economy, black markets and far too few productive investments, profits run low, debts high. Be this as it may, it is not the least due to its prudent, gentleman-like president Kiro Gligorov, to the small but effective OSCE mission and the highly respected UN mission – that there has been some stability in Macedonia compared with other parts of ex-Yugoslavia. Will there in the future?

Macedonia’s ability to receive refugees is limited. It’s contingency planning covers 20,000. If things go really wrong in Kosovo, at least ten times more may run away. Should it approach 100,000 or 200,000 the changing ethnic balance of the country and the general chaos would result in turmoil and breakdown. In addition, 12,000 soldiers now occupy hotels, schools, barracks and even hospitals – places that one would believe would be desperately needed should refugees flow into the country.

So, all in all the government seems to follow the policy of the ostrich, hoping everything will be fine in Kosovo, that money will come from Taiwan and security from NATO.

The new NATO deployment amounts to the destruction of the only – and successful – example of preventive diplomacy, namely the UN peacekeeping mission, UNPREDEP. It has happened in two ways: Macedonia’s new government recognized Taiwan and, thus, provoked China which recently vetoed the extension of UNPREDEP in the Security Council. One may ask whether it was a calculated risk – in order to get the UN out and NATO in – and to get 1 US $ bn in? Was the Macedonian government surprised by the Chinese veto?

So, multilateral arrangements were replaced by bilateral ones and regional security concerns grossly ignored. There is no doubt that Western nations, the U.S. in particular, could have reasons to get rid of the UN, as they did in Croatia, Bosnia and elsewhere – to present NATO as the peacekeeper. Thus, “UN” will, in this field, stand for United NATO’s. The question is whether this was a responsible act by China when seen in the longer perspective?

Macedonia can not get into NATO soon, but it can let NATO into Macedonia. The price? Give up every idea about independent economic politics, security politics and foreign politics and adapt completely to the “international community.” The U.S. and NATO “forgot” to ask the host country, including President Gligorov himself, what the Macedonians thought about all this. It was never taken up in the Macedonian parliament (which I know through my repeated conversations with President Gligorov).

In a long-term perspective, we are now witnessing the third round of Western-aided destruction of former Yugoslavia. First, there were the violence in Slovenia and Croatia; then Bosnia-Hercegovina and now present Yugoslavia/Kosovo threatening to not spill over into but drag Macedonia down in international warfare. In all cases, one or more actors were armed by Western powers, in all cases the UN was squeezed out and NATO came in, in all cases violence was not prevented in time and everywhere some peace plan was introduced that secured Western control and permit use of unlimited force “if necessary” – and in all cases ordinary citizens are the main victims while all the Presidents from 1991 remain on the top. It begins to look like a pattern, a strategy. Perhaps, after all, there was a plan somewhere?”

This TFF PressInfo was published six days before NATO began bombing on March 24. Macedonia saw an 8-months war in 2001 only a good year after NATO and the UN had gotten on the ground in Kosovo. Would that war ever have broken out had the West not imposed itself militarily in Kosovo, from where the violence spilled over into Macedonia and boosted the ethnic polarisation there? Would it ever have broken out had UNPREDEP remained in place and had been allowed to help Macedonia keep its relative peace?

Kosovo and the UN

The structure of the Kosovo case is somehow the opposite of the other cases in that the UN (UNMIK) came in after wide-scale, violent conflict-management had been carried out. From 1993 and onwards, the West had helped Albanian extremist nationalists to set up the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA/UCK and in spring 1999 it conducted a 78 days bombardment inside Kosovo and throughout Serbia proper.

None of it had any UN Security Council mandate or legitimacy; as some of the first UN staff told me in Pristina in autumn 1999, “we were aware from Day One that this mission has come in on a very controversial ticket and it will not make it easier for us.” Six years later one can indeed see that it didn’t.

TFF has been engaged in Kosovo since 1992. The first report was called Preventing War in Kosovo. This multi-year on-the-ground experience permits us to present a long-term background and some root causes behind the emerging peace-keeping failure in Kosovo and explains to a certain extent why it is different from several other opinion-shaping but shorter and more narrow analyses. In addition, media and politicians tend to forget them because they were ignored during the 1990s and do not fit the standardized – tendentially black-and-white – image of the conflict.

While things were happening in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, the international community’s various actors were engaged there. There were early analyses and warnings; Amnesty International, TFF and others on the ground in Kosovo repeatedly warned about the perfectly predictable chaos that would ensue if nobody tried seriously to understand and mediate in the Kosovo case when it was most needed, that is in the early 1990s. TFF’s team spent four years doing fact-finding, mitigation and mediation between Pristina and Belgrade; it ended in the report UNTANS. Conflict Mitigation for Kosovo – Memorandum of Understanding between the UN and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia concerning a United Nations Temporary Authority for a Negotiated Settelment in Kosovo (UNTANS) published in 1996.

The present author took it to the UN HQ in New York and met with Kofi Annan, then head of the Department of PKO, deputy S-G Giandominico Picco, Shashi Tharoor and Bertie Ramcharan and the staff at the Yugoslav desk – all of whom had a keen personal experience, one way or the other, from the region.

In passing it could be noted that it was much more easy to get appointments with these top-level UN staff than with, say, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm or Denmark. They – not the national governments – were not only knowledgeable but also curious and intellectually open. Without exception the UNTANS report with its proposal for a peaceful, negotiated solution as well as the earlier Preventing War in Kosovo had been read carefully. The response obtained can be summarised in these few words – this type of analysis, theory- as well as field-based, complex and full of inspiring ideas, principles and proposals is exactly what we at the UN needs.

But then one of them made the following – to me devastating statement only confirming my worst assumption, “But Dr. Oberg, I must tell you very frankly that the member states of this organisation are not likely to move on issues such as Kosovo before we have read for two weeks on the front page of the New York Times that a war is raging in Kosovo. We already have more than we can handle on our hands. Dealing with a potential conflict and prevent it from breaking into violence is – and I regret it by all my heart – not likely to happen.” It was Picco’s statement and it came with a sigh and regret.

To put it crudely, while there were plenty of individuals who understood and plenty of early warnings and analyses, there was rather little early listening and early action in government circles. The cry everywhere for “Do Something!” mistakenly always meant – do something violent. And thus the catastrophe materialised later on.

The main content and executive summary of the UNTANS proposal can be found on this blog. We mention this for four reasons.

First and contrary to most analysts and virtually all politicians, we insist that the UN could have been used to play a much more constructive role earlier. Secondly, it was possible to outline such a role in a way that clearly attracted both Belgrade and Pristina at the time. (The UNTANS proposal is probably the only one at the time that attracted considerable media attention in Yugoslav media and was published in extenso in the leading Kosovo-Albanian weekly, Zeri).

Third, TFF and TRANSCEND – and this blog/book – offers evidence that the present quagmire in Kosovo was predictable and, thus, the fact that no UN member states did anything to prevent it – if anything, rather promoted it – and ended up bombing the place rather than helping it ought to create a self-critical debate about post-Cold War conflict-management. Due to the fact that such self-critical analyses does not exist today and no lessons learned, other conflicts are mis-managed too.

Fourth and last, the United Nations people were perfectly well-informed, deeply concerned and intellectually curious and open for dialogue – all characteristics that none of the present authors experienced with national parliamentarians and ministers in their home countries nor the majority of ambassadors in the region.

So, the bombs fell for 78 days and nights on Kosovo and the rest of Serbia and they fell on military facilities, on very few Serbian weapons on the ground but predominantly they fell on civilian targets such as road, bridges, factories, oil refineries, energy installations, ministries, the president’s villa, hospitals, etc.

In proportion to the population, more innocent civilians were killed than on September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington. The leading civilian responsible for this bombing was Javier Solana, then Secretary-General of NATO and presently the “foreign minister” of the European Union and author or the EU’s only (16 pages) European Security Strategy (2003). The highest responsible for the military activity was NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark who in 2004 was a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Presidency and boasts on his website that the bombing of Yugoslavia saved the lives of one million Kosovars whom Milosevic, so Clark’s story goes, had planned to drive from their homes. He is also praised as a “quiet hero” behind the Dayton Agreement.

This was the “controversial” ticket on which the UN – that had not given a Security Council mandate for this bombing – came in to keep the peace as well as make and secure the long-term peace, in co-operation with the OSCE, NATO and the EU; combined this mission is likely to be the largest and most prestigious international peace-making effort per square kilometre anywhere.

Six years later, the situation is anything but happy – as can be seen in other articles in this blog. It remains to be seen, at the time of writing, whether ambassador Kai Eide, the UN envoy, will judge that the situation in Kosovo meets the “standards” set up by the UN. If it does, negotiations shall commence on the future “status” of the province. This is the “standards before status” principle. Since the international community is now facing by and large the same situation as Milosevic did with the Kosovo-Albanian nationalist secessionists and militarists – many of whom work closely today with the UN, OSCE etc. – it remains to be seen whether it will also be forced to take up arms. That could well be the case if the international community judges that Kosovo can not become independent in 2006.

The Kosovo Albanian leadership as well as many citizens feel that they were de facto promised by the one-sided and non-mediated policies of the international community through the 1990s ending with the bombings and the accepted expulsion of non-Albanians and by the fact that the four organisations during the period 1999-2005 have not been able to make Kosovo multi-ethnic, secure, prosper, tolerant or “European” whatever that might have meant.

Consistently, the international community has sent such signals as to make Kosovo-Albanians believe that independence, backed by Western money and weapons, was around the corner. For them and for that community itself, anti-Serb policies automatically meant pro-Albanian stance. Reality was more complicated, however, and thus truth is probably catching up these years – the truth that every single opportunity for a peaceful solution to the Kosovo issue was ignored, that bombings then became the “only” way to create peace and that that also did not achieve a result that would satisfy the various parties to an optimal extent.

So, the UN mission in Kosovo was mission impossible from the outset. Security Council Resolution 1244 was so filled with blurred formulations that one could hardly blame the UN staff and various heads of mission for the sorry state of affairs. It was read one way by the Albanians as promising self-determination meaning independence; it was interpreted equally understandably by the Serbs as respecting the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia/Serbia and, thus, about the only thing that was excluded under all circumstances was – independence.

What few seems to recognise is that the status is – or ought to be – second to the quality of the society as such. The question: But what society should Kosovo be and how do we get there? – never engaged Kosovo-Albanian leaders, Belgrade and the international community to any extent compared with the issue of status. Until that changes, Kosovo will continue to be a European tragedy.

Some lessons that can be learned and implemented in the future

1. Without the various UN missions in former Yugoslavia, there would have been considerably more misery among the civilian population everywhere.

2. The presence of the UN and its high-level staff and negotiators introduced an element of international law, some order, decency, ethics and fairness to an extent no other actor, be it local or international, had at the time.

3. There is basically two United Nations:
a) the power house in New York with the Security Council and the various games being played by the most powerful actors; and
b) the UN in the field, the blue helmets soldiers, officer, Civil Affairs leaders and staff and UN police.
While the first-mentioned UN is covered to some extent by the media, the latter is almost never. The latter is, one could argue, actually the real UN that matters most in the conflict region. It performs tasks that it does better than any other conflict-managing organisation in today’s international system.

4. Blurred mandates and constant mission creep that was not accompanied by proportional legitimacy and resources by the member states of the UN paved the way for the easy blaming of the UN: actors and media could wash their hands and agree on one thing if on nothing else, namely that the UN was not up to the mark, a “failure” or even irrelevant.

5. The role of the UN was undermined by many actors doing too many often contradictory, things simultaneously. Thus, wanting the war to stop and delivering weapons and ammunition to all sides made it more difficult for the UN to keep or make peace. Threatening and conducting air bombardments (US/NATO) and having UN military and civilian staff on the ground was an extremely dangerous mix. Paying attention to some minorities and making decisions which completely ignored other minorities made it even more difficult for the UN to credibly adhere to principles, including human right.

6. The level of knowledge, intuition and empathy among UN staff we encountered in the various missions was generally considerably higher than among diplomats and civil servants from governments, including ambassadors.

7. Historical ties and short-term, narrow national interests invariably won over higher co-operative and long-range considerations among the international community. The only common foreign and security policy the EU displayed was that each had its own priorities and didn’t seek unity with other EU members.

8. The conflict about military operations – the EU being unable to and the US being willing to conduct them for primarily domestic reasons (the “do something!” argument, Clinton’s re-election and the Lewinsky affair, etc.) played an important role in what could appropriately be termed the “Balkanisation” of the international community.

9. No single government anywhere had one single policy aimed at helping the people in former Yugoslavia to stop the violence and find peace. One or more other motives, if at all, always “polluted” the de facto policies chosen and implemented.

10. Whether directly aimed to or not, these factors systematically undermined the role of the UN. This harmed the UN – i.e. the world community as such – international law and other norms. But is also reduced drastically the chances for peace and the well-being of the citizens in the various parts of ex-Yugoslavia.

In short, we have reasons to re-evaluate the strong and the weak sides of the UN itself – and that is why the whole debate about reform is so urgent – but even more the strong and weak sides of each member state’s national policy priorities in conflict situations and its commitment in terms of resources, legitimacy and support to the world organisation.

The UN will only be able to perform better in the future if and when its members decide collectively to find a completely different balance between their own more or less parochial interests on the one hand and higher common goals of humankind and the common good on the other.

Using the knowledge that could be found – who knew more?

This blog and our book criticize the so-called international ‘community’ (in no sociological terms can the 192 UN members be characterized as a community) for its self-imposed conflict-management policies, methods and style. But that does not mean that there were no individual exceptions.

Many “internationals” knew Yugoslavia well – or learned about it fast – and preferred civilian or non-violent means to military ones. Most of those we mention below were also more prone to behave according to a humane ethos rather than a political and military power ethos; and they tended to be deputies, not the top-flight people whose appointment was often politically motivated.

Conspicuously, what also characterises them is that their views and recommendations were not taken sufficiently into account or they were marginalised by their own governments and/or leading media and mostly by the media too.

Here follows a list of high-level people – politicians, diplomats, international mission members and authors – whose knowledge and views could have changed the course of events in case government decision-makers had listened more to them. One or more of the authors have either met with, interviewed, cooperated with or otherwise followed their activities or read their books about Yugoslavia.

In the UN system
Perez de Cuellar, Boutros Boutros Ghali, Kofi Annan, Bertie Ramcharan, Shashi Tharoor, Giandominico Picco, Sergio de Mello.

Among UN Peacekeepers
Lars-Eric Wahlgren, Lewis MacKenzie, Carlos Zabala, Bo Pellnäs, Sir Michael Rose.
Jacques Paul Klein, Derek Boothby.
Tryggve Tellefsen, Finn Særmark-Thomsen.

Among UN Civil Affairs staff and advisers
Gerard Fischer (Western and Eastern Slavonia), Janusz Sznajder (UNPREDEP), Mark Pedersen (political adviser, UNTAES and Kosovo), Antonia Dolar (Tuzla), Mark Baskin (political adviser, UNTAES), Kishore Mandhyan (Civil Affairs, Western and Eastern Slavonia), Ramon Miranda-Ramos (Mostar), Merrick Fall (Mostar), Anna Maria Corazza (UNPROFOR Knin, UNTAES, later EU in Sarajevo), Christer Karphammar (UNTAES, UNMIK in Kosovo, OSCE Belgrade).

Among the mediators
Cyrus Vance (first UN envoy and one of the best from a conflict-resolution viewpoint), Lord Carrington (principles and realism in one), Thorvald Stoltenberg (knowledge and concern for civilians), Lord David Owen (a more comprehensive grip on the interrelatedness than most, co-chair of ICFY); Martti Ahtisaari (early mediation, the ICFY process), Carl Bildt (comprehensive, unbiased, civil courage as mediator and High Rep in Bosnia-Hercegovina).

Among OSCE
Julian Peel Yates (Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro), Zlatko Dimitroff (Kosovo), Hartmut Pürner (Kosovo), Arne Pihl Christensen (Kosovo), Kaare Eltervaag (Kosovo).

Among Ambassadors
Hans-Jörg Eiff, (Germany’s Belgrade ambassador, in vain trying to persuade Bonn to not go for the premature recognition of Slovenia and Croatia as independent; later civilian NATO representative in Skopje).
Gerd Ahrens, for his involvement in Kosovo and role in the Geneva Conference on Yugoslavia.

This is not an exhaustive list, there were others.

Thus, knowledge about Yugoslavia, its history, complexities and the leading personalities did exist. But not in the caitals where decisions were made. In addition, there were comprehensive analyses, books of history and culture in the Balkans – more than about many other areas. In contrast to, say, Vietnam or Iraq, many Europeans had visited Yugoslavia or knew people from there who had come as foreign workers to virtually all parts of Europe in the 1970s.

The simple fact is that so much available knowledge, so many perceptive views and warnings were ignored in most ministries of foreign affairs in Europe as well as in Washington. Cyrus Vance for instance, was undercut by the Clinton administration, media commentators and other diplomats seemingly only for sticking to the principle that you had to speak with and negotiate with all sides – here quoted from David Owen’s eloquent analysis Balkan Odyssey:

“Vance hit back, calling the charges ‘hogwash’ and saying: ‘If we refuse to talk, on so-called moral grounds, to all parties to a conflict, how could we ever settle any problem?’ He was reported as saying in clipped tones, hammering the table with the tip of his pen in a rare moment of indignation and anger: ‘Frankly, I am getting fed up with this mindless criticism that doesn’t face up to a central fact. In Bosnia there is no viable alternative to a negotiated settlement…It’s nonsense to say that we are appeasers for talking to the people who can make a difference in our pursuit of a lasting settlement.’ But there was worse to come…” (p. 101).

That worse to come was the Clinton administration in January 1993 publicly stated its scepticism/criticism of the Vance-Owen Peace Plan, the beginning of the unnecessary prolongation of the war in Bosnia. The U.S. effort to undermine the UN – brilliant Cyrus Vance was the envoy of the UN Secretary-General – started early.

Later we have witnessed the Clinton administration upholding against all common sense of the UN SC-decided sanction on Iraq that killed one-half to one million innocent civilians there; it continued with the historic deception by Colin Powell of the Security Council about the WMD in Iraq, the running over the UN mission on the border between Kuwait, the war without a UN SC mandate and things like the appointment of a professional UN-hater to the U.S. chair in the UN, Mr. John Bolton.

Of much less importance but significant, the present author experienced the same ignorance about available knowledge with both the Danish and the Swedish government.

At the time when TFF teams were ploughing through one war zone after the other, negotiating their way through paramilitary groups and their checkpoints in order to interview people in the midst of war, I shared views with the charge d’affaires of Sweden in Belgrade. This was the time when Krajina was “hot” and all countries only maintained diplomatic missions in Belgrade – and had no diplomats or embassies yet in Zagreb. This charge d’affaires, Göran Jacobsson, himself a keen observer and educated Slavist, ended the lunch conversation by saying that it must be a treasure for the Ministry in Stockholm to have access to knowledge collected by an independent group from so many places in Yugoslavia where diplomats could not go.

He was quite surprised, if not dismayed, when I replied to his kind appreciation of TFF’s work that the ministry had never shown any interest in TFF’s collection of knowledge and reports, or invited any of us to share our knowledge of facts, situations and personalities.

However, the ministry must somehow have followed the foundation’s work. In December 1999 its permanent US$ 30.000 annual support was withdrawn after 9 years. The only, of course never stated, reason was that Sweden had swung to a systematic pro-US policy after having dropped its neutrality policy. Evidently the Swedish government did not want to be seen abroad as supporting an organisation strongly arguing for a negotiated solution in Kosovo years before and predicting that NATO/US bombings was the least likely policy option to produce peace in that part of ex-Yugoslavia.

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