Security and Identity in former Yugoslavia

By Håkan Wiberg
Presumably written 1995 or 96


The concatenation of conflicts in former Yugoslavia are of a complexity that makes them difficult to fathom for the great majority of external observers, in particular mass media and politicians. This complexity derives from the high number of actors in various phases, as well as from the varying characters of actors and from the fact that different dimensions of security have played – and continue to play salient roles.

When external actors have tried to relate to this set of conflict, the heritage of the Cold War has apparently played a great role. Its essence is not to be found in the specific propaganda themes in 1991, rather in a general pattern of perception. It can be summarized in three main axioms:

1. There can be no more than two actors in a conflict.
2. These actors are states.
3. Among these, one is good and one is bad.

In virtually every situation, however, the actors have never been less than three, and even then only after great simplification. Peoples have been just as much actors as states, and – with few exceptions – the actions of these actors are a matter of bad and worse, rather than good and bad, at least if judged by generalizable morality rather than political expediency.

In addition, it must not be forgotten that the former Yugoslavia had an appallingly bad prognosis in its last period of existence by a wide range of indicators. [Read more…]


Societal security and the explosion of Yugoslavia

By Håkan Wiberg

Written in late 1992 or early 1993

The Yugoslav crisis since the late 1980s has been one of the most complex in European history. This complexity consists in the multiplicity of sources of conflict behaviour: economic, cultural, political, constitutional, international, etc. It also consists in the “spider web” character of the conflict pattern between political leaderships: interconnected triangular relations with shifting coalitions, each change having effects on the entire pattern.

Academic specialization, journalistic criteria of newsworthiness, political demands for mobilizing simplifications and plain ignorance have interacted in tending to picture the Yugoslav conflicts as a set of isolated bilateral one-issue conflicts, usually also with clear value directions. It will therefore take many years before we see any solid and comprehensive analyses. Trying to anticipate them already now would be hubris.

The present section merely attempts to present some components of the complexity and to highlight some background causes before focusing on how the concept of societal security may contribute to a more comprehensive analysis. [Read more…]