Key goals for the West, meaning the U.S. and EU

By Johan Galtung
Research note of March 12, 2010

Mihajlo (Markovic) stated this in fall 1991 at a UNESCO conference on democracy, in Praque:

“Yugoslavia as it was cannot be saved, it is doomed. But when it breaks up there is one thing we Serbs will never accept: living as minorities under those who killed us during the 2nd world war as allies of Hitler and Mussolini, and they lived and live in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Pristina.” [Read more…]

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The challenges we failed – some lessons to be learnt

By Johan Galtung

Written erly in the 1990s, edited in 2006

Nothing good has come out of this conflict “over and in Yugoslavia”.  The conflict left not only B-i-H and Yugoslavia but also Europe and the world a poorer place. Of course, some kind of Yugoslavia will ultimately come together again, hopefully as a community, at most a loose confederation the third time. Yugoslav love-hatred dialectic is a good illustration of yin/yang:  if the love is overdone hatred comes up, if hatred is overdone, love comes up. It was like that in the past, no reason to believe otherwise.  First more division and separation, then – loosely please! – together.

But Europe will not easily come together for the simple reason that there is so little love across the two fault-lines into the heart of Slavic Orthodoxy and Islam. If Yugoslavia is micro-Europe, then Europe is macro-Yugoslavia with the difference due to scale. Sarajevo, B-i-H and Yugoslavia have much more training in living together than Western Europe with Russia and Turkey, and we know what happened. And yet, communication/transportation shrink Europe and the world.  They will have to relate to each other, and for that they better put into practice Pérez de Cuéllar’s advice: Go slow, have a long-term plan and listen to the parties!

However, the leading Western powers are likely to interpret what happened as a “success”, only that they should have intervened and mediated with muscle at an earlier stage. They are highly unlikely to admit that they made a catastrophic mistake that night between December 15 and 16, 1991 against the sound advice of a Peruvian Secretary General. Hopefully others will draw the opposite type of conclusions. What the present authors thinks would have worked much better is developed in another blog entry here – “What could be done: The politics of conflict-resolution”.  And it is not too late, a realistic process of peace-keeping, -making, -building can still be initiated, as opposed to a “realist” techno-orgy.

Modern society can be seen in terms of four components: State, Capital, Media and Civil Society.  There are people everywhere, but only few of us are running the first three.  Most people are in civil society, organized by kinship, vicinity and affinity.  Yugoslavia has suffered, hit by a Euro-quake of immense proportions.  How did the four stand up to this challenge? [Read more…]

A decade too late – Kosovo talks begin

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 192 – October 14, 2003

Originally published here.

 

On October 14, 2003, in Vienna, high-level Kosovo-Albanians and Serbs from Belgrade met face-to-face. It was a historical meeting in more than one sense. It provides an opportunity for anyone concerned about conflict-management and peace-building to reflect on its philosophy, methods and politics. Did the international so-called community do the right thing? Is there adequate institutional learning? Are there parallels between Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq that we should discuss self-critically rather than simply blame the parties?

 

Dialogue is fine but the 1999 bombing hardened everybody

It is the first time since NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in 1999 that Serbs and Albanians meet this way. Indeed, with a few exceptions, it’s the first attempt at real negotiations since it all began in the late 1980s. Like in Iraq, the main parties were prevented from meeting. As time has passed hard-liners have taken over the scene and now they won’t really talk.

Being the clear victims of Milosevic’ repressive policies, the Albanians rightly felt that they had the support of the West and would be rewarded by sticking to a maximalist position; thus no compromise about the goal of complete independence.

Being the largest people whose minorities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo never really felt any solidarity from the Western conflict-managers, the Serbs felt misunderstood, treated without fairness and they were humiliated by the bombings. Why should they not fight adamantly for the Kosovo province that they consider their cradle? In addition, the Serbs as a people – and the Kosovo Serbs in particular – have lost more than any other due to the policies of their own leadership. [Read more…]

Macedonia 2002 – 2003: Assessing the risk of violence

By Jan Oberg

Written in 2001

 

1. Introduction

This report offers a framework and some tools for analysing the conflicts in Macedonia and the larger conflict formation of which it is a part. The purpose of the analysis is to assess the risks of violence and war in the country in the near future and the long-term.

 

1.1 Early warning and preventive initiatives

Early warning studies are meaningful only if combined with early listening and early action. Numerous organisations, among them Amnesty International and the Transnational Foundation, have repeatedly pointed out from the early 1990s that there would be war in Kosovo if no actors in the international community undertook mitigating, mediating and negotiating efforts. In Kosovo, there was minimal early listening and no early action to deal with the conflicts and their resolution. The conflict grew more serious and became militarised; due to the absence of early listening and action, NATO’s bombing in 1999 was promoted as the only solution, in spite of the fact that it caused even more human suffering and did not lead to a sustainable peace in the region a good three years later.

 

1.2 Theory and empirical work – diagnosis, prognosis and therapy

 Nothing is as practical as a good theory. Without thinking about it, we use theories and make assumptions when we drive a car or cook a meal. This report includes bits and pieces of general theory and some concepts to help readers understand this conflict as well as other conflicts. If the analysis increases the understanding of complex conflicts in general and those pertaining to Macedonia in particular, it will have served two of its major purposes. Without comprehensive ‘diagnosis’, we can neither produce a reasonable ‘prognosis’ nor hope to provide adequate ‘treatment’ or ‘therapy.’

A doctor uses knowledge of medicine and theories about the causes and symptoms of diseases and combines that with theories and concepts when examining a patient. In this report, we do much the same; we diagnose a ‘patient’ as suffering from serious conflicts and violence and explore the possibility that the disease may not have been completely cured and may reoccur. We also look into what is required for the patient to recover completely.

Only on the basis of both theory and empirical analysis can we hope to assess the risk of violence and war in complex systems. And only by adding constructive thinking can we hope to prevent violence and help people and societies move towards peace.

 

1.3 Causes of war and causes of peace

One particularly important, underlying assumption throughout this report is [Read more…]

The Kosovo War: No failure, all had an interest in it

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 42 – August 17, 1998

Originally published here

“Look at what happens in Kosovo and you would like to believe that all good powers worked for PREVENTION of this tragedy but that, unfortunately, tragedies happen. Governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations are already overloaded with ongoing conflicts and catastrophes; budgets are tight etc. Admittedly these are very complex problems; and just as all diseases cannot be prevented, we can’t expect all wars to be prevented.

According to this theory, if things go wrong it is the parties’ fault and if they go well it is thanks to the international community and a few shuttling envoys or diplomats. World media naively corroborate this theory: We watch how diplomats, envoys, and delegations fly around, hold press conferences, meet their kin in palaces or make solemn declarations if they don’t issue threats. In short, do all they can to stop wars and force people to negotiation tables, don’t they?

Well, no outbreak of violence on earth was more predictable than the one in Kosovo. There have been more early warnings about this conflict than about any other, but there was no early listening and no early action. There was neither the required conflict-management competence nor political will to prevent it.

We live in an increasingly interdependent world; we are told that hardly anything belongs to the internal affairs of states. The other side of that coin is that Kosovo was and is our problem. If we believe in this theory we must ask: when will honest people, including politicians, begin to openly and self-critically discuss why they fail again and again to avert even the most predictable wars? Is it human folly, institutional immaturity, are diplomats just not appropriately trained in violence prevention and conflict-resolution, or what?

I am afraid there is another more accurate but less pleasant explanation,” says TFF director Jan Oberg after his recent mission to Belgrade, Prishtina and Skopje where he had more than 50 conversations with heads of states, party leaders, intellectuals, media people and NGOs.

“This other explanation is less apologetic, more cynical. It simply assumes that things like Kosovo happen because it is in the interest of powerful actors that it happens. [Read more…]

Jugoslavien som grekisk tragedi

Av Håkan Wiberg

Skriven förmodligen sent 1993 eller tidigt 1994

Tragedi ligger i ödesbundenhet, icke i katastrofens omfång: en man kan begå en förbrytelse eller ett folk kan förintas. Att publiken moraliserar efter eget sinne kommer ikke tragedin vid: den tragiska figuren kan vara hjälte eller skurk, eller vara det omväxlande eller samtidigt. Vad ödet utmätt sker, oavsett vad protagonisten gör; att höra profetior om det hjälper honom icke. De missförstås, eller hybris bringar aktören på fall: vad han gör för att undgå ödet bidrar till att fullborda det.

Den jugoslaviska tragedin har skapat en av de tio största flyk-tingströmmarna sedan 1945 och är redan en av de 20-30 blodigaste konflikterna under denna tid. Den kan bli värre, genom sin egen dynamik eller genom utländsk intervention. Propagandakrigets utfall har – i stort sett – följt religionsgränser. Kroaterna och slovenerna vann i den katolska världen, med Tyskland som förbindelselänk till den protestantiska, muslimerna vann i den islamiska världen, och serber och montenegriner finner sympati i det ortodoxa Europa. Då de grekiska, rumänska, ryska och andra regeringarna i betydlig grad följde Väst i FN och CSCE, blev detta först synligt i Väst, när regeringarna kom under skarp kritik hemma och bromsade.

För att se de jugoslaviska konflikterna som tragedier behöver vi inte grekisk ödesmetafysik, utan kan hänvisa till mindre mystiska mekanismer med likartade resultat: hybris och myopia.

Hybris består i att överskatta sin egen styrka och hur långt man kan tvinga på en motsträvig omvärld sin vilja; man gör därmed tingen värre, också sett från sin egen synpunkt.

Myopia består i att tänka för kort: att göra ting som glömmer att motparterna har motdrag – och motdrag till ens egna motdrag till deras motdrag – till ens egna handlingar. (Ibland talar man om “the fallacy of the last move”.) En handling gör ofta andra handlingar oundvikliga – men inte de avsedda. Aktörer kan låsa fast sig själva genom irreversibla propagandautspel. Den ena aktören kan låsa fast den andra. Tredjeparter kan låsa fast en eller alla aktörer genom att göra ting (deklarerat) avsedda att hjälpa respektive tvinga dem, och de kan i sin tur låsas fast av deras massmedieredaktörer.

Innan analysen av olika exempel från lokala parters respektive stormakters agerande behövs en komprimerad bakgrundsteckning. [Read more…]

After Yugoslavia – What?

By Marta Henricson-Cullberg
Carl Ulrik Schierup
Sören Sommelius
Jan Oberg

TFF Report October 1991 that marked the beginning of this project

Some passengers and crew have been asked to leave, some are leaving on their own. Others are not permitted or cannot leave for a variety of reasons.
There is chaos and shouting on board; the old captain having disappeared many are peddling for his job.
There are those who want to continue with a new captain
and repair the ship as best they can. Some want to set a new course – but how in this situation?
Others say so, but have just changed their uniforms.
Some tear open the weapons-filled cargo and arm themselves before dawn.
In the first class restaurant the guests enjoy the delicious food and wine – unaware, it seems, that storm is rising.
Passengers who used to enjoy the sun on deck seek protection in their cabins.
Mutilated and dead bodies are mysteriously found in the mornings. Not even friends and families aboard trust each other anymore.
The good old ship “Yugoslavia” is going down, slowly but surely.
Those around it are so perplexed that their rescue attempts could well
make the situation worse.
Indeed, something must be done…

We dedicate this report to
the peoples of Yugoslavia –
past, present and future
and to those who,
unnecessarily, we believe,
have already died.

Guide

Dear Reader

This is the report of a TFF conflict-mitigation mission to Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia in September 1991. Based on an analysis of numerous interviews with very different people, we present some answers to the questions: What must be done now? How can the first steps be taken towards building confidence and peace? [Read more…]