Aims and perspectives of this blog

By Johan Galtung, Jan Oberg and Håkan Wiberg
September 2, 2014

Introductory note by Jan Oberg

Exactly 23 years ago, on September 3, 1991,  TFF’s conflict-mitigation drove from Zagreb to the war zone of Osijek in Eastern Slavonia, close to Vukovar. We had negotiated our way through at a local para-military checkpoint outside the town where the less-than-reliable looking soldiers advised us: Sit on your flak jackets, there are mines here. Drive as fast as you can, no belt on and don’t lock your doors, you may need to get out fast.

Later in the desolate centre we met with the “Gandhi of Croatia”, Mayor Kramaric, who like we was unable to believe that it could get much worse than it already was. Thereafter, visiting shelters where refugees had gathered, all ages.

In the clear, cold September night we drove back toward Zagreb, passing St. Peter’s Cathedral in Djakovo where mass was held for those already killed. Intense atmosphere, deeply moving, forever unforgettable.

Drove high-speed in the night on the ‘Autoput’ to Zagreb. Hotel Dubrovnik in the city centre filled with Croatian soldiers and paramilitaries watching propaganda movies and news. Everywhere converted to a war zone, including the mind.

The next morning the main news reported that local Serbs had cut off traffic on the ‘Autoput’ and confiscated the cars and whatever people had in them. About half an hour after we had passed. That was the end, in more than one sense, of the relations between Zagreb and Belgrade. Yugoslavia had broken up. And we’d been lucky. Very very lucky.

It was the first of some 70 peace missions to all parts of former Yugoslavia, 3000+ interviews with all conflict parties and at all levels – courses, seminars, peace plans, press conferences, co-operation with all UN missions in the region, and more.

What could justify yet another publication about former Yugoslavia and its dissolution processes? Probably only that it offers a systematically different angle and differs in a number of respects from most other publications on this subject. This blog does exactly that since it:

• Uses a conflict-analytical and peace policy-approach, based on modern systematic theorising; most other books take a historical, strategic, political science, international relations, anthropological, journalistic, or travel book approach – and combinations of some of them;

• Focuses on the conflicts in a long-term perspective rather than on the violence in a short-term perspective and, thus, does not begin its analysis around 1990 because the underlying conflicts began much earlier than the violence;

• Treats the conflicts in Yugoslavia in a macro-perspective: in the perspective of regional-European and global-US-Cold War conflict formations and does not believe that what happened can be explained by reference to inner-Yugoslav dynamics alone;

• Builds on the view that everything is related to everything else – inside Yugoslavia as well as between it and the international so-called community;

• Disputes the view that this international community has played the role of an impartial, historically innocent, goodwill actor that tried only to help the Yugoslav peoples to make peace; rather, we treat the international community as a number of active participants to the conflicts and wars, i.e. as part of the overall conflict formation;

• Refuses to take the side of any nation or republic. Our analysis may appear pro-Serb to some, particularly those who are predominantly informed by mainstream Western media and discourse, but it isn’t. Rather, it is less apologetically pro-West and less uncritically, less biased, pro-Croatian, pro-Bosniak and pro-Albanian than most; and therefore less black and white;

• Takes a structural perspective and refuse to accept at least two types of reductionisms, namely a) that conflicts can be reduced to what (more or less demonised or embellished) top individuals do, and b) that it is all a matter of only two parties (one all black and one all white) pitted against each other. We know of no conflict anywhere in which there are only two parties and have never seen a conflict actor in which all members were only white or only black;

• Does not deal with blame and apportioning guilt but with understanding issues; it is, if you will, soft on people and hard on structures and underlying paradigms – as well as the stuff the conflicts in this drama are made of;

• Is both analytical and critical but also constructive; it has a historical perspective but maintains an emphasis on what could have been done differently or better and what can still be done. Admittedly such a counter-factual history writing is a risky and disputable project, but we aim to try it at least for pedagogical, heuristic and illustrative purposes. Not trying it means bowing down to the equally, if not more, disputable position that the decisions and course taken throughout the Yugoslav crisis and wars were the only one possible;

• It emphasizes that it is time to say something about the whole process including the end game around Serbia/Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia, perhaps Bosnia-Hercegovina too. [Read more…]

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Equal right to self-determination – A dialogue

By Johan Galtung

March 2010

Conflict Worker: What is it you really want? What are the goals?

Slovene: We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination for the first time to have our own state. We want to be ruled neither from Vienna nor from Belgrade, but from Ljubljana and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our small minorities are safe in a democracy with human rights.

Croat: We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination, again to have our own state. We want to be ruled neither from Vienna nor from Belgrade, but from Zagreb and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our minorities can feel safe in a democracy with human rights.

Serb in Croatia:  The Croats can have their own state, but they have no right to take the Serbs in Croatia with them. We do not want to be ruled from Zagreb that killed us during the war, in an alliance with Nazi Germany.

Bosniak:  We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination, once again to have our own state. We want to be governed neither from Istanbul, Vienna nor Belgrade, but from Sarajevo, and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our minorities can feel safe in a democracy with human rights. [Read more…]

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…]

Yugoslavia in me

By Johan Galtung
March 10, 2010

July 1954
I came from Vienna on a tiny motorbike heading for Perugia in Italy and had two weeks to explore that great unknown on the way. A road so steep that I had to walk the motorbike up to some pass and almost burnt out the brakes on the way down brought me to flatlands close to Ljubljana – and the police. A massive stop, and a wait by the main road. [Read more…]

Serbia – Past and future

By Johan Galtung

February 15, 2010

In Belgrade: The NATO attack May-June 1999 left scars still not healed, like the bombed out Ministry of the Interior (Israelis want to invest in a hotel at that site).  But the place is as vibrant with culture and restaurants-cafes and intellectualisms of all kinds as ever.  An enviable resilience.  Orthodox optimism?

Processing the past is not easy.  This authors’s summary of Serbian history adds up to three words: defeat, retreat, return.  There is the Abrahamic idea of Chosen People with a Promised Land from Genesis, focused on today’s Kosovo-Kosova. Hypothesis: whatever else happens, there will be some kind of return.  To put this author’s cards on the table I see only one relatively stable equilibrium not maintained by violence and the threat thereof (1):

• an independent Kosova in the name of self-determination,
• with a Swiss type constitution and a flexible number of cantons,
• maybe three Serbian cantons in the North and close to Pristina,
• each canton governed in that nation’s idiom as a federation,
• with open borders to the key motherlands Serbia and Albania, and
• those three countries woven together in a confederation.

The present “independence” – using a Finn as an instrument for US-Western goals and based on three points is of course not sustainable: [Read more…]

Peace by peaceful means (Book launch)

By Johan Galtung

December 2009 – Foreword to Serbian edition of Peace By Peaceful Means.

Let me first express my deep gratitude to Professor Radmila Nakarada and her colleagues for this Serbian edition of my book Peace By Peaceful Means.  And let me then try to say something about the message of the book for the conflict over Yugoslavia, a country I still love, well knowing its sustainability was limited.  And that will be done from the four angles of the four parts of the book: peace, conflict, development and civilization.

Peace has direct, structural and cultural conditions, and Yugoslavia had many components. There was a terrible history of direct violence related to the German-Italian attacks and some cooperation with the attackers, particularly in Croatia, BiH and Kosovo. There was never any real conciliation, hoping that time will mend the wounds, that they were “quits”.  Instead they were reopened, and new wounds added.  Direct peace was not achieved. [Read more…]

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…]

Mapping the Yugoslav conflicts

By Johan Galtung

Written around 1992, edited in 2006

This blog favors the conflict/peace more than the threat/security perspective.  And standard conflict analysis demands a comprehensive listing of the key actors, of their goals, and of the clashes among those goals.  A point of departure is a list of standard fault-lines often separating individuals and groups, assuming that the conflict is not only among states and republics because only they have arms.

Conflict analysis – it was a bit more complex than assumed by most

And that is a first and major point to be made: the conflict in and over Yugoslavia went far beyond nations only.  Here are ten conflicts, all within Yugoslavia, certainly not only one:

I.    Nature: military destruction vs the eco-balance of nature, particularly through the use of depleted uranium
II.   Gender: macho attitude-behavior, including large scale rape, probably also as a backlash against socialist gender parity
III.  Generation: passing hatred, revanchism through generations, from the past via the present way into the future, at the national, local and family levels, not processed through reconciliation
IV.   Race: by and large irrelevant, except for some UN troops
V.    Class: we have to distinguish between four kinds:

– political: a revolt against Beograd as the Titoist center of decision-making, also among Serbs as a perpetuation of the Tito-Mihajlovich, partizan-chetnik conflict from the Second world war;
– military: a revolt against the Titoist near monopoly on military violence through the largely Serbian controlled JNA, the Yugoslav National Army;
– economic: the under-class revolt against the technocrats; and the revolt of the less well-to-do against the more well-to-do;
– cultural: a revolt against any perceived cultural dominance, linguistically, religiously, ideologically – within and without.

VI:   Nation: shallow in terms of religion; deeper for language, and in terms of sacred times (dates) and sacred spaces (sites) for the nations.  Also “Yugoslavs” vs. “constituent nations”.

VII:  Country: only Slovenija was uni-national, the other republics were all multi-national with problematic borders

VIII: State/Capital: the socialism/capitalism controversy

IX:   Capital/Civil Society: inter-nation exploitation issues

X:    State/Civil Society: human rights infractions, killed and wounded, peace movements inside/outside Yugoslavia; NGOs.

Almost everyone of these is important.  But “nation” has to be spelt out. [Read more…]

The security versus the peace approach

By Johan Galtung

Written presumably 2006

Yugoslavia caught international attention through acts of violence late June 1990 when Slovenian border guards close to Gorizia shot at their Serbian counterparts.  And Yugoslavia retained its grip on international attention ever since, according to the rule of bad journalism: violence up, attention up; violence down, attention down.  The “Balkans”, that southeastern corner of Europe on which the West, the “international community”, projects its own somber shadow of centuries of ethnic cleansing and other cruelties, meets the bill.  Everybody sufficiently violent, from the smallest fringe to that very “international community”, can get their instant prime time/front page media fame. Years of patient NGO and UN work for peace will certainly not rival them.

For in the beginning was not the word, but two ways of thinking, competing for our attention: the security discourse and the peace discourse.  [Read more…]

Statement at press conference, Tanjug, Belgrade 2002

By Johan Galtung
June 21, 2002

Wilfried Graf from the Austrian Center for Peace Studies and I, both from the TRANSCEND network for conflict mediation, have just completed dialogues with the President and Vice-President of the Slovenian Parliament, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Croatia, the President and Vice-President of Republika Srpska, the President and Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia, distinguished representatives of the civil society; with a visit to Jasenovac and a consultation with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I will not quote anyone, only present our reflections. [Read more…]

The 10 deadly Western sins: The acts of omission – and U.S. military culture

By Johan Galtung

Written 2002

[1]  The failure to take seriously the European macro-divides, Catholic-Orthodox and Christian-Muslim, playing with fire inside Croatia, Serbia and B-i-H, playing with fire in the near context and in the remote context; EU, Russia, Ottoman/Muslim countries; and the USA that ultimately came down on the side of the latter. To get an “anchor” in Eurasia? An oil corridor? An Osman empire?

[2]  The failure to take seriously Yugoslav divides: the Croat spring 1971, Serbian action 1987-89, minority autonomy demands in Kraina/Slavonia, B-i-H and Kosovo/a; the fascism of Ustasha and Chetnik para-military forces. Atrocities were predictable.

[3]  The failure to take seriously outside party histories, like Austria and Germany wanting revenge for the First and Second world wars and their loss of empire, possibly also Italy. [Read more…]

The politics of strength: Humanitarian intervention, pretexts and the alternatives

By Johan Galtung

Written January 2002

1.  The issue: humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia
We cannot stand by, watching a government committing serious crimes against humanity, even genocide, on its own population.

Certainly not! The doctrine of national sovereignty “within recognized borders”, like the doctrine of patria potesta giving the pater familias a carte blanche for terrorism within the walls of a recognized home, are cultural crimes against humanity, drawing artificial borders for human solidarity, delivering the subjects to the dominio of whoever are the tyrants.  The Roman law construct relating owners to whatever can be owned paved the way for such institutionalized crimes against humanity as slavery and colonialism. The problem arises when “whatever can be owned” includes human beings, for almost any definition of “ownership”.  The individual ownership takes precedence over the communal.

Humanitarian intervention, in all such cases, coming to the assistance of human beings in distress, is a human duty, flowing from norms of solidarity with human beings anywhere, regardless of artificial borders.  Of course, if action under that heading is done for such selfish goals as access to raw materials or to establish military bases, it should be better known as conquest.  But abuse is no excuse for doing nothing. Two wrongs do not make one right. [Read more…]

Conflict in and around Kosovo – and some resolution proposals

By Johan Galtung

Written 2001

The present illegal NATO war on Serbia is not conducive to any lasting solution. The only road passes through negotiation, not diktat and, pending that, immediate cessation of the hostilities and atrocities, and agreement on a massive UN peacekeeping operation.

For a political solution consider the points made by former UN Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar in his correspondence with former German Minister of Foreign Affairs Hans Dietrich Genscher December 1991:

“Do not favor any party, develop a plan for all of ex-Yugoslavia, make sure that plans are acceptable to minorities”.

In this spirit TRANSCEND suggests: [Read more…]

The Yugoslav conflict formation – 14 issues

By Johan Galtung

Written 1996, edited 2006

What did we typically learn from the media and what not during the 1990s? Here is one way of answering that question:

media

In the right column are a number of narratives, stories waiting to be told.  They are all important in any effort to understand what went on. But the media over-selected the narratives to the left at the expense of the narratives to the right.  The argument is not that what is to the left should not be covered, but that what is to the right should also have been given a clear voice, a ‘glasnost’. Thus, the role as “war correspondent” is classical and honored; peace journalism hardly even exists as a concept in violence-hungry Western media.

As a consequence the image created was that all bad events, with no history, just “nationalism”, happen in Yugoslavia. The idea of “ethnic conflict”, with no context in time or space, serves that purpose well. Outside actors are only spectators, trying their best to help in a noble way. This lack of historical context is what Professor Svetozar Stojanovic refers to as “presentism”. Good media would reflect all three, past, present and future (implications, consequences). [Read more…]

What could be done? The politics of conflict-resolution

By Johan Galtung

First version written mid-1993, revised 2006

Let us first engage in some counter-factual history.  Fall 1991 Yugoslavia and Europe, and the world in general, was faced with a war unfolding in Croatia.  Yugoslavia was not that strongly coupled so fortunately the war spread slowly; after all, it was a federation bordering on con-federation. Many of the national mixes were tripartite. So is gunpowder: carbon, sulphur and salpeter.  Proceed with care. And, if you use a hammer, do not be surprised if you see an explosion.  There were many hammers, some inside, some in the region some in the larger international system.

A major condition for war, polarization, was fulfilled as the logic of a war is bipolar.  If there are more parties than two the condition for war is alliance-formation combined with neutrality for some; the wars being more or less shifting.  Alliances, like the highly unlikely Croat-Muslim alliance in B-i-H could be forged from the outside; or, like the counterpoint, a Serbian-Croat alliance in B-i-H, from the inside (the Milosevic-Tudjman scheme).  What would be the minimum assumptions for an alternative, more conflict solution oriented course of history?  Opinions will differ on that one, but here are two, and they are far from unrealistic:

[1]  We might have not only expected but demanded more conflict literacy in the definition of the conflict. To cast this complex conflict in a small number of parties – or only Serbs versus the rest and Serbia alone in the role as problematic (to the delight of the others), ending up with the Hague Tribunal conflict map of the world against Milosevic is simply dumb.

[2]  We might have followed Pérez de Cuéllar’s three-point advice:  do not recognize “too early, selective and uncoordinated”. We could have decided to not recognize any party as independent before a solution satisfactory to the minorities has been found, not favoring the more Western of the republics and have a policy for Yugoslavia as a whole. In other words, priority should have been given to the United Nations over the European Community/Union.
There is also a third, but less realistic, assumption:  more attention given by media and politicians to the numerous ideas from NGO/civil society that we have mentioned in another post here.

Ten pointers toward a peace process in Ex-Yugoslavia 1991-1995 [Read more…]