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…]

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NATO’s psychological projection

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 75 – July 30, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“I believe there were overlooked or suppressed dimensions such as collective psychology, deep cultural codes and domain Western expansionist/missionary values at work in the West’s handling of Kosovo, and I think we do wise to discuss them.

For instance, does the US-led West in fact hide a latent, deep-seated authoritarian ideology that seeks world dominance while pretending to create global democracy, partnership and multiculturalism? And does it in its own manner – like Milosevic and Hitler in their different manners – thrive on somebody else’s crisis while pretending to help them?

It is fascinating to see how quickly the public, the politico-diplomatic discourse and the media have managed to relegate the crisis, this turning point in contemporary history, to the past. But what has happened in, and to, the West itself during the Balkan wars and during Kosovo in particular deserves a bit of introspection – and perhaps we won’t like what we see if we try,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“Norwegian-Swedish philosopher Harald Ofstad 30 years ago analysed the ideology of Nazism. He maintains that Nazism builds on and is an extreme version of Western values, of its ‘Weltanschauung.’ Its main feature is ‘our contempt for weakness’ and a celebration of strength, power and heroism. The Strong SHALL rule over the Weaker. The good/stronger has a right, or God-given authority, to control or eradicate the evil/weaker who only deserves our contempt. The stronger takes upon him a burden of civilisation, sacrifices and acts heroically in the name of a higher principle or ‘law’, of Good.

Thus he is never made responsible for his deeds; he has a higher mandate and is above common law. Those carrying out the leader’s orders are conveniently also relieved from responsibility, no matter how criminal they may be – since they too aim to drive out Evil and (re)install Good. Anti-semitism is not essential to the authoritarianism of the Nazi worldview, rather just a flawed, perverted element in it. [Read more…]

Security and Identity in former Yugoslavia

By Håkan Wiberg
Presumably written 1995 or 96

Introduction

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…]

Nations above all: The Yugoslav tragedy

By Håkan Wiberg

Written 1995 or 1996

There are two crucial questions about transformation in post-communist states:

1) What is being transformed?
2) What conflicts with what main parties do the transformations entail?

The first question may be specified to different subsystems of society.  The second key issue is whether the main perceived cleavages will be by classes, ideologies, regions, ethno-national groups or various combinations.

Political keywords on transformation have been “democracy”, “free market” and “privatization”: the agenda set by Western institutions (EU, IMF/WB, NATO, etc.) and embraced with varying degrees of enthusiasm or recalcitrance by governments and populations in post-communist states. Some transformation were attractive without external prompting: most people wanted “democracy”, with the exception of parts of the Nomenklatura and some groups wanting a “strong man”. In formal terms, say multiparty elections by secret ballot, democracy was introduced in virtually all post-communist states; but there are great variations in what people understand by “democracy” (Uzunova & Vydrin 1995) and in the political systems actually created.

“Free market” and “privatization” have remained controversial, especially in terms of how much, how soon, on what conditions and with what protection for the victims of the process. “Democracy” has generally been seen as desirable in itself, negating the old communist system and expressing a growing demand for self-rule and a new state identity. It has also to varying degrees been seen as instrumental; motives have been domestic, e.g. the belief that democracy is a quick road to affluence, or concerned relations to the West, democracy being a condition for different forms of support and even more for what most governments have high on their agenda: as close relations as soon as possible to Western organisations. [Read more…]