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…]

Peace-prevention: Western conflict management as the continuation of power politics by other means

The Violent Dissolution and Its Underlying Conflicts

By Jan Oberg
June 2004

The breakdown of former Yugoslavia has been explained in dozens of books the last five years with reference to ethnic war, aggression, traumas, nationalism, the dissolution of Communist ideology and the Soviet Union, the impossibility of non-alignment when the blocs disappeared, by expansionist national myths (Greater Serbia) etc. In short, black and white images, reduction to two parties — one good and one bad — in conflict and a need for ”third” parties to intervene to judge and set things right.

My first observation is that there may well be an element of truth in each but that they are surface appearances or instrumental features of the war through which deeper lying, essentially political-economic root causes of the conflict were played out.

My second, perhaps to some provocative, argument is that the international so-called community (1) is fundamentally incapable of perceiving and diagnosing conflicts as conflicts but see events such as Croatia, Bosnia, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq in the perspective of foreign policy, security, alliance-building, world domination, national interests, or in the light of the division of labour among international organisations. [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…]

Ten pointers toward a peace process in Ex-Yugoslavia

By Johan Galtung

July 7, 1993

1. A Conference on Security and Cooperation in Southeast Europe, CSCSEE, UN and OSCE sponsored, modeled on Helsinki, in addition to the London/Geneva conference.  All concerned parties (also sub-, super- and non-state) to be invited, with all relevant themes on the agenda; possibly lasting 3-5 years.  Outsiders to the region should be present as observers with right to speak, there being no disinterested outside states. A possible long term goal: A Southeast European Confederation.

2. CSCSEE Working Groups on priority areas to consider:
– Bosnia-Herzegovina as a tri- or bi-partite confederation; with the right to self-determination after some time.
– Kosovo/a s a bipartite confederation with the right of self-determination after some tim, respecting Serbian history;
– Macedonia: a Macedonian confederation should not be ruled out, but can only emerge within a broader setting ([1]) above.
– ex-Yugoslavia: as long-term goal, a confederation this time.

3. Increase UNPROFOR by an order of 10+, with 50% women, creating a dense blue carpet to supervise truces and stabilize the situation. Soldiers must be adequately briefed and trained as conflict facilitators, working with possible civilian peacekeeping components.  Avoid big power participation. [Read more…]