NATO’s war and the ethnic cleansing – Is there a way out?

By Johan Galtung

TFF PressInfo 70 – June 10, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“Where do I stand: very simply, I am against the NATO bombing, I am against ethnic cleansing, whether by Serbs or anybody else – for instance by the immigrants to North America who in the period 1600-1900 cleansed away about 10,000,000 American Indians. I find nothing original in my position. The only original position would be to be in favor of both, a view probably only entertained by arms dealers.

There are those who try to make us believe that you have to make a choice between NATO and Milosevic; if you are against one for sure you are in favor of the other. Nonsense. Early on in this horrible decade many of the same people tried to make us believe that you had to make a choice between the Gulf war and Saddam Hussein; again, perfectly possible to be against both.

Then, the second example of this terrible dualism, the terror of the false dichotomy as we academics say: there was no alternative, if you do not accept the NATO bombing it means that you are co-responsible for ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Nonsense.

There was an alternative and even a very good one: step of the number of observers in the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) from 1,200 to, say, 6,000, 12,000. Handies and binoculars, living in the villages, bringing in volunteers. But at the same time there was a civil war going on from February 1998, and one US ambassador had done what the US did in connection with the Gulf war: He (Gelbard) told Belgrade that the USA was of the view that KLA were terrorists – certainly also the Belgrade position.

The alternative would have been to close the border by extending the UN mandate on the Macedonian-Kosovo border, step up OSCE, and then call a major conference on South East Europe.

Nothing like this happened; as we know the war was decided early last fall; only a question of preparing the public through the media, and presenting Milosevic with an ultimatum he could not accept. The Rambouillet charade was about this. People started getting suspicious when they discovered that the media did not bring the text; it had to be dug out from obscure sites on the Internet.

I asked some journalists to make an inquiry in one of these 19 democracies, my own, Norway: no parliamentarian had read the text. Democracy is about informed participation.

The Serbs knew: loss of sovereignty and territorial integrity, unlimited NATO access to Serbia. No state signs itself into occupation and dismemberment. The Kosovars also knew: this was not the independence they wanted; it looked more like a protectorate under NATO. So they voted no. [Read more…]

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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…]