Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started her two-day Balkan tour in Sarajevo on Tuesday by issuing a fresh call for Bosnia’s centralization. She urged “reforms that would improve key services, attract more foreign investment, and make the government more functional and accountable.” Hatreds have eased, she went on, “but nationalism persists. Meanwhile the promise of greater stability and opportunity—represented by integration into Europe—remains out of reach.”
Mrs. Clinton’s performance amounted to yet another coded demand for the abolition of the Republika Srpska, the autonomous Serb republic covering 49% of Bosnia—and the assertion of Muslim (“Bosniak”) dominance in a “reformed” (that is, unitarized) Bosnia-Herzegovina. She treats the Balkans as one of the few spots in the world where she can assert her credibility by postulating a maximalist set of objectives and insisting on their fulfillment. She is greatly helped in that task by the fact that the regime of Boris Tadic in Belgrade has capitulated to Brussels and Washington on all fronts…
Like a dog returning to lap up its own vomit, Hillary Clinton just cannot let go of Bosnia, a place she fundamentally misunderstands and treats as an “imagined community.” And yet this figment is so important to her that during the primaries in 2008 she repeatedly invoked embellished memories of a “dangerous” trip to Bosnia in 1996, when she was supposedly threatened by Serb sniper fire at Tuzla airport — although the war had ended six months earlier, and video footage shows smiling schoolchildren greeting her in Tuzla. The same obsession was evident in her Senate hearing in January 2009, when she declared she was committed to wrapping up what she called ‘the unfinished business in the Balkans.’ The same fixation was manifested in her Tuesday call on Serbs, Muslims and Croats “to put country ahead of ethnicity.”
Mrs. Clinton’s Sarajevo speech is the latest in a long series of attempts by the Department of State under her guidance to meddle in Bosnian affairs. Exactly a year ago her Deputy, James Steinberg, came to Sarajevo with a set of proposals for constitutional reform. The news was hyped in the Western media as the imminent remaking of Dayton. Even the location chosen for the talks — a NATO military base at Butmir near Sarajevo — echoed the events of November 1995, when the Bosnian war was ended at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton. The Serbs unsurprisingly rejected these proposals because they would have stripped them of the remaining elements of self-rule that were first guaranteed by the Dayton agreement. The failure of this attempt, one of many, to reduce the Republika Srpska to an empty shell devoid of self-rule did not stop Mrs. Clinton’s officials from [talking] of a “Butmir Process,” which would presumably lead to a “functional” government. In reality there was no such “process” at all.
A reasonable observer might have hoped that the outcome of last week’s elections — the results of which were tantamount, yet again, to an ethnic census — might finally convince Washington that no arrangement can be good for Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole unless it is good for each of its three constituent peoples. Yet Mrs. Clinton refuses to allow this reality to blur her “vision,” which is built on the self-defeating notion that the U.S. needs to be seen, and perhaps even appreciated, in the Islamic world as the champion of Muslim interests in Europe. Accordingly, the push from Washington for Bosnia’s “reforms” will undoubtedly continue after Mrs. Clinton’s visit, which is unfortunate. That push is a major obstacle to the lasting stabilization of the area known as Western Balkans in general, and of Bosnia-Herzegovina in particular. It is but a codeword for establishing what in effect [would] be a Muslim-dominated unitary state — in a majority-Christian country! — and amounting to the end of the RS in fact if not in name.
In addition to being certain to re-ignite old animosities that caused the war of 1992-1995, Mrs. Clinton’s claim that Bosnia’s constitutional arrangements are detrimental to European integration is at odds with the strong trend towards devolution, self-rule, and decentralization in some of the world’s most stable democracies — from Belgium to the Basque Country, from Scotland to Catalonia. It is also at odds with the Western demand that Serbia grants its northern province of Vojvodina the level of autonomy which is frowned upon when it is demanded from Banja Luka, the RS capital in Bosnia.
Whatever the defects of Dayton, the essential fact is that for over 14 years Serbs, Croats and Muslims living in Bosnia-Herzegovina have not been killing each other. Nothing should be done that risks a new confrontation among Bosnia’s communities and possibly reigniting the horrors of the 1990s. With all that America has on its plate today, at home and abroad, it is ill advised to trigger an optional crisis. What is really impeding Bosnia’s progress is not “nationalism” but heavy-handed international bureaucracy and excessive foreign meddling in local affairs. Such meddling is detrimental to the spontaneous growth of democratic institutions. Going a step beyond and imposing centralization would be a gross violation of democracy, law, and logic.
Fifteen years after Dayton, an old question remains unanswered by Mrs. Clinton and other advocates of unitary Bosnia: If Yugoslavia was untenable, and eventually collapsed under the weight of the supposedly insurmountable differences among its constituent nations, how can Bosnia-Herzegovina — the Yugoslav microcosm par excellence — develop and sustain the dynamics of a viable polity, let alone a centralized and unitary state?
Today, Bosnia is not much of a problem, and in any event it is Europe’s problem, not America’s: Bosnia’s future is integration with its immediate and regional neighbors. There are many responsible European officials who privately admit that they do not want Washington charging in and upsetting the applecart, especially since they would have to cope with the consequences. Furthermore, with no end in sight for America’s many foreign quagmires from Mesopotamia and Hindukush to the 38th parallel and beyond, and no end in sight for its ongoing economic, financial, and social-cultural decline, the United States does not have the resources to police and subsidize yet another stepchild “nation-building” project.
Bosnia-Herzegovina and the rest of the Balkans have suffered a lot through history, almost invariably due to some distant powers’ ambitions and policies. They deserve to be left well alone. Hillary, go home!
Below is just an article that gives some background on the recent elections in Bosnia and has an apolitical tone that nonetheless promotes as “progress” the disastrous direction that Trifkovic describes above:
SARAJEVO — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began a two-day Balkans tour with talks with Bosnia’s tripartite presidency where she is expected to push for more unity in the deeply divided country.
Clinton did not speak to journalists before the talks but she is expected to push the Bosnian authorities to work towards a more centralised state a week after elections which failed to heal the country’s ethnic divide.
Pro-reform moderate political parties gained ground in the Muslim-Croat part of the country, but the nationalist Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) won comfortably in the Serb entity known as the Republika Srpska.
Bosnian daily Oslobodjenje said that Clinton arrived at the right time “at the moment when Bosnians chose change” at the elections.
It is almost 15 years since the US-brokered Dayton peace accords ended the bloody 1992-95 inter-ethnic war in Bosnia. Since that time the country has made only tiny steps towards healing the deeply entrenched divide between the former enemies, mostly Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs and creating a more centralised state. [Stated as though moving toward a more centralized state was part of the plan all along.]
Post-war Bosnia, divided into the semi-autonomous Muslim Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serbs’ Republika Srpska has been unable to agree on political reforms needed to ensure possible EU and NATO entry.
Clinton will also meet other political leaders later Tuesday, including Bakir Izetbegovic, the Muslim moderate just elected to the Muslim seat on the tripartite presidency. [Recall the previous Izetbegovic whom the media assured you was a moderate, this man’s father and author of The Islamic Declaration; who asked to be buried “with the shahids”; and who was a young recruiter for Hitler.]
She is expected to call on the different communities to overcome their differences and reinforce the central institutions to facilitate their entry into the European Union.
But last week Milorad Dodik, the newly elected president of the Republika Srpska, whom Clinton will also meet, rejected calls by the international community for improved relations within Bosnia. [See that? The Serbs are the ones spoiling for everyone the subordination to a Muslim Bosnia.]
In the afternoon Clinton will travel to Belgrade where she will meet with Serbian President Boris Tadic to discuss the start of the EU-sponsored talks between Serbia and breakaway Kosovo. [At least that Serb’s country has been brought to heel, so this should be a much more relaxed meeting.]
Twelve years after the war in Kosovo and two years after the former Serb province declared independence, Clinton will express US impatience to see a dialogue begin with US involvement. […]
On a related note, don’t let anyone tell you the U.S. doesn’t subjugate people. Again, one need only look at Bosnia. Two people who worked for the UN’s Office of the High Representative there laid it out in an article yesterday, and while we Balkans-watchers know that what the hands of the “international community” have wrought in Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo is an authoritarianism beyond anything their Milosevic bogeyman ever dreamed of, the following should send a chill up the spine of any Free World dweller unfamiliar with the totalitarian methods of the West — including the U.S. — in the Balkans:
The case of Dragomir Andan – who was, until recently, on hunger strike outside the OHR’s regional office in Banja Luka, in protest against his dismissal three years ago – demonstrates the extent to which the OHR has subverted the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The peoples of the former Yugoslavia have long experiences of authoritarianism…Alas it has been Bosnia’s misfortune to find itself the subject of a new form of capricious political authority since 1997. Although extolling the virtues of democratic accountability and rule of law as European Union standards, successive High Representatives have been the embodiment of quite the opposite.
Between 1997 and 2005 OHR took to dismissing public officials without courts, trials, evidence, an opportunity to respond or a right of appeal. Dismissals were coupled with bans from holding any other public office: a severe burden in a country where most good jobs are in the public sector. These bans were expressed to last indefinitely; and the individuals were barred from holding office in a political party. The aim of these draconian techniques was to force Bosnian politicians to go along with the international community’s plans to re-mould the country in an image created abroad: a unified state with a central government that the Dayton Peace Accords never intended to create. The message was clear: if Bosnian officials did not go along with the High Representatives’ agenda, they would be ruined.
In time the chorus of criticism became deafening. Bosnia’s future should not be determined by foreigners; High Representatives should not serve as tin pot dictators. Somebody was listening; and with the arrival of High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling in January 2006, suddenly these dismissals stopped. Schwarz-Schilling saw threats and cajoling as counter-productive: sooner or later OHR would have to close, and a sustainable future could not be forged from the furnace of High Representatives’ tyranny. As soon as Schwarz-Schilling delivered this message, Bosnian politicians found themselves unleashed; and there was a dramatic decline in the temper of the country’s political debate. The international community became nervous; it was not sure it wanted Bosnia to plot its own autonomous course bereft of international supervision. Schwarz-Schilling became a scapegoat for the international community’s loss of nerve; and in July 2007, barely 18 months after he arrived, he was fired and replaced by Miroslav Lajcak.
Lajcak’s first priority was to reassert the powers of the High Representative, and get a grip on what the international community perceived as Bosnia’s rapidly deteriorating political climate. The first victim of OHR’s renewed assertiveness was Mr Dragomir Andan, who until recently has been on hunger strike outside the front door of OHR Banja Luka. Mr Andan held the obscure position of Deputy Head of Administration for Police Education in the Ministry of Interior or Republika Srpska. He was not a major political figure; before he was dismissed, nobody had heard of him. The tired reason given for his removal was familiar to many of those who previously felt the High Representatives’ wrath: Mr Andan, while “in a position of responsibility, contributed to shielding war crimes indictees from justice”. It is not clear how being a deputy for the administration of police education meant Mr Andan could help shield Karadzic, Mladic or Hodzic. Indeed Mr Lajcak offered no explanation for this bizarre conclusion. Mr Lajcak fired Mr Andan only 10 days after arriving in the country. He could have had no time to exercise independent judgment on the matter. His staff no doubt had this order pre-prepared, in particular his aggressive Principal Deputy Raffi Gregorian [an American]. They pushed it upon Mr Lajcak in his early days in office. It is testament to his weakness of character that he acceded to this pressure so soon into his new position.
The punishment imposed upon Mr Andan was novel in its cruelty. The police were instructed by Mr Lajcak to investigate unspecified allegations of wrongdoings, and to seize his identity documents until those investigations were concluded. This arcane punishment meant Mr Andan could not travel or even perform basic daily tasks. Without an identity card or passport, citizens cannot open a bank account, obtain a driving license, claim social security benefits or even register a child’s birth. Petrified of suffering the same fate as Mr Andan, the police dared not ever conclude the investigation they had been instructed to commence. More than three years later Mr Andan remains deprived of his identity, robbed of a career in the police and unable to travel.
This pitiless conduct had a political aim: to reassert the authority of the High Representatives after a lull. Ultimately it did not work: Mr Lajcak lost a confrontation with Mr Dodik over OHR’s attempt to change voting in the Council of Ministers in late 2007, and Mr Lajcak seldom used his powers again. His successor Mr Inzko has dismissed virtually nobody. Indeed he has taken to rehabilitating individuals dismissed by his predecessors: a welcome stage in Bosnia’s progress away from an international protectorate to a modern sovereign democracy. Yet Mr Andan’s case, perhaps the most egregious of all High Representatives’ abuses of power, remains outstanding.
We know nothing of Mr Andan and cannot pass judgment on him either way. But if evidence exists that he has committed a crime, OHR should make that evidence public and should ask the local authorities to prosecute him. If found guilty, he will be punished for his misdeeds. Mr Andan will then be given an opportunity to answer the allegations against him. Currently he cannot do so, because neither he nor anyone else outside OHR knows what those allegations are.
If however no evidence exists (as seems likely after three years of inconclusive investigation), Mr Andan should be released from his torment. That is how the rule of law works in a modern European democracy, and OHR has no business subverting these basic standards of human rights in a country whose history has seen too much repression and dictatorship. Messrs Lajcak and Gregorian have moved on, and Mr Inzko can do the right thing without losing face. After he has done so, he should finish the task long overdue and close his organisation as well. In its treatment of Mr Andan OHR has proved itself morally bankrupt and utterly out of place in modern Europe.
The authors are lawyers based in Geneva and Banja Luka. Both formerly worked for the Office of the High Representative, Mr Parish as Head of the Legal Department in OHR Brcko and Mr Raosavljevic as legal officer in OHR Banja Luka.
(Note on Mr. Lajcak: I was surprised to find this bit of sobriety and fairness on his part vis-a-vis Kosovo.)
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