Web catalog

Most read

Most read last 7 days

Most Discussed

Top rated



Written 02.12.2009. 16:23
THE NEW YORK TIMES, January 23, 2001
Not Happening

SARAJEVO, Bosnia - There's something strange going on here. If you look around the Balkans today you'll see that democracy movements are tentatively sprouting in the two ethnically pure Balkan states that caused the most trouble during the Bosnian war: Serbia and Croatia. And democracy is least alive and well in the place where NATO and U.S. troops are present, namely multi- ethnic Bosnia (and Kosovo).

What gives? Has NATO pacified Bosnia at the expense of democracy? Not quite, but sort of. Let's review the facts: In ethnically pure Serbia, a popular revolt last fall ousted the evil President Slobodan Milosevic from power and spurred a peaceful transition to the decent, democratic coalition led by Vojislav Kostunica. In ethnically pure Croatia, the death in December 1999 of its hard-line nationalist leader, Franjo Tudjman, has led to his corrupt party"s being swept from power by democrats in a free election.

Meanwhile, though, in multi-ethnic Bosnia, where the Dayton accords have forced Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims to live together in an artificial state, pluralism and democracy are going backward. In the Nov. 11 elections, held under NATO's aegis, extreme nationalist/separatist parties triumphed - demonstrating that five years and $5 billion in aid have done little to produce a new generation of Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats who could live together in a self- sustaining multi-ethnic democracy.

Lesson: In a region like the Balkans, where ethnic identity and hatreds run so deep, it is easier to produce a self-sustaining democracy in ethnically homogeneous countries, like Serbia and Croatia, than it is in diverse ones, like Bosnia.

Why? Because democracy means the willingness to have your group or party be outvoted and have power go to the competing group or party, observed the Johns Hopkins University foreign affairs expert Michael Mandelbaum. To do that, though, the party or group that loses has to trust the new majority and believe that its basic interests will still be protected and that there is nothing to fear from a change in power.

That trust, a senior NATO commander said to me, is simply "not here in Bosnia." The corrupt nationalist parties, he explained, manipulate the still substantial "fear and pain of the people," so none of the ethnic groups trust being ruled by the others. Bosnia may get better, but right now it is not happening. For now, Bosnia remains a bad Rubik's Cube. The pieces don't quite fit: Bosnia can be democratic and self-sustaining, but only if the country gives up being unified and multi-ethnic. Or Bosnia can be multi-ethnic, democratic and unified, but not self-sustaining. NATO would have to hold it together forever.

America's democratic pluralism is built on individuals from different religious backgrounds who have voluntarily chosen to live together. But that is not where Bosnia starts. Here you have religious groups living together against their will, under NATO, after a terrible war. The Dayton accords assumed that the parties would eventually meld into a functioning democracy, with a little NATO supervision and a lot of money. But they are not. Dayton and democracy don"t go together in Bosnia.

We can continue using NATO to force Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims to live together in an artificial Bosnian state, as the Dayton accords mandated. Or the NATO allies can abandon Dayton and instead push for a soft partition of Bosnia, by letting the Serbian sector fall under Serbia and the Croatian sector under Croatia and leaving the rump Muslim sector as an independent mini- state. Serbia and Croatia, the two big powers in the region, would then be responsible for stabilizing the area, and NATO could operate a small protectorate around the Sarajevo Muslim mini-state.

But forcing Bosnia together and pouring money in won't make a difference. Multi-ethnic democracy will emerge, and the lure of globalization and economic integration work its stabilizing magic, only when other issues are settled - particularly who lives inside which borders - so people feel free to think beyond tribal interests. It is not an accident McDonald's still refuses to operate here.

So the real question for the Bush team is not how many troops to keep in Bosnia, but what is Bosnia to be all about: Dayton or democracy? It can't be both.

2666 page loads

No comments