Sunday, May 14, 2006

An Op-Ed piece from the New York Times gave me plenty to think about:

"Why Insist on the Surrender of Ratko Mladic?" by Timothy Williams Waters

My initial reaction was one of disgust--the idea of not arresting Mladic for his crimes is, of course, obscene. But then again, that is not what the author is advocating. He does not suggest letting Mladic off the hook; only that the arrest of Mladic not be a 'deal-breaker' on Serbian entry into the EU. What should we think of this?

There is some merit to the arguement. It is possible--even probable--that a 'forced arrest' would be a somewhat humiliating gesture by Kostunica or any other Serbian government. Waters feels that this will only serve to strengthen hard-line nationalists, and it is very possible that he is correct.

In his favor, I would also note that the war has now been over for almost a decade. There is a young generation coming of age in Serbia that took no part in the war and bears no guilt or knowledge of those events. To continue ostracizing Serbia indefinately would be to follow the same logic of collective/generational guilt that ultra-nationalists used to stir up the war in the first place. It is the political and military leadership of Serbia that needs to be held accountable. To punish the population at large with no end in sight would not only be unjust, but couterproductive. There is nothing to be gained from legitimizing nationalist claims to victim status.

However, the author overstates Europe's need to include Serbia in the EU. There are many other nations still waiting to fulfill the requirements for EU membership, and none of them are shielding known war criminals. The hypocrisy of the Western European countries who refused to intervene during the war is somewhat galling; however, the line has already been drawn. The EU is not asking Serbia to make costly reparations or compromise its own security; they are merely asking the government to demonstrate that it has full control over its military and security forces. As a condition for membership in a broader community of nations, that does not seem to be too much of a price to pay.

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