Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Washington's War" by Michael Rose [2]

Thanks to Owen, who reminded me in a comment to part 1 about this review of Rose's account of his tenure in Bosnia, "Fighting for Peace: Bosnia in 1994". This incisive and rather devastating review is by Noel Malcolm, author of the excellent Bosnia: A Short History among other excellent work. It is well worth reading, especially since that book was obviously much more directly concerned with Bosnia.

"Washington's War", on the other hand, only touches on Rose's experiences in Bosnia. However, it is clear that his own agenda--which seems to have been highly influenced by his time as head of UNPROFOR--is to undermine the case for humanitarian intervention by the West. Indeed, Rose seems to share the same contradictory views of many critics of Western intervention on behalf of Bosnia; namely, simultaneously decrying any claims to the universality of Western values and their application it the so-called "Muslim World", even while displaying a sometimes implicit, sometimes quite more explicit, contempt for this presumed monolithic "Muslim World."

So, if you have not already read Malcolm's devastating synopsis of Rose's ignorant, skewed views on Bosnia, please do before reading my review of his latest book. As Malcolm shows, it is no secret that Rose failed the grasp the issues in Bosnia and that failure contributed to his poor performance as UN Commander. I have argued in the past that one reason I think the Bosnian War remains relevant to Westerners even 15 years later is because both government and military elites and the general public learned a lot of poorly-informed "lessons" from NATO's first post-Cold War intervention, and these faulty lessons continue to skew foreign policy debates and decisions to this day. In places like Iraq, for example--a war which Rose argued called for the impeachment of Prime Minister Blair. This book is an example of using poor historical analysis and a selective, imprecise, and sometimes just plain incorrect use of facts, in order to formulate a polemic. This, unfortunately, seems to be part of the legacy of the Western debate about Bosnia.

I will not waste everyone's time with a review of this entire book; however, I will devote two more posts, one towards considering Rose's own statements about NATOs' role in the former Yugoslavia, and one considering his claims about the parallels between the American War of Independence and the current occupation of Iraq.

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Washington's War" by General Michael Rose [1]

I don't know if I'm going to review all of Washington's War: The American War of Independence to the Iraqi Insurgency or not, since the central premise of this book--that there are strong parallels between Britain in the American Revolution and the USA in the current occupation of Iraq--has no direct relation to the subject of this blog.

However, the author of this book is none other than General Sir Michael Rose, commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia from January 1994 to January 1995. This is more than an interesting coincidence--General Rose argues that his experiences in Bosnia provide him the first-hand knowledge necessary to understand the dynamic at play here. In fact, this book is in some ways an attack on the ideals of humanitarian intervention; as we shall see, when the text does address the Bosnian war specifically, it is also a work of implicit Bosnian revisionism.

I will begin to consider Rose's own text in the next post; for now, let us begin with the Foreward, by Professor Sir Michael Howard:


This short Foreward is not nearly as clever as Professor Howard would like to believe it is; fully half is taken up with a strained description of the British military experience in the rebellious American colonies, written in a style meant to evoke the current American (and British, it must be noted) experience in post-invasion Iraq. The clumsiness of this piece of writing reveals the flaws in Rose's analysis before Rose himself has taken the stage--one can only see parallels between the British military in American, and the US coalition forces in Iraq if one ignores virtually all context, and shies away from specificity as well. By the time Howard "reveals" that is the American War of Independence, not the current Iraq war, which he is describing, only the dullest of readers will be surprised. For example, one must be completely ignorant of the fact that while the eastern coast of the USA is 3000 miles from London, it is considerably further than that from Washington, DC, to Baghdad.

However, Howard's "aha!" moment does provide a revelation of sorts--his throwaway reference to "the war that the United States has been waging in Iraq, with the British as her unhappy allies" suggests a polemic underneath the guise of historical study.

After giving credence to Rose's analysis of political incompetence in Iraq, Howard does express reservations about his belief that the US should give up and pull out of Iraq; his concern that Rose's belief that "both parties" (it will be interested to see which "party" in Iraq they are referring to) could quickly come to terms and develop a healthy relationship like the US and Britain did, or the US and Vietnam ultimately have. At least Howard recognizes the differences between the Iraqi insurgency and the revolutionary leaderships in both colonial America and--it has to be said--the Vietnamese Government.

However, Howard closes with an approving quote from the Duke of Wellington, to the effect that the hardest thing for a military commander to do is to retreat. His suggestion that this would the noblest and wisest course of action in a fragile state like Iraq, where the "party" we presumably would need to deal with is an insurgency which hardly speaks for a unified national movement, indicates that Howard and Rose are placing the cart in front of the horse. General Rose has an agenda to push, and this book will be an exercise in fitting the facts to fit the theory.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Vice President Biden's Visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina

[Press release from the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, released today.]

The Bosniak-American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BAACBH) would like to wish Vice President Joseph Biden a pleasant and productive trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.The trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina signals a shift of U.S. foreign policy towards the Balkan region and the importance of a sustained U.S. partnership with the European Union (EU). It also emphasizes the U.S. re-engagement in the Balkans, which is of vital importance given the impasse in political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The partial and stagnant implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, an agreement which brought an end to the war in Bosnia, has compromised the country's long-term viability as a democratic, functional, and self-sustaining state. Furthermore, the ethno-territorial division institutionally reinforced through the two entities, Republika Srpska (RS) and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, is incapacitating Bosnia's development in areas such as security, the economy, democratic governance and the rule of law. As a result, Bosnia is not capable of meeting its international obligations and requirements for integration into the EU and NATO, as its neighbors prepare for full accession. Thus, stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina is crucial for the overall stability of the region in Southeast Europe.

We hope that this trip will not only strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and the Balkans, but that it will signify an end to the political instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We remain indebted to Vice President Biden for his relentless dedication to human rights and for the honorable positions he has taken during the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina. We trust that this trip will bring positive influence in terms of reforming the impracticality of political governance, which the Dayton Peace Accords bestowed upon Bosnia and Herzegovina.

BAACBH, formed in 2005, is a Washington, D.C. - based non-profit, non-governmental and non-partisan organization dedicated to advocating for Bosnian-Americans living in the United States and promoting peace and economic development in the Balkans by fostering democratic policy, promoting respect for human rights, and initiating educational and developmental programs.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

U.S. Congress passes House Resolution (H. Res. 171) on Bosnia and Herzegovina

[Following is the press release from The Bosniak-American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was released yesterday; apologies for my delay in passing it along.]

The Bosniak-American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BAACBH) is pleased to announce that on May 12, 2009, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 171 (H.Res. 171) on Bosnia and Herzegovina (B-H), introduced by Congressman Howard Berman on February 13, 2009. H. Res.171 expresses the sense of the House of Representatives on the need for constitutional reform in B-H and the importance of sustained U.S. engagement in partnership with the European Union (EU).

H. Res. 171 calls for an immediate and urgent constitutional reform that will enable B-H to work towards the creation of an efficient and effective state, able to meet its domestic and international obligations, particularly regarding full accession into the EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO.) The resolution emphasizes that the U.S. should appoint a Special Envoy to the Balkans who can work in partnership with the EU and political leaders in B-H to facilitate reforms at all levels of government and society, while also assisting the political development of other countries in the Balkan region.

The resolution strongly insists that efforts should be made domestically and at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to achieve justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Furthermore, H.Res. 171 does not recommend the closing of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) until the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) can determine that B-H reforms have met the five objectives and two conditions set by the PIC. The resolution recommends that the United States should work closely with and support the EU in the transition to a European Union Special Representative (EUSR), upon closure of OHR, to ensure that the EUSR has the authority and tools to manage affairs in a post-OHR B-H effectively.

BAACBH, formed in 2005, is a Washington, D.C. – based non-profit, non-governmental and non-partisan organization dedicated to advocating for Bosnian-Americans living in the United States and promoting peace and economic development in the Balkans by fostering democratic policy, promoting respect for human rights, and initiating educational and developmental programs.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

BiH makes effort to deal with Islamic extremists

In an encouraging development which suggests the government feels secure enough both in its legitimacy and in its ability to weather the negative publicity the enemies of a unified Bosnia and its Bosniak plurality will almost certainly exploit, the government of Bosnia is now making vigorous efforts to crack down on mostly-Wahhabi extremists left behind from the numerically relatively small but notorious mujahideen forces who disgraced the Bosnian cause by committing numerous atrocities in an attempt to hijack the Bosnian cause in the name of fundamentalism and global jihad.

Please see this article from the Southeast European Times for more details.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Vice President Biden to Visit Balkans mid-May

Well, it's better than nothing:

Biden to Visit Balkans

Just a short article, since not much has been made public. I'll keep my eye out for the promised updates on his plans. I will not speculate on why the Vice President, and not the Secretary of State, is making this trip. I have no illusions that the Obama administration is going to bump the region higher on their priority list, but at least they are paying some attention.