Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Divide and Quit?" by Radha Kumar--Chapter Three


"Though the European Union Action Plan appeared to mark the lowest point of European policy towards Bosnia, in which the divide and rule aims of Milosevic and Tudjman were accepted despite the terrible war of attrition each had waged to achieve them, 1994, in fact, constituted a turning point in Western policy which was marked by a gradual shift from divide and rule to divide and quit policies: that is, it marked a move away from letting domestic actors set the terms of negotiation and a move towards enlarging the role of European institutions in establishing a peace based on partition."

This opening section neatly summarizes the gist of Kumar's analysis of Western intervention in Bosnia from the winter of 1994 through to the Dayton Agreement. This review has dragged out longer than I had hoped; since the book has turned out to be more of a history of events within a framework (namely, her "divide and rule" versus "divide and quit" colonialist pattern of ethnic partition), and since I have been terribly short of time recently, I am not going to review this chapter in any detail. I make this decision only because I assume most readers of this blog are already familiar with the military and diplomatic events in Bosnia from 1994 through to the Dayton Agreement, and I see little need to postpone the other projects I have planned any further just for the sake of running us all through a familiar narrative one more time.

In other words, I am assuming that anyone reading this review already knows about US diplomacy to end the Muslim-Croat war by establishing the Federation; of the continued fighting in and around Bihac; of the growing military prowess of the Croatian armed foreces; of Milosevic's gradual distancing of his government first from the Krajina Serbs and then the Bosnian Serb leadership as well; of Bosnian Serb duplicity and UN hostage-taking; the genocide at Srebrenica and Zepa; and so on.

I am not making this decision because I find fault with this book, or because I find it lacking; Kumar's grasp of events and her knowledge of facts are impressive, and I am enjoying the book so far. But I have already discussed the framework within which she is considering events; if I had the luxury of more time I might very well take the time to demonstrate how she continues to develop her thesis in more detail, but I would very much like to keep the time frame on this review as brief as possible.

I hope the reader will understand, and I hope that I have done Ms. Kumar's work some measure of due credit to this point.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Divide or Fall?" by Radha Kumar--Chapter Two

Chapter Two is a comprehensive summary of all the partition plans proposed for Bosnia during the 1990s, from the infamous agreement between Tudjman and Milosevic to various schemes dreamed up by Karadzic and Boban (including their support for Abdic's breakaway Muslim republic in Bihac), and of course all of the various plans proposed by the "international community". The political events of the prewar period are also summarized, and Kumar understands the connection between events in Croatia and the outbreak of war in Bosnia. She also recognizes the role the JNA played, and has no illusions about Milosevic's role.

For anyone already familiar with the history of the Bosnian war, this is well-traveled territory; in the interests of moving this review along I won't rehash old news for my readers. Suffice it to say that while Kumar keeps the focus on the various partition schemes, she makes it very clear that she understands the human cost on the ground. This book is not a polemic, and her tone is mostly dispassionate and pragmatic, but that is not to say she is entirely neutral. Unlike many Western observers, she recognizes the fact that international diplomacy with the three main parties in Bosnia essentially raised two rebel political factions to parity with the legitimate government of the republic. .

Her account does not spend much time discussing the grassroots of partition sentiment, but she does note that communal/confessional identities and cleavages became stronger as the war went on. Along with a few other comments (she notes that the ethnic-based voting patterns in Bosnia were not as strong or as universal and many outsiders have come to believe; she also points out that there was often intimidation to vote with one's "own kind"), one can quite confidently assume that Kumar has little use for any of the "ancient hatreds" justifications for partition.

This chapter takes us the end of 1993. Up until then, Kumar argues, the general thrust of international diplomacy had been to, essentially, allow domestic actors and the "facts on the ground" dictate the terms of partition; i.e., to try and find a way to carve Bosnia up in a matter that all three parties could be coaxed into accepting. The next chapter begins in 1994, when increasingly the international community, for a variety of reasons, began thinking more in terms of imposing a partition plan on the country--in order to satisfy the greater aim of ending the war and getting out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Divide or Fall?" by Radha Kumar--Chapter One

Well, the "few days" between posts is now over a week. I will make every effort to pick up the pace.



In many ways, this chapter is an extended consideration of the same themes and examples from the paper (by the same author) I considered a few posts ago; Kumar considers the colonial and post-colonial development of the "divide and rule" and then "divide and quit" British policy in Cyprus, Palestine, Ireland, and the Indian subcontinent, and then compares and contrasts those situations to contemporary Bosnia. In order to avoid redundancy, it would be easiest to redirect readers to this post where I summarized Kumar's arguments.

However, regular reader Owen was correct to question some of the views I incorrectly ascribed to Kumar (who I also, to my great embarrassment, identified as a "he" for reasons I don't understand--my sincere apologies for the confusion). My review was rushed and sloppy, and therefore did not accurately convey some of the nuances of her analysis.

To be more specific, I either implied or directly stated that it is Kumar's thesis that partition causes war, specifically in the case of India/Pakistan. Owen was correct to question this reading, and he was right--and I need to set the record straight right now. Kumar clearly knows the chronology far better than I do; her thesis is that ethnic partition fails to prevent war, and in fact makes the outbreak of violence all the more likely. Conversely, she does not argue that communal conflict necessarily leads to partition--Owen noted that partition in India had been discussed as far back as at least 1940, and had been largely agreed to by the leading Muslim and Hindu parties, respectively. This is also true, and Kumar goes into more detail on this history in the first chapter.

The colonialist heritage of ethnic partition is crucial to understanding Kumar's argument, and I hope I at least managed to convey that much. I must admit I have done her views, and the first chapter of her book as well as the previously considered paper, a disservice so far. I will try to redeem myself in the next post, which I will try to write before another nine-day gap has passed.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Divide and Fall? Bosnia in The Annals of Partition" by Radha Kumar--Preface

Earlier this month, I approvingly considered Radha Kumar's anti-ethnic partition arguments when I reviewed her paper "Settling Partition Hostilities". I would like to continue my examination of ethnic partition as it relates to Bosnia. The logical next step is through an extended examination of his book Divide and Fall? Bosnia in the Annals of Partition. A note of apology--while this is not a long book, I am currently pretty busy in my personal and professional life; do not be surprised if there are delays of several days between each post. I will try not to drag this out too long.


Kumar puts her cards on the table in the very first sentence:

"This book is intended to counter the recently revived idea that partition can be a solution to ethnic conflict."

Kumar notes that partition was originally a colonial formula, and that after WWII two distinct forms of partition emerged:

"...ethnic partition, which was accepted as a compromise formula for decolonization, and ideological partition, which was primarily a means of distinguishing Cold War spheres of influence."

Kumar goes on to note that the reemergence of ethnic partition is oddly anachronistic, since the end of Cold War has delegitimized ideological partition (the continued division of Korea aside). She also notes that the "structures of ethnonational negotiation" were developed under colonialism; when "divide and rule" switched to "divide and quit." She goes on to point out that in Bosnia, the "divide and rulers" were not the same parties as the "divide and quitters." Milosevic, Karadzic, and Tudjman wanted to divide and rule; the West and the "international community" wanted to divide and quit.

Kumar closes by claiming that her book will demonstrate that the reversion to ethnic partition as an acceptable strategy will not last, and will ultimately be deemed a failure. It will be very interesting to see how she develops this argument over the following 168 pages.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Geistweg Genocide--a blog worthy of your attention

Whenever someone new posts a comment in my blog, I check to see if he/she/they have a blog or website themself. Yesterday I received a comment from the author of the Geistweg Genocide blog, and was pleased to discover the work of a blogger who is committed to educating and advocating on the issue of genocide. A bonus--Tim, the blogger in question, is a librarian just like me!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Open letter to the presidents of the ICJ, the ICTY, and the Republic of Serbia

An important call for full disclosure in the interests of jutice, signed by 54 academics and intellectuals. Read the full text here at Daniel's Srebrenica Genocide Blog.

"Genocide in Bosnia" by Norman Cigar--the book Diana Johnstone has never heard of.

I presume that most readers of this blog are already familiar with the excellent Genocide in Bosnia by Norman Cigar, a seminal work on the Bosnian war. Even if you haven't read it (an error I encourage you to rectify!), it is highly likely you have heard of it and are familiar with its contents.

So this is not a preface to a book review*; rather, having recently taken the time to read the book from start to finish, I was struck not only by how clearly and forcefully Cigar made his case, but also by the fact that in my readings of Balkan revisionist literature I have, to my recollection, not once come across a citation of or reference to this rather well-known and widely-cited work.

This is rather remarkable, since this book is widely acknowledged to be the first substative work in the Western world on the subject; much of the western 'case' against the Serbian political establishment was at the very least informed by--if not based on--Cigar's analysis.

And yet Diana Johnstone, for example, seemed blissfully unaware of this book while writing Fools' Crusade, a book in which she found ample space to devote to attacking David Rieff's Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (and Rieff himself, naturally), as well as other works of journalism and advocacy. Ed Vulliamy, author of Seasons in Hell, still draws the ire of Balkan revisionists angry about the Living Marxism/ITN lawsuit. Yet, Johnstone, Parenti, and their fellow-travelors cannot seem to find time to deal with this rather large elephant in their cramped little room.

Telling, I'd say.

*And thank goodness, since I'm about to begin a review of Radha Kumar's Divide and Fall, with Philip Cohen's Serbia's Secret War waiting in the wings!

Monday, April 07, 2008

"Pro-Western Versus Anti-Western": Marko Attila Hoare articulates what I've been thinking

This recent post from Dr. Marko Attila Hoare's excellent Greater Surbiton blog comes closer than I have yet managed to articulating the ideological shift I myself experienced in the wake of the Balkan wars.

I very rarely give personal information about myself in this blog, partly because my life isn't very interesting and partly because I bring no particular experience or expertise to the subject. In fact, I like to think that if my blog has made any positive contribution at all to the continuing debate over the Balkan wars, it has been as a refutation of the Balkan revisionist/Serb nationalist apologist claims that the reality of the Yugoslav wars was complex and inscrutable to Western outsiders. If a layperson such as myself could so easily--and thoroughly--expose the flawed reasoning and faulty logic of books like "Fools' Crusade" or "To Kill A Nation," what does that say about the intellectual honesty and moral integrity of Diana Johnstone and Michael Parenti?

So suffice it to say that I, too, come from a left-wing background. During the runup to the First Gulf War, I protested the US military buildup in Kuwait and the planned invasion Iraq because opposing US military intervention was what good leftists did.

Then Bosnia happened, and without thinking too much about it--at first--I found myself arguing with friends and acquaintances that the US, or NATO, or the UN, or someone--HAD to use vigorous military force to put an end to what was clearly an act of fascist aggression. And more and more, I realized my good liberal/leftist friends weren't hearing a word I said. Whether they were hardline anti-imperialism types dismissing outright the notion that the United States could possibly hold the moral high ground when discussing a small countries from the Socialist world; or Religious Leftist/pacifist types who were simply opposed to "adding to the violence," I heard some of my own rhetoric coming back to me. I realized that, for too many of us, we had adopted the forms of anti-interventionist rhetoric while ignoring the content of that rhetoric, or--more troubling--failing to examine the context of that rhetoric.

I doubt that I am the only person in our circle of Bosnian sympathizers who experienced such an ideological gut-check. I am still processing the lessons I learned from Bosnia; my political and ideological journey is nowhere near over. In the meantime, Dr. Hoare's excellent post is not a bad place from which to begin staking out the ground we stand on.

Friday, April 04, 2008

"Settling Partition Hostilities: Lessons Learned, Options Ahead" by Radha Kumar [2]

The first section of Kumar's paper (after the introduction) is entitled "PARTITION AS SOLUTION". Kumar believes this is a fallacy, and she concisely makes a point-by-point argument why this is so.

The first reason, frankly, should be all anyone needs to know:

"First, far from solving ethnic conflict, partition aims have been a motivating element in the descent to war and have stimulated strife more often than ending it. Negotiations towards partition parallel, and usually foreshadow, war."

Owen posted a comment on my previous post asking me to clarify Kumar's chronology for the Indian partition--in this section she says

"The partition of India was proposed in 1940 but pushed through only in 1947, accompanied by a genocidal war in which between 500,000 and a million people died and over 15 million were displaced."

The other four case studies had equally troubled and violent experiences.

The second point:

"...because demography is crucial in defining partitions, they rarely satisfy aspirations for self-determination."

is related to the third:

"...the corresponding point--that population transfers could avoid war and forced migration--begs three points: population transfers will still require force and carry the threat of conflict; they require international intervention...and they are subject to questions of scale."

While hard-nosed practitioners of realpolitik would no doubt be able to dismiss the first objection without losing much sleep, Kumar's second and third points question the practical wisdom of ethnic partition--it neither creates the desired stability nor can it be accomplished without great cost and commitment by the very "international community" which presumably wishes to wash its hands of the issue in the first place.

Such practical concerns--particularly the desire of outsiders to extricate themselves from seemingly intractable conflicts--can only be magnified when considering the fourth point:

"...partitioned lands tend to remain in long-term flux, with both collective and individual security sensitive to even minor irritants..."

and the fifth:

"...a further cause of instability is that ethnic partitions tend to usher in relatively undemocratic states or undemocratic enclaves within democracies."

As if these complicating factors weren't enough, Kumar goes on to point six, in which he concludes that in a globalized, post-Cold War world, ethnic partition no longer remains a viable exit strategy. And in the seventh point, she concludes that modern communications technology means that the same thing is true for containment.

It's a small world, and we cannot box off troubled areas or neatly segregate populations in unstable regions and be done with them.

In the next section: "POST-CONFLICT STABILIZATION AND RECONSTRUCTION"--Kumar notes that any attempt to "move on" without resolving partition-related issues is almost doomed to failure. Factional and party rivalries will impede any effort to advance a diplomatic or legal process. What is more, developing trade and economic ties--a seductive free-trader approach--is no panacea, either. It is nearly impossible to force the development of trade and investment across a partitioned border.

One problem--familiar to anyone who follows events in the Balkans--is that partition tends to weaken political parties and civil institutions, to the benefit of criminal and paramilitary elements.


Kumar's paper goes on to consider aspects of peace negotiations, and concludes with a consideration of some of the possible benefits of considering these case studies. In the case of Bosnia, what is most germane is that Kumar recognizes--and states unequivocally--that ethnic partition fails as a workable, just, or lasting solution to ethnic conflict.

With this important premise stated, I will begin my review of her book on Bosnia shortly.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"Settling Partition Hostilities: Lessons Learned, Options Ahead" by Radha Kumar [1]

I've been perusing a collection of essays entitled The Fate of the Nation State, edited by Michael Seymour. The essay referenced in the title to this post is especially relevant to the Bosnian situation.

Kumar has written an entire book on the issue of Bosnian partition, Divide and Fall?: Bosnia in the Annals of Partition, which I intend to begin reviewing in a few days. As preparation for that project, I thought it would be appropriate to consider this paper. As opposed to the book, which focuses on Bosnia, this paper is a comparative study of several different examples of ethnic partition. Kumar is attempting to study the phenomena of ethnic partition in and of itself.

She first defines her terms, stating (convincingly, in my opinion) that the secession of an administrative unit from a country is not an example of partition. Partition creates new borders; furthermore, when new borders are drawn to create a "mononational" unit out of a multinational unit, or in order to demarcate between different ethnic, national, or religious groups, then we can speak of ethnic partition.

It is of critical importance to note whether the area seceding is largely mono-ethnic or not; the potential for violence is low if it is, but if a new state is carved out of a multi-ethnic area the potential for violence is very high. Any effort to create a monoethnic state in a multiethnic area inevitably involves forced displacement.

The fact is that the ideal situation rare; partition almost always entails violence and instability, which often linger long after the bloody work of drawing new borders in demographic realities has been finished. Putting aside the high cost in human suffering that partitioning requires, why do the resulting states and societies find themselves stuck in cycles of instability and violence? Kumar's paper explores these questions:

"One aim of this essay is to draw up a checklist of lessons from older partitions for present-day policy options in ethnic conflicts; the other is to see what light the list sheds on current partition-related peace processes."

Kumar notes that until recently, there had been no generalized debate on the subject of partition itself; nearly all the existing literature had been on a case-by-case basis, without considering the underlying issue in a broader context. The Dayton Agreement ending the Bosnian War changed that, and now the subject is receiving long overdue attention.

Unfortunately, this attention seems to be founded on some dubious premises. Kumar notes that

"Partition advocates adopt British colonial arguments for partition rather than Woodrow Wilson's formulae for self-determination. The colonial stance advocated the creation of ethnic states by territorial division, as a lesser evil to potential genocide. In practice, however, partition became an exit strategy ("divide and quit" in the words of the British historian and civil servant Penderel Moon) rather than a response to the needs and desires of the affected people."

Noting that the genocide in India and Pakistan didn't break out until after partition was agreed on, Kumar dryly notes that this philosophy did serve as a useful exit strategy for a British government keen to wash its hands of its empire quickly. She then adds that in a post-Cold War era, partition might not even be able to serve this limited (and morally dubious) function.

The five cases she considers in this paper are the partition conflicts in Ireland, the Indian subcontinent, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Cyprus and Yugoslavia. I will continue my review of his paper in my next post.