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.

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