Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Why Yugoslavia Still Matters" by John Feffer

Big thanks to Roger Lippman for bringing this article from the Foreign Policy in Focus website.

Also, see the debate between Feffer and Bosnian revision Edward Hermann here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Flawed Logic and Amoral Rationale for Partition

A few days ago, I was randomly searching for recent blog posts and articles on Bosnia, when I came across this opinion piece by Ivan Eland, at the "LA Progressive" website.

Entitled "Warning From Bosnia For Iraq", the short article presents a rather weak argument in favor of partitioning Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines, and proposes Bosnia as a case study of the dangers of failing to do so. Interestingly, it is not the wars of the 1990s which Mr. Eland points to so much as the current constitutional crisis and the ongoing political battle between entity leaders. Dodik is not mentioned by name, which is not surprising because it is painfully clear that for all his credentials, Eland does not do nuance, nor is he a detail-oriented man.

It should be noted that Eland has a new book Partitioning For Peace coming out; this is an argument he has given a great deal of time and effort to. I have not yet read the book, although as it turns out I have glanced at at least one of his other works, Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, a work of Libertarian historical revisionism which might indeed be quite provocative--I haven't read it so I cannot make any judgment. However, some reviews and excerpts I have read suggest the general tone; Eland apparently argues that Lincoln deserves to be remembered as a terrible President because he used armed force to put down the Confederate rebellion, expanded the power of the Federal Government, and of course his infamous (if often overblown) suspension of habeas corpus. According to the references I have read, Eland argues that the proper course of action would have been to allow the Confederacy to leave, and then to have liberated slaves as they escaped across the border.

The flaws in this argument are obvious--the sovereignty of a nation and its government become meaningless if a regional political elite are allowed to simply dissolve the political bonds that bind them, for example. More to the point, the idea that simply freeing slaves as they escaped would have been the moral and reasonable thing to do seems to imply that denying habeas corpus to a handful of white Americans was a far greater crime than fighting what ended up being a war of liberation to free millions of black Americans from chattel slavery. When one chooses to argue that history should have happened differently, one must acknowledge what actually happened.

What is most striking about this book is the timing--it is just now coming out. Whatever one thinks of the merits of Eland's arguments, they might have carried more weight a few years ago when sectarian violence was a genuine threat to Iraqi stability. Yet now, the new state seems to be establishing some genuine legitimacy and the forces of division and segregation seem to be cowed. I cannot but help wonder if Eland is proposing a solution to a problem he sees, or is simply peddling a theory in search of real-world applications.

However, it is unfair of me to make accusations about a book I haven't read. There are many positive reviews of all his books listed on the "Independent Institute" website, and some of them are from names I respect.

On the other hand, Eland has published more than one article on the formerly pro-Serbian nationalist-turned-anti-Western site "AntiWar.org" (I prefer not to link to them unless to a specific article under consideration) including this one. Freelance writers are free to publish wherever they want, and should not necessarily be linked to the editorial preferences of the venue they choose. Eland has published in both left-leaning and right-leaning websites and periodicals, so it would be unfair to assume he shares the ideological agenda of that disingenuous site. Still, the association deserves notice.

The reason I am casting such a cynical and doubting eye on Eland's associations and his agenda is not only because I so strongly disagree with the theme of this short article, but because of this passage:

"Critics have alleged that the confederation has reinforced ethno-sectarian divides rather than patching them up. Some are trying to change the Bosnian Constitution to strengthen the central government. The critics dream of a multi-ethnic nirvana where all ethno-sectarian identities are sublimated and everyone sings cum by yah."

As we have seen from the writings of Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti, and other Bosnian revisionists, one red flag of their rhetorical dishonesty is the jarring reliance on strawman arguments. The language of this cavalier--and completely unsubstantiated (there are precisely zero sources or quotes for any of his assertions)--dismissal of any and all critics of the Dayton constitution is sarcastic and caustic and devoid of nuance or genuine insight.

Furthermore, Eland accepts the monolithic nature of group identities as a given--he asserts that a stronger central state would simply give "them" something more to fight over; it never occurs to him that a dramatic shift in the constitutional order might undermine the primacy of ethnic group identifications which the Dayton constitution and the entities reinforce and support. It is not clear whether this is because Eland is unaware of the recent political history in Bosnia, or whether he has little faith in civil democracy, or whether he simply accepts the "tribal" nature of Bosnians as an unquestionable fact of life.

It is also telling that constitutional reform, for him, simply means making the central government stronger--while this would, and should, certainly happen, the real issue is the cumbersome and centrifugal nature of the entity division of the country.

In short--Eland just might be someone I need to keep an eye on. The aforementioned bit of childish sarcasm might not be the red flag I took it for; a support for secession and a contempt for any and all strong central governments appears to be part and parcel with his general ideology. He might not be any kind of Serb nationalist apologist; merely a doctrinaire Libertarian ideologue who looks upon the world with dispassionate disinterest in the flesh-and-blood realities he seeks to fit into neat, analytical categories.


As an aside, I had submitted a rather lengthy rebuttal to the "LA Progressive" website on his article. Interestingly, the comment was originally approved and published; then, after a day or two, it disappeared. I wrote to them asking why it was removed; I have not yet received an answer. I submitted a second, briefer response. We shall see if they will allow it to stand.


UPDATE: In fairness to the editors of LA Progressive, they have restored my previous comment, as well as published the second one--along with a explanation that they are having technical difficulties. I appreciate their response, and I want to commend them for publicly addressing the issue. I apologize for any implied criticism of their editorial policies.

Friday, April 17, 2009

April: Genocide Prevention Month

I am more than a little ashamed that I have not until now acknowledged Genocide Prevention Month

PLEASE check out the website for a wealth of information and opportunities to take concrete action in the here and now. Just because I was remiss in passing this along does not mean that the cause is unworthy or less than urgent.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Republika Srpska Government Continues War on Bosnian Culture and History

There really is no other way to describe the recent action by the RS government to remove the "Bosnian" prefix from the names of the cities Bosanski Brod and Bosanska Kostajnica.

Thanks to Owen for bringing this issue to my attention; you can read more about this blatant act of ultranationalism here. If you are inclined to regard this is as a meaningless gesture, I would direct your attention to the fact that the law stipulates a monetary fine between 1,500 to 20,000 KM for anyone who uses the old names in official correspondence.

The partition of Bosnia continues, and will continue until the entities are eliminated. The continued existence of the Republika Srpska does little more than provide an institutional base for nationalists, and official sanction to continued segregation.


I would also direct readers to Daniel's always-excellent Srebrenica Genocide Blog. He has a new post up on the latest developments in the lawsuit brought against the Dutch state by the survivors of Srebrenica, and has promised another update as well.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bosnian National Team Solidifies Second Place in World Cup Qualifying

Five days after notching a crucial road win against a soccer team with World Cup pedigree, they pulled off a repeat performance in Sarajevo:
Bosnia Wins Home-and-Home Series Vs. Belgium
This result extended their second-place lead in Group 5 of UEFA group stage World Cup qualifying to four points. Third-place Turkey lost their qualifier on the same day.

However, Bosnia's lead is slim. Turkey's loss was to Group 5 leader--and 2008 Euro Cup champions--Spain; their second and final match against the reigning European champions. Bosnia still has to play Spain once more, albeit for the home leg in Sarajevo.

Fortunately, Bosnia has one each of their games versus Estonia and Armenia yet to play; even better, those are their only road games remaining. With their remaining home legs against Spain and, yes, Turkey, their right to play in the final round of World Cup qualifying lies in their own hands. Bosnia are in the odd position of regarding their final two road games as must-wins, while hoping for the best in their final home legs.

Bosnia's next World Cup qualifier is on the road versus Armenia, on August 5. Stay tuned!