Monday, May 31, 2010

New Resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the U.S. Congress

From the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BAACBH) expresses its support for the U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1423 (H.Res. 1423) on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). On May 28, 2010, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (NJ-4) introduced the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Russ Carnahan (MO-3), Rep. Frank R. Wolf (VA-10), and Rep. Brian Baird (WA-3). With this resolution, Congress is observing the 15th anniversary of the genocide committed in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica in July 1995, and expressing support for the designation of "Srebrenica Remembrance Day" in the United States.

The H.Res. 1423, among other things, states the following:

- solemnly observes the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide;

- supports the designation of ''Srebrenica Remembrance Day'' in the United States;

- commends the official bodies that have recognized the Srebrenica genocide, including the European Parliament, which declared a Srebrenica Remembrance Day in the European Union;

- honors the memory of the thousands of innocent people who died at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995, along with all individuals who were killed during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995;

- extends its condolences to the families and friends of those who died at Srebrenica in July 1995, and during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995;

- reaffirms its support for the independence and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, peace and stability in southeastern Europe as a whole, and the right of all people living in the region, regardless of national, racial, ethnic or religious background, to return to their homes and enjoy the benefits of democratic institutions, the rule of law, and economic opportunity, as well as to know the fate of missing relatives and friends.

BAACBH calls on all friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina to support this resolution and to immediately ask their congressional representatives to become co-sponsors of H.Res. 1423.


Ed. note: You can find contact information for your House Representative here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sign that Serbia is Moving in the Right Direction

Serbia plans to open mass grave

It can only be a good thing for Serbia (and the Balkans as a whole) for this very public admission of war crimes guilt on behalf of the Milosevic regime. Serbian society will benefit by clearing the air with a full accounting.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Does the Country Claim the Person, or Does the Person Claim the Country

A recent article from the Southeast Europe Times raises some interesting issues:

Honouring Mesa Selimovic

While countries argue over who gets to claim Selimovic, the man himself seemed to understand that national identification was a choice, not something decided by blood. Whether he was Bosnian or Serbian, he realized he was free from the constraints of tribal identity. His "blood" was not his destiny.

He also seemed to understand that identity is a complex thing; something facsists and extreme nationalists (as well as relgious fundamentalists and all other zealots) are incapable of grasping. He was able to embrace a Serbian identity without renouncing his former Bosnian identity.

The idea that the individual is free to reinvent him or herself, and to adopt and claim new identities, is fundamental to genuine freedom. Too many writers in the Balkans preached that ethnicity is destiny; how refreshing to celebrate one who knew better.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Unrealistic Abstractions of Realpolitik in the Balkans

Foreign policy analyst Nikolas K. Gvosdev published a troubling article at the website for Foreign Affairs magazine:

Unfreezing Kosovo: Reconsidering Boundaries in the Balkans

Briefly, Gvosdev argues that regional stability in the Balkans and security and economic development in Kosovo are impossible as long as Serbia--the "linchpin state of the western Balkans" as he tellingly describes it--is unreconciled to the independence of Kosovo under its current borders. He insists that the "issue" of independence (which apparently will not be resolved until Serbia gets its way) must be "delinked" from the "issue" of boundaries. In short, the West must agree to an ethnic partition of Kosovo.

The article isn't, on the surface anyway, the work of an overt supporter of ethnic partition. The tone is reasonable, and one might even take heart from Gvosdev's assertion that one of the negative consequences of the current situation is that nationalists are able to attack pro-reform and pro-Western parties by championing the “fate of Kosovo.” This seems to indicate that Gvosdev is no friend to the nationalist project, and wishes to see liberal, secular political forces win out in Serbia proper.

The problem with his analysis isn't simply in what he says, however (more on what he does say later). Namely, the context to the current state of affairs; i.e., the recent history of Kosovo within the old Yugoslavia and then under control of Milosevic's Serbia. This is not to say that the incidents he does address--the riots and other acts of violence aimed at Kosovo's Serbian minority--are not issues of genuine concern. Nor do I wish to suggest that relations between Pristina and Belgrade should be forever frozen in a pattern of atrocity one-upmanship. Milosevic is gone, Serb forces are no longer threatening the ethnic Albanian majority, and Kosovo and Serbia are still and will forever remain neighbors, mutually interested in securing peace and stability in the region.

However, his analysis is curiously myopic--Gvosdev seems completely unaware that events in Kosovo resonate throughout the former Yugoslavia. There is not a word about Bosnia in this article. Anyone familiar with the history of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s is well aware of the connection between events in Kosovo and Bosnia. To suggest that ethnic partition of Kosovo in order to placate nationalists in Belgrade is the path the greater security and peace in the region is to betray a shocking ignorance or indifference to the region's recent history.

Gvosdev gives some examples of agreements which he believes provide possible frameworks on how to proceed. He is very concerned not only with the Serbian-majority north, which he points out is not under Pristina's control (for reasons he does not dwell on), but also on some of the ethnic Serb enclaves in the south, and the many Serb Orthodox religious sites which are currently under the protection of NATO (and therefore also not under Pristinas' control--see how neatly this works?). Therefore, he suggests that a possible "solution" would be to pattern an autonomy agreement based on the Lateran Treaty, the agreement by which fascist Italy established the Vatican City as a sovereign nation capable of shielding serial child rapists from prosecution in their home countries. Gvosdev blandly portrays this pact, by which Mussolini courted favor with a right-wing, authoritarian church previously not inclined to look favorably on his radical regime, as merely a resolution of territorial beef between the church and the Italian state.

He also points out that both Poland and Armenia were promised independence before border had been settled--given that those two nations did not have long-standing fixed borders because of their history (any historical atlas of Europe will demonstrate this--go from map to map throughout history, and you'll note that Poland, sadly, never had the same borders for very long, due to aggression by its neighbors), Gvosdev might have a hard time ignoring that Kosovo has a long history as a well-defined geopolitical entity, but using a common Balkan revisionist tactic he claims that the borders were nothing but arbitrary administrative boundaries established by the Tito regime.

And this is the only time Gvosdev even acknowledges that there are other "disputed" boundaries in the Balkans. He dismisses these concerns by pointing out that Pristina doesn't control these areas, anyway--which means that hopefully nobody will ask him for his advice regarding the Russian occupation of significant areas of Georgia, for example. Gvosdev may not realize it, but he is arguing in favor of might making right--get enough militia on the ground able to bully the government into backing down, and viola--instant redrawing of the map.

Finally, what is so depressing about this article is that Gvosdev doesn't even realize that he is suggesting that the best way to defuse nationalist agitation is to give nationalists exactly what they want, or at least to make compromises on their terms. This is ethnic partition, no matter how one dresses it up, and it also is a validation of the premise that Serb nationalist demands have a legitimacy which cannot be fundamentally challenged, only modified. Ultimately, this sort of solution can only fuel more instability in Bosnia (and possibly the Sandzak as well), while his belief that this would actually increase the leverage that liberal and pro-democratic forces in Serbia wield seems naive to me.

Ironically, there was another story recently which suggests that Gvosdev has ignored a much less craven method of ensuring stability in the region--insisting on an acceptance of curent boundaries and a willingness to work within current national structures. Recently, the government in Turkey was able to get the governments of Serbia and Bosnia to sit down and pledge to work together. Predicatably, hardliners in the Republika Srpska were not pleased to see Belgrade dealing directly with Sarajevo without going through Banja Luka first. I suspect Gvosdev might be disappointed as well:

Serbia, BiH optimistic about new chapter in ties