At a time when the U.S. power and authority are increasingly challenged around the world, the incoming team sees the Balkans as the last geopolitically significant area where they can assert their “credibility” by postulating a maximalist set of objectives as the only outcome acceptable to the United States, and duly insisting on their fulfillment. We have already seen this pattern with Kosovo, and it is to be expected that we’ll see its replay in Bosnia under the new team.
There have been strong pressures from the West, ever since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords 13 years ago, to reduce the authority of the Republika Srpska (RS), to question its legitimacy and to label it a “genocidal creation” unworthy of existence. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik was able to weather the latest storm—caused by the pro-Muslim policies of the “high representative” (i.e., unelected governor, jointly appointed by Brussels and Washington), Miroslav Lajcak, and his crew of international bureaucrats—but the political momentum in Washington has taken an alarming turn for the Serbs in general and for the Republika Srpska in particular.
Now that intervention is “an American tradition,” Hillary Clinton is getting ready to practice some more in the Balkans—as if her husband’s contribution in the 1990s had not brought sufficient misery to the former Yugoslavia. She wants to place the entire region, and specifically Bosnia’s “unification” based on a radical revision of the Dayton framework, near the top of her list of foreign priorities.
Barack Obama’s foreign policy and national security team includes a number of influential figures, and notably Vice-President-elect Joseph Biden, who are committed to the establishment of a centralized, unitary Bosnian state dominated by Muslims. Mrs. Clinton’s commitment to that goal is of an altogether different order of magnitude, however.
Her “framework for peace” in the Balkans is the same as her husband’s and that so doggedly applied by her friend and role-model, Dr. Albight: unqualified U.S. support for Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo against their Christian neighbors. The theme is so important to her that during the primaries Mrs. Clinton listed a number of fact-free, Balkan-related foreign-policy “accomplishments” as proof of her bravery and experience. She repeatedly invoked some embelished memories of a “dangerous” trip to Bosnia in 1996, when she was supposedly threatened by Serb sniper fire at Tuzla airport – although the Bosnian war had ended six months earlier, and video footage shows smiling schoolchildren greeting her in Tuzla.
Mrs. Clinton’s exact reasons for wanting to abolish the Bosnian-Serb Republic and help Iran’s best friends in Sarajevo are deeply personal, and even psycho-pathological. They are therefore not amenable to rational discourse and costs-and-benefits analysis. Her motives are less important, however, than the fact that this is indeed what she wants.
A hint of what is to come was provided recently by the Clinton family confidante Richard Holbrooke, slated for a key role at State under her management. Together with the former Bosnian “high representative” Paddy Ashdown, he authored an alarming article, “The Bosnian Powder Keg,” published in several influential daily newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic on October 22, 2008. Anticipating Obama’s victory, Holbrooke and Ashdown presented a plea that “the new US administration gets engaged” and renews its pledge “to Bosnia’s survival as a state, by maintaining an effective troop presence and … finding ways to untie Bosnia’s constitutional knot.” This last phrase is a clear code word for the liquidation of the entities.
Holbrooke was the chief U.S. negotiator at Dayton in 1995. He boasted a year later: “We are re-engaged in the world, and Bosnia was the test.” This “we” meant the United States, not “the West” or “the international community.”
The interventionists prevailed then, their narrative dominates the public commentary now, and they are coming back to the White House tomorrow.
Heralding the new spirit, the New York Times pompously headlined “Fears of new ethnic conflict in Bosnia” on December 13. Presented as an analytical feature, the article was in fact a pro-Muslim plea for more American intervention to “unify” Bosnia-Herzegovina as the only way to avoid another war. The article further claimed that “leaders across Bosnia expressed hope that Mr. Obama would be more engaged in Bosnia than President Bush has been,” whereas in reality such hopes are entertained only in the Muslim camp. Its clear purpose was to start preparing the political and ideological ground for the new Administration’s policy of “untying Bosnia’s constitutional knot.”
Hillary Clinton’s commitment to cutting that knot should not be doubted. Like a dog returning to lap up its own vomit, she just cannot let go of Bosnia. The U.S. manstream media is doing its bit, maintaining an almost daily feed of largely fact-free stories on how,
once again, Bosnia is in deep crisis, with tensions running high … There is even talk of a new war. Might this be a sudden test for the new Obama Administration?
Like in a three-act tragedy, if there are headlines heralding a non-existant crisis in Bosnia in Act I, there will be a crisis in Act II — Mrs. Clinton and her team will make sure of that — and there may be U.S. bombs hitting Serb markets and hospitals, yet again, in Act III.
It is fortunate that there is little appetite in Western Europe (Britain always exempted, of course) for rekindling the Balkan powder keg with a “sudden test.” Several attempts by Washington to impose risky or even reckless strategies on its European partners have failed lately thanks to Germany’s, France’s and Italy’s prudence – most notably an attempt by the Bush administration to put Ukraine and Georgia on fast track to NATO membership by offering them Membership Action Plans (MAPs).
Trusting Europeans to be reasonable is not enough. A long-overdue proactive PR and diplomatic strategy by the RS authorities is urgently needed. Prime Minister Dodik should act to improve the flow of information to the Srpska government that warrant a response, especially the challenges to its status and legitimacy.
Such challenges are not limited to the explicit pleas for Bosnia’s “integration.” It is, indeed, absurd for the United States to wage a “war on terror,” and at the same time to return to Bosnia three Algerian-born militants released from Guantanamo who are now ”Bosnian citizens” thanks to their military service with the Mujahideen units of Izetbegovic’s army in the early 1990s. Such people were supposed to be permanently removed from Bosnia, in accordance with the Dayton agreement and with the support of the U.S., over a decade ago.
In addition, the government in Banja Luka needs to take an active interest in the ongoing as well as forthcoming cases at The Hague Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and specifically to help with their funding. It is clear that unfavorable outcome of those cases – especially the ones including charges of “genocide” – would be eagerly used by the enemies of the RS to renew their calls for abrogating Dayton.
Every time people like Ashdown and Hollbrooke regurgitate the old mantra about disruptive Serbs and virtuous “Bosniaks,” it is necessary to reassert that the RS is an essential factor of stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Western Balkan region, and that those calling for its liquidation (under whatever name) are effectively aiding and abetting the forces of global jihad.
All along, an old question remains unanswered by the unitary Bosnia partisans: If Yugoslavia was untenable and eventually collapsed under the weight of the supposedly insurmountable differences among its constituent nations, how can Bosnia – the Yugoslav microcosm par excellence – develop and sustain the dynamics of a viable polity?
Mrs. Clinton may go on supposing ex hypothesi that if there is a “Bosnia” there must be a nation of “Bosnians,” and she may even try to impose her vision on that long-suffering corner of the Balkans. That she will fail goes without saying. The only question concerns the price of that failure, and the identity of those footing the bill.