OPINIONSrnThe Fixerrnby Srdja Trifkovicrn”A politician … one that would circumvent God.”rn—^William ShakespearernBalkan Odysseyrnhy David OwenrnNew York: Harcourt Brace and Company;rn389 pp., $25.00rnThe title gives the game away: DavidrnOwen, a failed British politicianrnwho was for three crucial years (1992-95)rnEurope’s chief negotiator on the issue ofrnthe former Yugoslavia, seeks to cast himselfrnas a Homerian hero. After 400 pagesrnof tedious and at times clumsy prose,rnincluding every little detail of his busyrntravel schedule, Owen’s attempt appearsrnfirst infuriating, but finally pathetic.rnFar from being heroic, or even significant,rnOwen’s Balkan assignment wasrnpurely technical: to help impose an inherentlyrnunjust settlement, in the makingrnof which he had not played any part.rnThe pillar of this settlement was “Europe’s”rnrecognition of administrativernboundaries between Yugoslavia’s formerrnconstituent republics as fully fledged internationalrnfrontiers. The chief architectsrnof the blueprint were the GermanrnChancellor, Helmut Kohl, and his thenrnforeign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher.rnFor geostrategic reasons of their own,rnthey successfully bullied the other 11rnmembers of the European Communityrninto the premature recognition of thernsecessionist republics at Maastricht inrnDecember 1991.rnOwen’s predecessor as Europe’s chiefrnYugoslav mediator was Lord Garrington,rnan old Tory cynic who soon realized thatrnthere was precious little to choose fromrnamong the three warring factions in thernBalkans. Crown Prince Alexander and 1rnpaid several visits to this paternalisticrnSrdja Trifkovic is executive director of thernLord Byron Foundation for BalkanrnStudies. He writes from London.rngrandee at his splendid office at Sotheby’s,rnin St. James, to listen to his off-thecuffrnremarks on “that awful Balkanrnmess.” His views on Messrs. Milosevic,rnTudjman, and Izetbegovic were scathingrnin the extreme, but Peter Garringtonrnequally despised the strident tone ofrnpseudomoralists on both sides of the Atlantic,rnwho sought to construe “Bosnia”rnas a test of Western resolve in the epicrnstruggle of the good (“multiethnic,”rnblue-eyed Muslims) versus the badrn(mass-raping, sliwowitz-swilling, ethniccleansingrnSerbs). To him, the advocatesrnof unitary Bosnia ruled from Sarajevornwere living “in a realm of fantasy.”rnBy August 1992, shortly beforernDavid Owen took over from him, Garringtonrnconcluded that the optimalrnpost-Yugoslav solution would involve arnSerb-Groat land and population swap,rnwith “a decent piece of real estate” left tornthe Muslims in the middle. He understoodrnthat no viable “Bosnia” could berncreated on Yugoslavia’s ruins. But he alsornrealized that there were people inrnBonn and Washington with very differentrnideas, and he was deeply uneasyrnabout the fundamentals of Europe’srnYugoslavia policy. “The Germans gotrnaway with it because the other 11 werernsupine,” was his verdict on Genscher’srnfist-banging at Maastricht.rnGarrington’s increasing reluctance tornsubscribe to the Manichaean view of thernconflict, which cast the Serbs in the rolernof perpetual villains, finally made hisrncontinued role untenable. And so, inrnmid-summer of 1992, the search was onrnfor a successor. It was agreed that thisrnwould be another Briton, but someonernwhose views were more to the Germans’rnliking. Thus, yet another Anglo-Frenchrnretreat was disguised as a compromise inrnthe course of the Yugoslav war.rnThis is the backdrop prudently omittedrnfrom David Owen’s account. WhatrnOwen also chose not to tell his readers isrnthat the job of Co-Chairman of the InternationalrnConference on the FormerrnYugoslavia was given to him in Augustrn1992 by the ruling Conservatives as arnconsolation prize, when the Governorshiprnof Hong Kong (previously promisedrnto Owen in return for supporting the Toriesrnagainst his former comrades in thernLabour Party and among the Lib-Dems)rnwas preempted by Chris Patten. Althoughrnin British domestic politics thernthen 53-year-old Owen was distinctlyrnpasse—a fading “nearlyman”—he wasrnowed a political debt by Prime MinisterrnJohn Major. Such debts are defaulted onrnif the debtor can get away with it, butrnOwen retained his considerable capacityrnfor mischief. Garrington’s departurernprovided an opportunity for easy repayment.rnTo earn his spurs, Owen had first tornprove his solid anti-Serb credentials.rnAnd so his memoir opens at the end ofrnJuly 1992 when, infuriated by a story inrnthe Guardian about a Serb-run “concentrationrncamp” in northern Bosnia, hernwrote to Major demanding that thernSerbs be bombed. The fact that thernatrocity story proved to be bogus—rnanother detail known to Owen but omit-rnOCTOBER 1996/23rnrnrn