Yugoslavia reaps what the West has sown

Rob Schaap rws at comserver.canberra.edu.au
Thu Mar 25 23:11:29 PST 1999

G'day all,

A twenty-minute surf through the PeaceNet pages and some relevant book blurbs offer these insights on the West's role in creating the Yugoslav nightmare.

We may have an episode now that makes NATO's unprecedented unilateral invasion cause for mixed feelings, but if you look at the historical whole a little bit, you get a picture that makes this episode look a lot like a sad chapter in a tragedy authored by Western foreign policy - a policy made up of arrogant naivete at best and murderously opportunistic destruction at worst.

We might ask: what if we hadn't promoted socially destructive austerity programmes in post-communist-bloc Yugoslavia?

Or (bearing in mind that our priority should have been saving lives then too, but for some reason it wasn't back then):

if break-up there must be: what if we'd immediately supported our formal declaration of Bosnian statehood with some substance, like a regulatory military presence at Sarajevo's request (as opposed to the invasion we're now perpetrating in Yugoslavia, for instance)?

Anyway, for what it's worth ...

______________________________________________________________ On the role of Western-imposed economic austerity policies in gradually destroying Yugoslavia, post-Tito; this: ______________________________________________________________

... many of the country's citizens, particularly the younger generation, understood the benefits of remaining within the multinational federation even if those benefits were articulated through stale, communist-era slogans such as "brotherhood and unity" and, my personal favorite, "after Tito, more Tito" (posle Tita, Tito). The non-nationalist federalists who coalesced in the late 1980s around Ante Markovic, Yugoslavia's last federal prime minister, believed that most people would place greater prosperity above all other concerns and that the will of ordinary citizens would determine events. They were overly-optimistic about the ability of the economy to power reforms, and grossly out of touch with the nationalist political forces wrenching Yugoslavia's social fabric.

Despite economic and social advances, Yugoslavia's political capacity had been squandered in the 1970s and in the decade following Tito's death. Under the weight of austerity measures to alleviate the country's foreign debt, Yugoslavia's modest prosperity rapidly eroded. By the mid-1980s its substantial middle class, the key support base for the federalists, was under siege and increasingly insecure. One million people were officially unemployed, with the jobless rate beyond 20 percent everywhere except Slovenia and Croatia. Double-digit inflation would skyrocket by the decade's end, depleting the savings of most of the population and fueling widespread industrial actions.2 Most people were struggling to hold on to what they had, and these fears made them ripe for exploitation by the nationalists.

________________________________________________________________ Concerning the role of the EC in destroying constitutional federation in Yugoslavia; this form journalist Nora Beloff (it comes from her book *Death of a Nation*): ________________________________________________________________

'By 1991, the Yugoslav federal government was struggling for its existence. What made the struggle hopeless was the decision of the EC to prevent the Yugoslav federation from having recourse to its own armed forces in order to preserve the state of Yugoslavia. Under the contemporary belief in the wickedness of the use of armed force, this seemed synonymous with favouring peace. In reality, as this policy was applied in Yugoslavia, it turned out to be the reverse. Had it not been for misguided foreign intrusion, the Yugoslav catastrophe need never have taken place.'

'In April 1992, Bosnia was recognised as an independent state against the wishes of most of its minority Serbs ... the West's recognition, combined with its failure to protect Bosnia's borders, served as the casus belli for Serbian and Croatian attacks on Bosnia rather than the cause of the war itself. '

_________________________________________________________________ Concerning the UN's role in destroying the Yugoslav constitution; this: _________________________________________________________________

Almost fifty years after Tito's map-makers had cobbled together the borders of Tito's "federation", Western governments decided to metamorphose these into frontiers of internationally-recognised states.

On 22 May 1992 a plenary session of the UN General Assembly welcomed by acclaim the new states of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia with Hercegovina within their Titoist administrative boundaries.

_________________________________________________________________ Concerning the US's role in guaranteeing further strife for purposes not directly related to Yugoslav peace; this, on the post-Dayton scenario: _________________________________________________________________

With the United States finally in the driver's seat, the Dayton agreement exploited the warring parties' exhaustion but its only immediate consequence was the establishment of a cease-fire and separation of forces by NATO troops. For most Bosnians this was a welcome development. US negotiators presented the accord as a breakthrough when it was really a clever fait accompli. Like each of the West's previous proposals dating back to the failed Lisbon accord of March 1992, Dayton outlines a three-way ethnic division (with Muslim and Croatian entities federated), enshrines nationalist leaders and their armies (three armies will exist in post-Dayton Bosnia), legitimizes ethnic parastates, and preserves the power structures that precipitated the war. Moreover, the treaty's implementation is wholly dependent on the deployment of a massive Western occupation army.

the timing of the US initiative was odd, coming after the strategic balance had shifted and Bosnian Serb forces were facing a rout by Bosnian and Croatian armies. With Belgrade unlikely to intervene, Bosnian government troops might have recaptured much of the republic had they not been ordered by the United States to halt offensive operations. This suggests the United States intervened to preserve the existing power structures in order to use them as proxies at the negotiating table.

_________________________________________________________________ and on EC/UN/US legitimation of ethnic cleansing; this on the Dayton Agreement: _________________________________________________________________

If the ostensible reason for this segregation is to amelio- rate ethnic friction, then we must assume that "ethnic cleansing" is a strategy that now has the imprimatur of the western negotiators . Moreover, a forcible separation will, in the eyes of each ethnic group, again represent another "historical wrong" against one's own people which would then have to be eradicated in some future ethnic cleansing.

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