bosnia report
No. 15 April - June 1996
Misrepresenting the War
by Vaclav Havel

The question remains whether the Dayton Accords have legalized an ethnic partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The agreement is indeed extensive and thorough, but also ambiguous, because it allows both possibilities: that Bosnia will break up into two states and also that in the end it will remain a single state. I support Bosnia-Herzegovina as a single state in which its three people would live together as they did before, in that characteristic and interesting fashion.

At first glance it would appear that this is a war in which different peoples are fighting each other, hating each other because of long-standing conflicts derived from history, and that their aim in this war is to grab for themselves as much territory as possible. This has been the view of the international community and of its negotiators. The central idea behind their attempts at a peaceful solution is that of 'warring parties'. In this way the international community has de facto accepted an ethnic interpretation of the conflict and consequently put all its participants into the same basket. A false impression was created that these 'quarrelsome peoples' can be reconciled only be an enlightened compromise, that is, with a new map which would allocate to each of them carefully drafted sovereign territory and in this way remove the reason for war.

The failure o the negotiators was not caused by their inability to draw maps or craft compromises. Nor was it due to the fact that any attempt to create ethnically pure maps is bound to fail in a country in which the ethnic border runs through every town, every village, every house, every family. The cause of the failure lies in the fact that the negotiators, by adopting the notion of 'warring factions', ie. the ethnic interpretation of the conflict, and by trying to solve it on that basis, have inadvertently adopted the evil ideoÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ̼logy of those who fanned this war and in this way have surrendered the civilizational values which it was their duty to defend.


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