Judging Miloševic’s Serbia
Judging Milošević’s Serbia
The death of Slobodan Milošević has provided an opportunity for a host of commentators and obituarists to review the events of the last decade and a half of the twentieth century - the break-up of SFRY, the wars of the Yugoslav succession, the highs and lows of Western policy in the region, and so on - in which he played a central and malign role. Much has been written about his supposed freedom from nationalist conviction, his tactical skill but strategic ineptitude, his combination of charm with indifference to human suffering, the devastation he wreaked on Croatia, Bosnia and Kosova and in a different way on the Serbian population too. But there has been little analysis of the specific political context - and indeed highly nationalist culture - that produced him, the forces that enabled him to behave in the way he did, or the nature of the system he created and bestowed upon his own country. The welcome impulse to reflect, on this occasion, upon the weaknesses of Western policy towards this part of Europe has too often limited itself, moreover, to a self-satisfied conclusion that the lessons of failure in Croatia and Bosnia had been learnt by the time of the Kosova crisis in 1999. But this is far too simple a view. The US administration and its EU counterparts show today the same determination to accept as given Milošević’s creation of Republika Srpska as they did at Dayton in 1995, on the morrow of the Srebrenica massacre. The EU foreign-affairs commissioner Javier Solana has recently displayed the same arrogant disdain - and heedless disregard for the consequences - in relation to the democratic aspirations of Montenegro as his Iberian predecessor José Cutileiro did fifteen years ago in relation to the democratic rights of an undivided Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Appeasement of the most retrograde forms of Serbian nationalism, dangerous for the region and a truly poisoned gift for Serbia itself, remains an unmistakable feature of Western policy in regard to both Kosova and Montenegro. As a consequence, those who have stood throughout for the proclaimed values of Western democracy are constantly sidelined in favour of people who have consistently supported Milošević’s genocidal aims. Western policy in regard to Bosnia, Kosova and Montenegro might indeed seem designed to perpetuate instability, rather than to create conditions for overcoming it in this crucial part of Europe. It is to be hoped, nevertheless, that success for Bosnia-Herzegovina’s lawsuit against the Serbian state before the International Court of Justice may provide a far more fitting judgement on those that initiate unprovoked genocidal wars than international politicians have done.