bosnia report
New Series No: 53-54 August - December 2006
False friends

Future historians will doubtless judge that by 1989 the break-up of Yugoslavia had become inevitable, even if they continue to debate whether South Slav union was an impossible project from the outset: doomed - from its original conception in nineteenth-century Croatia, from its flawed establishment as a Serbian-dominated kingdom in the wake of World War I, or from its revival in World War II as a Communist-led federation - to be a transitory form of the historical process of political emancipation of states and peoples in this part of Europe. But historians will doubtless also judge that the manner of the break-up was both avoidable and truly tragic. Although history is what has happened, hence unalterable, it is instructive to explore the crucial junctures at which things might have gone otherwise, if only in order to draw lessons for the future. Better still is to identify such turning points at the moment of their occurrence, or even - best of all - in advance. Such judgements, of course, can never be other than tentative: only time will tell. But it seems safe to predict that failure on the part of the ‘international community’ at this already late stage to recognize an independent Kosova despite Belgrade’s blind intransigence, or to enforce real integration of Bosnia’s police forces over the linked obstinacy of Banja Luka, would virtually guarantee a further - disastrous but avoidable - prolongation of the war-prone instability initiated by Slobodan Milošević in 1989. It is hard to see today’s courting of Vojislav Koštunica and Milorad Dodik as offering any more positive outcome than was to result from past wooings of Milošević himself, Radovan Karadžić, Ratko Mladić, or such soon-to-be-indicted temporary ‘cooperative’ interlocutors as Momčilo Krajišnik and Biljana Plavšić.


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