Another War Path?

By Slobodan Drakulic | 1994-11-01 12:00:00

Theodore Herman's proposal to end the conflict in the former Yugoslavia is characterized by spurious argumentation, erroneous conclusions, and callous political solutions. It opens with the assertion that there is no solution to the problem of what action the United Nations should take to halt the fighting, which is patently erroneous. Herman's contention that a present war goes on in a former country is absurd and misleading-perhaps deliberately so. Fighting in fact goes on mostly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the U.N. can stop it the same way they stopped the war in Croatia-by interposing peacekeeping troops between the belligerents.

It is the refusal of the Sarajevan Muslim leadership that keeps the same kind of solution off the table in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Backed by numerous nonaligned states, 50-odd Islamic countries, the United States, European Union, and even the Russian Federation to a degree, that political group is allowed to keep the war in Bosnia and Herzegovia going. Its leaders hope that armaments supplied by the Islamic countries-and allowed into Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Croatian authorities and some U.N. peacekeepers-coupled with NATO air strikes against the Serbs, might help them turn the tide in a war they have been losing so far. Herman does not mention the fact that the great powers are divided over the issue. While the U.S. would force the Serbs to become an ethnic minority in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina with limited autonomy, Russia would invert the same concept, giving Serbs autonomy and leaving Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina with limited sovereignty.

Herman leaves "the world" with no solution as to how to halt the fighting. Instead, he ordains that "the U.N. must be authorized" to do whatever necessary to stop the war. But who is superior to the U.N. and able to confer this authorization upon it? Perhaps the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus the G-7.

This takes us right back to Herman's premises. "The world" cannot do a thing about Yugoslavia, because "the world" is not a political subject. It is an unstable myriad of volatile political subjects.

Herman's "road not yet taken in Yugoslavia" is irresponsible political adventurism. It directs the U.N. to address soldiers and civilians through "trained staff," in order to "stir up disaffection among both civilians and soldiers." That goal should be attained by psychological warfare and subversive propaganda, such as "urging families to persuade their loved ones in the armed forces to obstruct" their respective states' war effort, "encouraging young avoid the draft," "speaking out against the war," "urging arrest of those in command," and so on.

Herman is in fact advocating subversion of virtually all legal norms in countries that are members of the U.N.-by the U.N. itself. Moreover, he urges refusal "to vote for or obey criminal leaders," who should be "handed over...for a cash bounty...examined for their misdeeds," and "held for...trial" by the "trained people's tribunal." After that, they should await "execution, imprisonment, exile, restitution, public service, therapy,acquittal, and so on." Citizens should thus resist and even execute certain politicians before their guilt is proven. It is inconceivable that such acts of rebellion would not meet a harsh reaction from those affected by them and their supporters. That would lead to more arrests, executions, or even civil wars in countries already torn apart by ethnic wars.

Herman delivers a grand finale, declaring that "to stand for nonviolence and reconciliation does not mean to overlook evil." However, not overlooking evil does not warrant U.N.-sponsored political subversion, vigilante arrests, bounty hunting, kangaroo courts, summary executions, ostracism, forced labor, psychiatric incarceration, and more wars. If that is the road not yet taken in Yugoslavia, let it remain deserted, for it is but another war path, not a road to peace.

Slobodan Drakulic is a Toronto sociologist.

Peace Magazine Nov-Dec 1994

Peace Magazine Nov-Dec 1994, page 10. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by Slobodan Drakulic here

Peace Magazine homepage