31 March 2011

Human Sacrifice


"The Libya intervention is legal and was necessary to prevent further massacres and to forestall a threat to democratization in Tunisia and Egypt, and if it succeeds in getting rid of Qaddafi’s murderous regime and allowing Libyans to have a normal life, it will be worth the sacrifices in life and treasure. If NATO needs me, I’m there."
So writes Juan Cole "one of the left's leading advocates of American involvement in the war in Libya". There you go. The goal of Juan Cole is worth the sacrifices in life and treasure.

The goal of Muammar Gaddafi to keep himself in power is not worth it. Therefore when ole Muammar kills people it is called a massacre. When USAF kills people it is not a massacre being that Juan Cole's goal of installing the opposition in Gaddafi's place is on the contrary worth it. It is all about who has a worthy goal. If you have a worthy goal, then it is OK to kill Libyans.

Gaddafi's goal is not worthy because it is selfish. He wishes only to stay in power. Cole's goal on the other hand is not selfish. He only wishes for liberals such as himself to be once more able to feel good about their government.

Of course that may take some sacrifice on the part of a certain number of 20-year old conscripts, stay-at-home moms and schoolchildren to be blown up by NATO. But at least they will be massacred for a cause that is worthy. Imagine if they were instead sacrificed by Gaddafi for the sake of his staying in power. Terrible!

The problem with "absolute anti-imperialists" is they don't understand how worthy a goal of making liberals feel good about themselves really is. Forestalling a phony threat to democratisation in Tunisia and Egypt? Why that alone has to be worth 10,000 maybe 50,000 dead Libyans!

29 March 2011

The Age of Colonialism


The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina has once more blatantly intruded in the work of institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This time he has resorted to the use of the so called Bonn Powers in order to suspend the Decision of the Central Election Commission that ruled the constituent session of a rump upper house of the parliament of the Federation unlawful being in violation of the country's Election Law.

The "Bonn Powers", it should be remembered, were not envisioned by the original peace settlements signed by the warring sides that created the Office of the High Representative, but were imposed on Bosnians and Herzegovians a year and a half later by outsiders who had set themselves up as overbearing and unwelcome tutors.

The decree additionally orders state officials to obey the self-proclaimed executive authorities and validates its acts, until the Constitutional Court of the Federation rules on the matter of their seizure of power. This upholds the power grab of the SDP-SDA coalition for now, but more than that in Bosnia and Herzegovina the decisions of Constitutional Courts are themselves frequently a sham. Though it is hard to see how could it do so this time, most expect the Constitutional Court to make the ruling the foreigners want them to. The US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Patrick Moon had paid a visit to the court only recently, and the US Embassy certainly wasted no time in issuing a statement hailing the decree.

26 March 2011

A War Without War Aims


The war begun by the intervening powers in Libya is another of those wars launched for no other reason than to make the attackers look good. After the French, in a midst of an election campaign, jumped headlong into a new adventure the US could not stay behind but hurried to put itself at the forefront lest the French grab all the limelight and start getting ideas above their station.

Fittingly the first war launched by Barrack Obama, the image president of the United States, is an image war. It shows the absurd nature of the time we live in, when ruling politicians will start needless wars with the expectation that it will improve their PR.

It has been interesting to observe Western officials who having sobered up from the initial bombing binge become self-conscious of the absurdity of their enterprise and sought to reassure the public by explaining they will not seek an escalation, because actually their war has no war aims. It is certainly not aimed at overthrowing Gaddafi the public has been told.

This might even be their sincere opinion right now that they have become conscious of the difficulties involved, but experience tells us this is poppycock. Sooner or later Western officials will start explaining that by starting the action, which was clearly anti-Gaddafi in nature, they had put their "credibility" on the line and therefore must bring it to an end by achieving a clear victory over him. There is a high likelihood of the intervening powers gradually investing more in the outcome of the competition for power in Libya, albeit it might not become apparent fast.

21 March 2011

Irish Rebel Music


In the British-Irish conflict in Northern Ireland we have a semi-recent guerilla war where the guerrillas spoke English. This presents an opportunity to easily study guerrilla and eliminates many of the excuses for not understanding it. The studying does not even have to consist of heavy reading. Plenty can be gained by just listening to melodic three chords string music. I am proposing the idea that almost anyone can advance his understanding of determined guerrillas anywhere by examining Irish Rebel Music. It would be silly to claim to know what were the musical tastes of actual PIRA guerrillas, but it is safe to say the part of the populace that supported them, and therefore represented its recruitment pool, had a place for this kind of music.

20 March 2011

Coverage and the Lack of Thereof


Here
to read a contribution for a "News in English" section of a news portal from Herzegovina, poskok.info, penned by me.


The text reposted bellow (22.3.2014) for archival purposes:

Coverage and the Lack of Thereof

It is rather fascinating to observe the level of coverage of the post-electoral developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the West given that Western fingertips are all over the situation in the country.

Sixteen hundred foreign troops remain on the ground in Bosnia or Herzegovina. The unilateral and unlawful granting of the so called "Bonn powers" by the Peace Implementation Council in 1997 to the "High Representative" essentially stripped Bosnia and Herzegovina of any real sovereignty it might previously had. The cause of the present crisis can be traced directly to the 2002 unilateral rewriting of the Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically the changes made to the House of Peoples, by the then "High Representative" Wolfgang Petrisch. Finally Washington and Brussels continue to issue numerous official statements attempting to influence events and are no doubt doing much more behind the scenes.

Regardless of this deep involvement of the Western national and supranational governments in the events, the coverage of the muddle in the Federation in the English-language press is virtually non-existent. It exists only in traces and these traces are so abysmally erroneous and misleading it would be perhaps better if they did not exist at all.

One of the few news pieces that is possible to find at all is a report by the Associated Press from March 17h titled "Bosnian regional government to excludes [sic] Croat nationalists, who threaten mass protests":
"Bosnia's political crisis is deepening after a multiethnic coalition that won October elections moved to form a regional government without the participation of Croat nationalists.

The nationalists threatened Thursday to stage mass rallies if the government formation proceeds, which could threaten the stability of a country scarred by ethnic wars.

The crisis in the Bosniak-Croat region of Bosnia centres on who should fill seats reserved for ethnic Croats under the constitution.

The leftist coalition, which united members of both ethnic groups, says it will fill those seats with Croats from its ranks.

The Croat nationalists say that's illegal because they consider themselves the only true representatives of Bosnia's ethnic Croat minority."
Where does one begin to comment on such an abysmally poor piece of journalism? To start with the government of the Federation is not a "regional" government, it is an entity government. It was styled such by the peace settlement written and pushed through by Washington. Not unexpectedly it turns out it is entirely too optimistic to expect of an American news agency to remember the terminology of their own government. This is not merely semantics as the importance of the entity governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina is far above "regional governments" anywhere. For one thing the entity level is the level of government at which the bulk of state's revenue is spent.

Next, styling the SDP-SDA-HSP-NSRZB a "multiethnic coalition" and the winners of the elections is rather fanciful. Each of these parties appeared on the ballot box separately – not part of a joint coalition – and campaigned against each other, as they are normally bitter enemies, now temporarily united by the prospect of cushy ministerial positions. The SDP is a civic nationalist party, drawing its support almost exclusively from the Bosnian-Herzegovian Muslims. The SDA is a Bosnian Muslim ethnic nationalist party tinged with pan-Islamic solidarities and attitudes. The HSP is a minor, far-right Croatian party and the NSRZB is a family project of the Lijanovići tycoon clan without any ideology whatsoever other than the continued personal enrichment of the Lijanovići.

Considering the relative sizes of SDP and SDA which are mayor parties and the size of the distinctly minor HSP and NSRZB, it is clear this is a coalition of the two largest Bosnian Muslim parties with two token Croat parties along for the ride, serving as a fig leaf. The coalition is of course free to style itself however it pleases, including "multiethnic", but a fact is the four parties between themselves secured only 10% of the Croat vote. They are the winners among the country's Muslim community, but not among the country's Croat community.

Furthermore, interesting is the phrasing by which it is the mass rallies "threatened" by "the nationalists" which endanger "the stability of a country scarred by ethnic wars", rather than the insistence of the coalition to form a government without the participation of the legitimate political representatives of one of the constituent peoples and in a fragile, ethnically divided country sideline 90% of the Croat vote, which triggered the announcements of protest rallies in the first place.

On a next point it is interesting how the news piece boldly highlights the ability and the intention of the "leftist coalition" to fill the seats which are under the Constitution reserved for the poltical representatives of the Croats with Croats from its own ranks as a positive, a legitimising random fact for the would-be government. The most important Croat positions are in fact to be appropriated by the largely Bosnian Muslim SDP. This ability to fill positions with career nationals of the appropriate other nationality is one that is not unique to SDP but is in fact common to all mayor parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The mayor Croatian party, HDZ BiH, would be perfectly able and happy to fill the governmental positions reserved for the Bosnian-Herzegovian Muslims with professional Muslims from its own ranks given the chance. Question is, given its non-existent support among the Bosnian-Herzegovian Muslim community, how legitimate would it be for it to do so?

Additionally, the moves of the coalition are not illegal because of who and what the parties of the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina that are up in arms over coalition's circumventing of the law "consider" themselves to be, but because of what the law on the books says. A legitimate government needs to be approved by a lawfully constituted House of Peoples of the Federation and gain the support of at least one third of Croat representatives in the House. The SDP-SDA-HSP-NSRZB coalition failed on both counts, but proclaimed itself "the government" regardless.

Lastly, the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina are not an "ethnic minority". They are a constituent people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an entirely different category under the law, with an entirely different set of legal and institutional guarantees.

The SDP-SDA coalition is signalling to 90% of the country's Croats that they are not needed, that things can happen without them, and breaking the law to do it. Regardless we are paying witness to a report that conjures up just the opposite image of dangerous Croatian nationalists not able to reconcile themselves to an electoral defeat pettily besieging a serene, tolerant, multiethnic coalition just trying to get on with forming a marginally important "regional" government just as the electoral result entitles them to.

19 March 2011

A Coup d'Etat


In Bosnia and Herzegovina the SDP-SDA coalition held what it deemed a constituent session of the House of Peoples of the Federation which then supposedly confirmed the new government of the Federation. Trouble is the Central Electoral Commission of BiH has stated unequivocally that such a move before all delegates for the House have been certified by the Commission would be unconstitutional. The delegates from the Croatian-majority cantons of the Federation how not jet been elected - due to Croat obstruction in protest of the plans of the SDP to sideline them - and thus can not be certified. Only 33 delegates were in attendance, though the House has 58 seats. Indeed this is a technicality, but technicalities are the bread and butter of law.

The disregard for the Constitution did not end here however. By law a government needs not only be confirmed by a validly constituted House of Peoples, such a mandate requires at least one third support from the Croat members of the House. Since the House reserves 17 seats for Croats this means 6 votes. The SDP-SDA received only 5 (from the Croats elected in majority-Muslim cantons who are members of Muslim parties), but absurdly claimed this was sufficient since it represented more than a third of the representatives in attendance. Put otherwise, the self-proclaimed new government of the Federation is doubly illegal.

The Croat parties have declared they do not recognise this government, which means the Croat-majority cantons will neither. Various Croat office holders installed by the previous parliament or government have declared their intention to refuse to vacate them. The largest Bosnian Serb party, the SNSD, has declared this move by the SDP and SDA makes any coalition with them on the central state level impossible, which means there will be no government formed on the state level for the foreseeable future. The Croats have already staged protest rallies in a number of towns on Thursday, though they were rather small on the account of the short notice. More are expected in the future.

Lest the SDP and SDA retract, eg by acquiescing to repeat elections, it is not out of the question Croat-majority cantons and municipalities will link themselves in some way, paving a way for a de facto Croatian autonomous unit. That is certainly the wish of the Croat voters in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it remains to be seen if their politicians have the guile to take up the challenge. A situation where five and a half months after the elections the government had not jet been formed was deemed an "impasse" and a cause of "deep concern" for both Brussels and Washington, but after this escalation it is now a real crisis. It is certainly not the end of things, as the present situation is unsustainable and calls for a resolution.

This is the largest crisis in the Federation since 2001 when a Croat declaration of self-administration was answered by a forceful crackdown by SFOR. Nowadays however the EUFOR occupation force numbers a paltry 1,600 troops from 26 different nations. This time around, however else it ends, it does not end with the foreigners rolling down the streets of western Mostar.

18 March 2011

Brecher


Gary Brecher or The War Nerd made famous by The Exile strikes again this time over at The American Conservative.

I like Brecher (Dolan) as a writer, he has a way with words and is very enjoyable to read. But I’d have my head examined if I let what he writes greatly shape my opinion on the real world out there.

He mixes a few common sense points with copious amounts of pure fantasy. With the matter-of-fact tone he employs and the random bits of information he throws out there it is easy to come to think he know just about all there is to know about the various obscure conflicts he mentions in his pieces.

But if his knowledge of the Balkans is an indication of the rest of it, this is not so much real knowledge as it is a mix of the absolute crudest form of stereotyping, misheard tidbits of information and literary inventions thrown in for their effect.

In the context of the Kosovo War the article speaks of a "Serb militia" fighting alongside the police, "the gullible Beltway pundit crowd" falling for an Albanian trick and KLA's "connections with al-Qaeda". In reality the KLA was given battle by the Priština Corps of the 3rd Army (Armija) of the Army (Vojska) of Yugoslavia, not militiamen. The Westerners were not "duped" by the Račak 'massacre', they helped with the performance. And the KLA is many things, but pro-Al Quada is not one of them.

Then there are the sweeping statements about the nature of warfare in the Balkans. Apparently it can all be subsumed under "tribes" running around massacring each other since times immemorial. How unusual, a Westerner letting his imagination run loose in the Balkans.

Lastly, regardless of Brecher's flair for the outrageous he is unable to challenge the official wisdom regarding the Serbs without inserting a qualifying statement first: "Now, I have no trouble with the Serbs as fairly bad guys when provoked..." Brecher has in the past sang unqualified praises of Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Tutsis and the Turks. But tackling the Balkans without a qualifying statement about the Serbs is out of his comfort zone.

Brecher puts creating literature above writing punditry. He is best read that way too.

The 'Deeply Concerned' Brussels


Well what do you know, aside from the US, the EU is likewise "deeply concerned" about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And like Washington, it knows just what the natives ought to do:
"Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot afford to lose more time. The political leaders must urgently address EU-related reforms as a matter of priority if the country is to take steps forward on its European integration path. For this to happen, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs representative, broad and solid governments at all levels to tackle the outstanding issues in this regard."
There you go, the institution that can talk about the "office of HR/EUSR" with a straight face and which has a "High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission" (HRUFASP?) knows just what the bureaucracy-stricken Bosnia needs to pulls itself together.

There is a lesson in there somewhere for libertarians. Here is the colonial power that is the EU growing frustrated with the fact there is no government in Bosnia and Herzegovina in place yet. (Aside from the government in Republic of Srpska which they detest.) Without middlemen it is impossible for them to exercise power in the Condominium and they are left utterly hapless. There is no one to implement their dictates.

Here then is to hoping the present situation lasts and the EU grows even more concerned. Maybe they'll give it up and find a hobby.

17 March 2011

A Delicacy From the Washington Kitchen


The talks on Federation government formation sponsored by the "High Representative" break down. The OHR reportedly accuses Croats of obstruction. The Croats announce intention to stage protests. The Muslims declare they will immediately commence formation of the government without the Croats. The Serbs vow to support the Croats and not work with forces that would form such a government. Oh yes, it's another day in the Protectorate.

14 March 2011

Schwarz-Schilling Credits Himself With Preventing a War


In 2006 and 2007 there was talk of finally closing the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A German, Christian Schwarz-Schilling was to be fifth and last "High Representative". It did not happen, after the 5th there was the 6th and then the 7th "High Representative". To anyone familiar with either bureaucratic inertia or West European addiction to meddling in the Balkans this could not have come about as a surprise, regardless at the time the statements that OHR was coming to its end were unequivocal.

In a recent interview given to a Sarajevo daily Schwarz-Schilling reveals about the only thing he did in his year in the "Office" was to campaign for it to not close. He names Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke as the two people who aided him in this crusade of his the most. He goes on to state that had he not been successful the consequences would have been "catastrophic". According to Schwarz-Schilling Republic of Srpska would have been independent by now and it would have been a question of what type of new conflict would arise given the reaction of Croats and Muslims.

Office of the High Representative has always been West European depository of distinctly second-rate bureaucrats and politicians. But even in this miserable bunch Schwarz-Schilling stood out as particularly worthless. Whereas his successor Miroslav Lajčak succeeded in using his tenure to help himself catapult into the position of foreign minister of Slovakia, the looser Schwarz-Schilling has to satisfy with a fantasy where his underwhelming keep-the-OHR-alive campaign averted a war.

There in a nutshell you have the reason why intervention in the Balkans made sense for the West. Aside from being an opportunity for individual advancement, it presented endless opportunity for self-congratulation. After the West collectively congratulated itself for ending non-existent death camps, a non-existent genocide and for just in general working on straightening out the savages in the Balkans and their mess, why wouldn't the dweeb Schwarz-Schilling congratulate himself for averting a non-existent danger of war in 2007?

As for the issue of the closure of the OHR, Schwarz-Schilling's victory was empty. The "High Representative" is far from the position of absolutist power it was in the days of Paddy Ashdown's and Wolfgang Petrisch's frenzied power trips. On paper the "High Representative" has all the powers it had in their day, but in reality is constrained from exercising many of them. The "office" continues to exist but is becoming less and less relevant.

Unfortunately the main reason why this is so is that Brussels, and more and more Berlin, are becoming involved in Bosnia and Herzegovina directly. This sort of tutorship is potentially even worse than the exercise of power through the so called High Representative since being more stealthy it can endure far longer.

12 March 2011

Wonderful


Antiwar.com ran an opinion piece written by me that was sparked by the return of the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention in regard to the situation in Libya. Here to read it.

09 March 2011

Those Pesky "Narrow Ethnic Agendas"


This week the State Department issued a statement through its official spokesman Philip J. Crowley and the Sarajevo embassy in regard to the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As usually Washington is "deeply concerned" and full of prescriptions.

For the sake of feigned balance the statement calls on the political parties of the Bosnian-Herzegovian Muslims to postpone their announced decision to constitute the House of Peoples of the Federation, noting that doing so without the Croatian delegates present would "raise serious legal concerns". Actually a constituent session without a plenum would be blatantly illegal.

More importantly and more sincerely it throws its weight behind the "High Representative" and his "initiative to mediate". The most significant actions of the viceroy so far have been to apply pressure against the main Croatian parties right down to off the record threats of sanctions, and to confirm an interim budget (yes he can do that), thus removing the teeth of Croatian obstruction.

By law a budget has to be confirmed by the House of Peoples. The obstruction of the House of Peoples by the Croat parties should thus have prevented the budget for 2011 being confirmed and defunded all entity-level state institutions. Aside from delighting the libertarians the world over this would instil great urgency in the attempts of the political parties to negotiate a settlement, making a speedy conclusion of the crisis and the meeting of Croatian demands not unlikely.

The key, and the harshest part of the communique is addressed to the Croatian parties. They are called upon to "begin cooperating immediately" as they are deemed "in violation of the Federation Constitution". And:
"By failing to uphold this obligation, they are putting a narrow ethnic agenda before the interests of all the citizens of the Federation and Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Translation: Get in line!

Croatia Protesters to Government: Shove Your EU


When the Arab World protests got into gear, probably in every country in the world there were people posing a challenge to their surroundings - they are doing this, why not we? And in most places it stayed at that. However, in Croatia for one it sparked a small protest movement.

Naturally the protests in Croatia are much different from the ones in Cairo, Tripoli, etc. For one they are much smaller. In a country of 4 million there has jet to be a protest that would break the 10,000 mark. Secondly, their nature is much different. The government of Croatia is deeply unpopular, but it is also democratically elected. The calls of the protesters are not for the forceful overthrow of the government, but for the cabinet to recognise it is incompetent and do the right thing and resign.

So in themselves the protests are not greatly remarkable. What is more remarkable and telling is that unlike virtually anyone else the Croats let themselves be nudged into action by the example of the protests in the Arab World. This is a symptom of the state Croatia finds itself in and the outlook of its populace for their future.

Croatians have to contend with a considerable level of unemployment, high costs of living, moderate doses of poorly concealed corruption and no real growth. This, coupled with some natural propensity for melancholia and long standing acquired pessimism regarding any monetary matters, means they are deeply cynical about the government and the prospects of government, any government, turning things around. Ironically, the same sentiment that brought a small minority out on the streets, is what is keeping many more people off it.

Taking into account that by some polls the prime minister enjoys a 13.7% approval rating and over 70% of the people support the protesters, the size of the protests is very small. For example yesterday in one of the most successful demonstrations a mere 8,000 people marched through a section of the capital city, Zagreb. Though even this may convey the wrong picture of what actually took place. The two hour long "march" could just as easily be described as an evening stroll.

For the most part the deeply cynical Croats simply can not be bothered with demonstrations. No matter how unhappy they are, they do not see things improving no matter what happens with the government.

As for the people marching, the endearing thing about them is their anti-EU stance. Among the standard leftist fare a sentiment prominently expressed on their placards is opposition to Croatia joining the European Union. On the most important issue for the country's future they could not be more right. Perhaps that is a small cause for optimism right there.

03 March 2011

When in Doubt: Empty the Wallet


Quoting Hillary Clinton at a US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations meeting:
"During the Cold War we did a great job in getting America’s message out. After the Berlin Wall fell we said, ‘Okay, fine, enough of that, we are done,’ and unfortunately we are paying a big price for it. And our private media cannot fill that gap. ... We are in an information war and we are losing that war, I'll be very blunt in my assessment. Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened up a global English language and multi-language television network, the Russians have opened up an English language network. I've seen it in a couple of countries and it's quite instructive. We are cutting back. The BBC is cutting back."

"So here is what we are trying to do. In the State Department we have pushed very hard on new media. So we have an Arabic twitter feed. We have a Farsi twitter feed. I have this group of young techno experts who are out there engaging on websites. And we are putting all of our young Arabic speaking diplomats out so they are talking about our values. Walter is working hard with his board to try to transform the broadcasting efforts, because most people still get their news from TV and radio. So even though we are pushing online we can't forget TV and radio. I would look very much toward your cooperation to try to figure out how we get back in the game on this because I hate ceding what we are most expert in to anybody else."
It is hardly surprising Clinton sees news reporting as a kind of war. Not even between America and its rivals (Qatar is hardly such), but between the kind of reporting official Washington welcomes, and the kind it does not.

Trouble is Al Jazeera's and RT's successful encroachment on a field previously monopolized by American corporate news channels is not down to funding. Al Jazeera and RT are simply more truthful and more relevant. Western English language TV news programmes do not lack the financial means to compete with Al Jazeera, RT or CCTV. If they are finding themselves outmatched, as Clinton suggests, it is because their coverage is to a large degree made up of distortions and distractions - just like the State Department likes it.

RT and Al Jazeera English are not without fault. Al Jazeera's coverage of the Balkans is no better than that of CNN, and RT is not without its cringe worthy moments. However they can be switched on without the certainty the time spent viewing will be a waste of time.

The idea Clinton can address a weakness that is the lack of truthfulness by throwing money at it and turning up the volume of low-quality information complete with "young techno experts" spamming websites is fanciful.