Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"We Have Invented a New Human Right Here"

The name Ed Vulliamy probably doesn't mean much to you, but his reporting on the conflict in the Balkans has been nothing short of miraculous these past ten years. He's really a hero of mine -- he's taken an issue and made it his own, in the most honorable tradition of hardworking investigative journalism. Now he interviews Lord Ashdown, the man known as the unofficial "ruler" of Bosnia, who is stepping down.

For all the outrage of those days, the war dragged on for another three bloody years, and when Ashdown took on the role as high representative, he said: "I am here because I think it was a terrible sin of the west to allow those years of war." Indeed, with the Bosnian Serb architects of mass murder - Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic - on the run, wanted for genocide, it is easy to forget that during those three years of savagery that he unleashed, Karadzic's hand was eagerly clasped by western diplomats beneath the chandeliers of London, Paris and Geneva.

Throughout that time of international complicity, there were few - very few - voices calling for cogent intervention. And there was only one British politician who kept on coming back to Bosnia, each time returning to London to lambast the government for its resistance to intervention. Ashdown accused foreign secretary Douglas Hurd of "using humanitarian aid to blackmail the victims of aggression into capitulation", and prime minister John Major of calculated inaction over the Srebrenica massacre.


Finally, after limited bombing of the Serbs, the war was halted by the international community just as the Bosnian and Croatian armies were turning the tide, and a peace forged at Dayton, partitioning Bosnia into two "entities", the "Republika Srpska" and a precarious Muslim-Croat "Federation". "It was a superb agreement to end a war, but a very bad agreement to make a state," says Ashdown. "From now on, we have to part company with Dayton and try to build a modern democratic state, for which I have tried to lay the foundations."

The piece is a good look at how second- and third-world countries react to superpower intervention, and as such is totally irrelevant to our consideration of Iraq, which is a democracy on the march.


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