Kosova and Bosnia: So Different Yet Alike
The big mystery of NATO's war in Kosova is that despite its overwhelming firepower,
NATO was totally unable to protect the Kosovar Muslims. The most generous view is that it
is a "failure," that the planners did not properly estimate Serb ferocity and
failed to plan properly. However, those holding this view should rest assured that the
NATO leaders are not losing any sleep over this "failure."
In big power games, things are hardly ever the way they appear to be on the surface. To
accept everything on face value takes a great leap of faith. For those who do not have
this faith, here are some questions intriguing the minds of everyone concerned about the
great tragedy now unfolding in Kosova, along with candid answers.
Q. Who is doing what in Kosova?
A. There are three parties there: Muslims, Serbs, and western powers under the flag of
NATO. Muslims want to live peacefully in their own homes and since that is denied under
Serb occupation, they want freedom. Serbs want to subjugate and repress Muslims in the
same way that Israel subjugates Palestinians. NATO powers want to assert their control
over this area for both economic and political reasons, but do not have any fundamental
problem with the Serb's treatment of Muslims, which had been going on for more than a
NATO is beating the Serbs but not in a way that would stop them from beating the
Q. Are not NATO policies in Kosova exactly opposite of those in Bosnia?
A. On the surface, yes. But looking beneath the surface may reveal something quite
different. In Bosnia, the real problem with Milosevic was not what he was doing, but only
that he was taking too long to do it. After all, it was an American plan, devised by
former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in 1992, that handed the Milosevic regime and the
fascist Bosnian Serbs the entire arsenal of former Yugoslavia. To further ensure the
Serbian success, NATO navies and UN troops enforced an arms embargo against the Sarajevo
government. For this open aggression NATO powers paid a big political price in terms of
world opinion, especially Muslim world opinion.
In Kosova, on the other hand, the big task of removing Muslims from their homes has
been accomplished in a very short period. More than half a million were expelled in just
two weeks. In addition, this great achievement did not come with any political costs
attached to it. No one can blame NATO; it clearly seems to be working around the clock to
"help" the Muslims.
The results of this brilliant strategy have been spectacular. Consider the following:
1. It has divided the Muslim world, with some countries like Iran and Iraq opposing the
NATO operation while others supporting it. There is intense, even acrimonious, debate
among Muslim intellectuals about what is really going on. In Bosnia everyone was together
in understanding the role of all the parties involved.
2. It has preempted any role for the Muslim world. In Bosnia the OIC (Organization for
the Islamic Conference) was at least talking. Malaysia, Iran, and some other countries did
even provide some material support for the Bosnians. In Kosova, it is as if the Muslim
world does not even exist.
3. It has preempted any support from the Mujahideen from other countries. Although the
total number of Mujahideen that reached Bosnia was very small, their influence was much
larger than their numbers would indicate. Their very presence helped many lost Muslims to
rediscover their faith. The mosques and schools for Islamic education began to attract
many Bosnian Muslims. That is why they were considered a great "danger" by the
NATO forces and the Dayton accord made it a point to have them removed from Bosnia. Again,
this unwelcome side effect of the prolonging of the Bosnian operation has been eliminated
4. The operation has not only established NATO "credibility" (read awe); it
has also given it a new legitimacy. How can anyone supporting it today question a similar
action tomorrow because it was taken outside the U.N. system?
5. The operation has provided a great public-relations opportunity that could be
expected to weaken the support for the growing demands to free the Arabian Peninsula of
the presence of foreign troops.
Q. But NATO seems to be helping the Muslims.
A. Actually NATO has avoided every option that could materially help the Muslims. It
rejected the main demand of Kosova for independence. The agreement that KLA had
reluctantly agreed to, was clearly in favor of Serbs. But the Serbs wanted even more and
the deal did not go through. If the motive were to avert human tragedy as President
Clinton claimed, that could have been done by letting the KLA do its job. They could be
provided with weapons or at least allowed to get them from Muslim countries. Rather they
were clearly asked to scale down their military activities and warned not to try to take
any advantage of the NATO involvement. Even if for its "strategic interests"
NATO wanted to do the job itself, it could still have at least used the Apache helicopter
gunships that would be most effective in the battlefield against the Serbs as they
attacked town after town in Kosova. "They're the perfect weapon for the NATO's ground
attack operation and they're based just hundreds of miles away from embattled
Kosovo," wrote L.A. Times (10 April 99).Why they have not been employed? According to
the newspaper, Sen. Charles Hagel (R. Neb) asked the question of NATO authorities after
visiting them in that area. "We pressed them hard on this and they just don't have a
Q. Will NATO introduce ground troops in Kosova?
A. Most likely the ground troops will be employed but only when the time is
"right." That means when the Muslims have been so badly beaten that they will
not have any second thoughts about a Dayton type settlement being imposed on them. Rather
they will consider it a blessing.
Q. What was wrong with Dayton?
A. Thanks to Dayton agreement, Bosnia today is a colony of the big powers. A 1996
article by Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa,
in zmagazine (www.zmag.org) is quiet revealing.
According to him, Bosnian Parliamentary Assembly set up under the "Constitution"
finalised under the Dayton Accords, largely acts as a "rubber stamp". Behind the
democratic facade, actual political power rests in the hands of a "parallel
government" headed by the High Representative and staffed by expatriate advisors.
Moroever, the Constitution agreed in Dayton hands over the reins of economic policy to
IMF, the World Bank, and the London based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
(EBRD). Article VII stipulates that the first Governor of the Central Bank of Bosnia and
Herzegovina is to be appointed by the IMF and "shall not be a citizen of Bosnia and
Herzegovina or a neighbouring State..." Moreover the Central Bank is not allowed
under the Constitution to function as a Central Bank: "For the first six years (...)
it many not extend credit by creating money, operating in this respect as a currency
board" (Article VII).
The tasks of managing the Bosnian economy have been carefully divided among donor
agencies: while the Central Bank is under IMF custody, the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) heads the Commission on Public Corporations which
supervises operations of all public sector enterprises including energy, water, postal
services, roads, railways, etc. The President of the EBRD appoints the Chairman of the
Commission, which also oversees public sector restructuring, meaning primarily the
sell-off of State and socially owned assets and the procurement of long term investment
"The territorial partition of Bosnia between the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina
and the Bosnian-Serb Republika Srpska under the Dayton Accords was done in accordance with
Western economic interests."
Bosnia yesterday, Kosova today. Same area. Same players. Same game. Same tragedy.