4:12 PM, Jul 9, 2015 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Twenty years have now passed since the brutal subjugation of the besieged town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, after which 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Serbs commanded by ex-Yugoslav army general Ratko Mladic. The terrible episode is itself worth commemorating, and its background also merits review for what it reveals about Western – and, especially, Clinton administration – policy toward the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.
When the Bosnian war began in 1992 – during the withdrawal of ex-Yugoslav forces from Croatia and after Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence – Srebrenica was mainly Muslim, with members of that faith accounting for about 64 percent of the town residents, Orthodox Christian Serbs at 28 percent, and the rest identified as Catholic Croats, Yugoslavs, or “other.”
To remember Srebrenica is, for close observers, to recall the whole Bosnian War. During the Yugoslav breakup, Bosnia-Herzegovina was in in no hurry to leave the Communist state. Slovenia, however, saw commercial advantages to being a separate country thanks to its elevated standard of living (the highest in the socialist “federation”) and borders with Italy, Austria, and Hungary. In Croatia, nationalist sentiments were most aggravated. Even in both of those “republics,” prominent voices called for maintaining Yugoslavia as a looser federation or customs union. To that, the Serb Communist bosses headed by Slobodan Milosevic said no. Still, the Yugoslav war did not have to happen. Of all the Communist countries, Yugoslavia, with a liberated intellectual life and a record of encouraging free enterprise, could have led the Eastern European transition away from its collectivist heritage to stability and prosperity. It was not to be.
Yet when Slovenia and Croatia declared independence in 1991, Alija Izetbegovic, head of the multiethnic Bosnian presidency, advocated for continuation of a reorganized Yugoslavia comprising Serbia and Montenegro as a core, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia as associated “republics,” and Slovenia and Croatia as sovereign members of a confederation. To that also, Milosevic and his cohort replied negatively, as did the new Croatian president Franjo Tudjman. But the Izetbegovic effort reflected the Bosnian president’s belief that Yugoslavia could be preserved. Although defamed by Serbian propagandists as an Islamist radical, Izetbegovic was a moderate Muslim, and his political organization, the Party of Democratic Action) was (and remains) a movement representing Muslim community interests rather than Islamic ideology. Izetbegovic’s attempts to maintain peace included disarming the Bosnian territorial defense units. The Muslim leader cleaved to the notion that a three-member presidency made up of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats, would keep Bosnia-Herzegovina together.
He was mistaken. In February-March 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina held a referendum on independence, which was boycotted by the Serbs and approved by the rest of the voters. Bosnian self-determination was proclaimed, but Serb radicals and Bosnian defenders in Sarajevo had already established competing barricades in the city. Serbian forces swarmed west across the border between the two Yugoslav “republics,” seizing the Bosnian frontier and expelling and murdering Muslim, Croat, and other inhabitants.
Thus a new and repellent euphemism appeared in global politics and media: “ethnic cleansing.” The term implied that non-Serbs were filth or infected. Serbian atrocities in Bosnia-Herzegovina were vile, including mass rapes, the establishment of concentration camps, and the deliberate destruction of cultural monuments such as the National and University Library in Sarajevo and hundreds of Ottoman-era mosques and Croatian Catholic churches. Most of northern and eastern Bosnia succumbed to Serbian aggression quickly. By 1993, numerous Muslim refugees had gathered in the eastern Bosnian enclaves of Zepa, Srebrenica, and Gorazde, surrounded by Serbian troops. Srebrenica fell at the beginning of July 1995, and Zepa at the end of the month. Only Gorazde was held by the Bosnians.
1:31 PM, Mar 5, 2015 • By JONATHAN BRONITSKY
The biographies of the individuals responsible for the beheadings of James Foley and Daniel Pearl are eerily similar.
A model for the Islamic world.12:31 PM, Feb 24, 2015 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Muslim political and religious leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is partitioned between a “Republic of Serbs” and a “Muslim-Croat Federation,” have taken firm measures to stop agitation and recruitment for ISIS.
Only Putin learned them. Apr 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 29 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Vladimir Putin learned lessons from the Balkan wars of the 1990s that the rest of the world ignored or has forgotten. He invokes an obviously false parallel between the NATO bombing of Serbia and liberation of Kosovo in 1999, and his own annexation of Crimea.
4:15 PM, Sep 16, 2013 • By GARY SCHMITT
Sophisticated folks like to tell themselves that history doesn’t repeat itself. Life, politics, and diplomacy are all driven by a multitude of circumstances that make every moment different and every judgment so much different … except of course when they aren’t. But as Maya Kandel, an analyst at Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l'Ecole Militaire, a French defense ministry think tank, and a specialist on American foreign policy, wrote in a recent email:
7:32 AM, Jan 18, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Bosnia-Herzegovina has seen the last of hundreds of employees of the European Union, United Nations, and other international agencies, including dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that once gathered there. They have left the country a politically-partitioned and economically-distressed state that, if not failed, seems ever deteriorating.
1:40 PM, Apr 17, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Twenty years have passed since the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia at the beginning of March 1992. Bosnian independence came after Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia had left Yugoslavia in 1991. Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav dictator, proclaimed Serbian “independence” inside Yugoslavia—of which Serbia was the dominant constituent—in 1990.
12:01 PM, Dec 7, 2011 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Two of the most respected Muslim academics in Bosnia-Herzegovina have given lengthy interviews in which they condemned Wahhabism, or “Salafism,” as the Arab-financed Islamist ideology is also known.
3:12 PM, Aug 3, 2011 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Israeli media report that Aleksandar Cvetkovic, 43, a Bosnian Serb who emigrated to the Jewish state and acquired Israeli citizenship through marriage, has been ordered extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina to face trial for his alleged involvement in the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. Cvetkovic, who moved to Israel in 2006, fathered children there, and lived in the northern Israeli city of Karmiel, has 30 days to appeal the decision.
11:45 AM, Dec 6, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Last April, when I was in Sarajevo, the Bosnian metropolis, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt happened to make a quick tour of the country, coming by private plane from Venice, where Jolie was filming The Tourist, a mystery pic with Johnny Depp.
Thought experiment.3:17 PM, Aug 18, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Opponents of the Ground Zero mosque have tried to use analogies to show that their opposition to the mosque is not rooted in anti-Muslim bigotry. For example, a Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor would be provocative and insensitive, even though many Japanese Americans fought and died in World War II.
From Pakistan to Bosnia.4:00 PM, Aug 9, 2010 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The people of Pakistan, and Muslims as well as non-Muslims around the world, were horrified when, at midnight on July 1, three bombers struck the Data Darbar Sufi shrine in Lahore.
Cracking Down on Islamic Extremists12:00 PM, Mar 10, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Last week, the Albanian Muslims of Kosovo, who have demonstrated their aversion to radical Islam in a series of recent clashes with extremist infiltrators, took another significant step toward ridding their new republic of Muslim fanatics. A self-proclaimed imam, Xhemajl Duka, who had come to Kosovo from his native Albania, was deported back there. The mosque he had erected in the village of Marina, near the central Kosovar city of Skenderaj, was closed by local authorities.
12:00 AM, Feb 18, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Early this month, Bosnian police and military forces conducted their first major operation since war ended in the country in 1995. On February 2, some 400-600 agents raided a major center of radical Islamist activity. Officers were sent to the notorious “Wahhabi village” of Gornja Maoca from Sarajevo, capital of the Muslim-Croat federation that makes up about half of the country, since partition was imposed by the Dayton Accords fifteen years ago.
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