Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Justice for Bosnia?

After years on the run, the former leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, was captured in Serbia last week. This man played a big role in stoking the fires of hatred and genocide in Bosnia Herzegovina. While all sides in this terrible three way civil war descended into the depths of human cruelty, Karadzic's forces led the way and were responsible for some of the most gruesome acts of inhumanity since WWII, and rival the behaviour of Al Qaeda in Iraq. This includes the round up and murder of 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995, and the vicious shelling campaign against Sarajevo (66 people were killed and 200 wounded in just one day, documented here.)

It is particularly gratifying for me to see this bastard caught - catching him was one of our major "projects" in Bosnia, as "D" also discusses. Of course we did not, but we had several interesting meetings with people close to him. And being based out of Tuzla for part of my tour, I also heard many stories of terror and loss from the Muslims who lived in that area. The Serbs were not just fighting a war, they were terrorizing and brutalizing everyone in their path.

So we worked hard, but never caught him, always like a ghost he was, a rumor of his presence, but NATO was never fast enough. And then of course there must have been the obvious support from his former inner circle, and the rumors of the French leaking warnings to him and his crony in death, Radko Mladic. But the most likely was always the most obvious - he was said to be hiding in Serbia where he enjoyed support of the security services, and there were no foreign troops.

So what? Well there are several lessons that should be drawn from Bosnia. Of course, one of the lessons of Bosnia is that the U.N. is incompetent at stopping violence of any sort - it was only the threat of use of American force (by Bill Clinton) that stopped the fighting Bosnia and the actual use of force against Serbia that stopped the attacks in Kosovo. One of the bitter ironies of the war is that Srebrenica was "protected" by the U.N. as a "Safe Zone", thereby making it an UN Safe Zone. Truly, unsafe. The U.N. forces protected the civilians by standing by as the city was overrun, and helping organizing the bus loading. U.N. troops also played a vital role as human shields to protect against NATO (meaning American) air raids against Serb positions.

I am not saying the U.N. is useless mind you, the U.N. has successfully played an important role once fighting has been stopped but hopes that the U.N. could stop the genocide in say, Darfur, are misplaced. Sometimes the use of force is the only answer, and the U.N. is not the instrument for that. The Bosnian Serbs and the Darfur government both illustrate the fact that brutal regimes pay no heed to Western sit-ins, protests, lectures, boycotts, etc. While it may be hard to accept for some people who lived under the Western security blanket, some people cannot be reasoned with, some cultures only respect strength and force. It is not what we desire for the world, but it is still the world we live in.

Another lesson, which was reinforced for me during my tour in New Orleans, is that civilization is a thin veneer, and people are still a short step from a uncontrollable mob. Yugolsavia was, after-all, a model of Socialist success, an example held up by people like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and other Communist apologizers. Bosnia especially was the most ethically integrated part of Yugoslavia, with many intermarriages and multi-ethnic communities. New Orleans may well have been less ethnically integrated than Yugoslavia, but the rampant looting in an American city illustrates that even here, you must be prepared to defend your person and your property.

For those interested in learning more, here are a few recommendations that can help you understand. I also highly recommend the BBC website on Bosnia and it's personalities.


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/29/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Dan said...

Grumpy, Good writing!!! If we don't study history and pay attention to what has happened and what is going on in the world, history will repeat itself, history will repeat itself, history will repeat itself.
The UN has been a total waste of time and resources--- it's run by such a mixed up committee of countries, that it is impossible to reach any goals.
But, the truth is, when we (SFOR 14) went to Bosnia, most Americans could not even find it on a map, and didn't even know we still had troops there. One person told me they thought it was in Africa.
Like some of our buddies in Kosovo now....nobody I know can find it on the map, and most didn't know we had troops there.
But, old buddy, I'll go to any of these missions with you when you're healed up.

Sergeant Grumpy said...

Thanks D, the feeling is mutual.