Sunday, September 20, 2009

The similarity of Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan

On the face of it Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan are completely different. In Bosnia the international community interfered in a conflict while in the other two contries it drove out a repressive regime and restored democracy. But in every country the internationals end up supporting one group, faction or party and they find their hands bound by loyalty to this group. In Bosnia the internationals can't get beyond supporting the Muslims while they can't find a way to handle the Serbs. In Iraq the Kurds are still the favorites while the Sunnites are problematic. In Afghanistan the internationals have chosen for the Pashtu and Karzai. Despite having been the allies of the internationals the Tadzhiks are considered more problematic.

It reminds me of the colonial era where the colonizers often had their favorites too. Then the bad consequences only became visible after independence. Now we see them almost immediately.

Is there a solution? Maybe. It is very seducive to choose an ally during or immediately after the easy part: the conquest. It is also seducive to give this ally a lot of power by imposing a centralized system of government. And then you are stuck. But a decentralized approach might help.

For those who like to be informed on Afghanistan: the report by McChrystal is available on internet. The available report has some sections deleted to protect sensitive information.

On the depression epidemy

In my psychology study depression is an important subject. Depression is worldwide increasing. The linked article sees job and relationship insecurity as causes.

My guess is that psychology itself may be one of the causes. Psychology teaches people to follow their heart and choose what they want. The problem is that this causes them to spend less time on other people. And as one of the human needs is attention this leaves us all berieved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

mr. Ahmadinejad, please wash your mouth!

The discussion about Iran's nuclear program seems stucked. It seems improbable that Russia will put much pressure on Iran, the US isn't really in a hurry to get yet another battle field and Ahmadinejad seems shortly after the contested elections not in a position to make major concessions. The only country really upset about all this is Israel - that remembers some radical pronunciations by Ahmadinejad.

That makes me conclude that the most elegant temporarily solution would be if Ahmadinejad took some of his radical statements about Israel back. Can please someone convince him that radioactivity is dangerous stuff and that the world expects from leaders who play with it signs of maturity and responsibility?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saving Bosnia by making dissolution possible?

I am wondering whether the only way to save Bosnia is to make its dissolution possible.

My solution would be to give the Bosniaks what they want regarding provinces: split both the Federation and the RS is provinces. However, to keep the Serbs and the Croats happy two conditions should be satisfied: the borders of the RS should be maintained as provincial borders and one or more Croat provinces should be created. And after 5 years those provinces should have the right to secede (and join other countries).

Cutting up the Federation and the RS should diminsh the antagonism. The five years delay should give the Bosniak politicians time to decide whether they really want to live together with the Serbs and Croats. The right to secede would be a permanent stimulus against extremism. At the moment there is a strong current in the Bosniak community to make Bosnia into a Bosniak state with Croats and Serbs as second rate citizens. Bosnia needs some counterweight against that in order to prevent yet another case of "silent cleansing". As long as the Bosniaks refuse a census as that might reveal to which extent they have silently cleansed their part of Bosnia I think this is a risk. If there is insufficient enthousiasm after 5 years it would be over and the world would be relieved of its task to keep something together that doesn't want to be together.

I wouldn't mind to make the threshold for separation higher than 50%. I think separating a country is even more controversial than changing a constitution. So a similar procedure as for changing a constitution might be used. I have never understood why the West considers 50% enough for separatism. I can understand that if 55% is persistently in favor of separation you want to give it to them. But even then you could build in extra safeguards like demanding two referenda with a 4 year interval.

I talk deliberately about provinces instead of cantons as they would be quite different. First of all they would follow the ethnic borders - meaning for example a split of Mostar. They would also be much bigger so that they can take up more tasks - including control over the police. The total of Bosnia might be split in about 10 provinces.

Allthough the Federation and the RS would disappear as seperate administrative units with their own parliaments and ministers some remnants would remain in the form of cooperations of provinces. For example the energy operations of the RS might continue as a company "banja Luka power" owned by the Serb provinces. Pensions for war veterans is another subject that might probably better be handled separately by each group. It is still too much true that one side's heroes are another side's war criminals.

Here is an interesting piece about progress in Bosnia..