Friday, June 15, 2012

Syria and Yugoslavia: same destructive treatment

There are a lot of similarities between the destructive way the West drove Yugoslavia into an ethnic war and the way it is doing the same now with Syria.

It started both times with demonizing the local dictators: Milosevic and Assad. Both men had before the trouble started rather clean reputations that only got worse later on. They were no angels but certainly no Saddams either. There image was rather that of bureaucratic bores.

Both men got in trouble with the US that decided they had to be removed: Milosevic for being a "communist" and a threat for the turn to capitalism of the formerly communist countries; Assad for being not helpful enough during the US occupation of Iraq.

And so the obstruction started. Milosevic was undermined by encouraging the republics of Yugoslavia to secede, Assad by encouraging a rebellion.

In both cases international law was violated. In both case the international rules on non-interference. In the case of Milosevic also the Yugoslav constitution and the Helsinki Accords that border changes can only happen with mutual agreement.

In both cases the US and its Western allies adopted a rigid position that negotiations were not allowed. In the case of Yugoslavia the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia and there already adopted constitutions were presented as near scared while a very scary picture was painted of what might happen if borders were changed. In Syria negotiations with Assad are either simply refused or denied with the claim that there is still too much violence or that Assad has too much blood on his hands.

In both cases we see in the Western media a traditional witch hunt in which these dictators are demonized. Any policy that might favor them is demonized too - even if there are sound arguments in favor of it. Public figures seen as too close to them are publicly humiliated for it.

In both cases the population group associated with the dictator (Serbs resp. Alawites) is demonized too, although to a lesser extent.

In both cases the opposition is at the same time eulogized as freedom loving people. Their extremist sides (Croat fascism and Sunni fundamentalism) are ignored or discarded as irrelevant fringes. Their crimes are discarded as less important as those of the others and as easily repairable with some international "guidance".

In both cases this leads to an increasing polarization and in the end to outright war. In Yugoslavia between the Croats and Muslims on one side and the Serbs on the other; in Syria between Arab Sunni's on one side and the minorities on the other side. In both cases we also that on the insurrectionist side there is a steady radicalization while the government side - feeling powerless to restore order as it believes should be - resorts to increasingly violent means.

There is still a way back to a peaceful solution. But I doubt whether Obama and Clinton have the courage to ignore those who thrive on hatred and to follow a path a negotiation and reconciliation.

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