September 18, 2003


Can foreigners fix Bosnia?: Building a pluralistic democracy from scratch is a daunting proposition. (Russ Baker, 9/19/03, The Christian Science Monitor)

As Paul Bremer and his team of administrators are now learning in Iraq, building a pluralistic democracy from scratch is a daunting proposition. It's even more challenging when resources and patience are limited - and ethnic and religious differences unlimited. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, the international High Representative there, knows this all too well.

By now, the Balkan state, long-aborning, should have had a single customs service - along with one army and one intelligence service. Instead, despite years of international unification efforts, there are still two of each, one in the Sarajevo-headquartered Muslim-Croat Federation, the other in the Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity next door. The customs merger has been approved, but foot-dragging by nationalist elements has prevented its implementation.

Meanwhile, long-discussed centralizations of military command and spy services, crucial to reducing hostility and mistrust in this fractured land, are still no more than topics of international commissions.

Hobbled by the Dayton Peace Accord of 1995, which confirmed the existence of a country of Bosnia and Herzegovina but also allowed it to be split into the two ethnic "entities," Mr. Ashdown is like a conductor directing two competing orchestras at once.

An Englishman serving his second year as the fourth international High Representative, Ashdown is under increasing pressure either to show results or to give up, and let Bosnians (the common shorthand for all residents of the state) fend for themselves.

Peacekeeping troop strength is down to 12,000 (1,800 of them Americans, all National Guard) from a high of 60,000 after the war. And having spent $17 billion here already, the international community has been dramatically downscaling its physical presence and cash outlays. The UN has largely withdrawn. Ashdown's own mandate ends next May, and no one can say whether his stint will be extended, or if another High Representative will replace him.

Of course, because a Democrat undertook the Bosnia adventure, it's considered a worthy use of U.S. power and a success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 18, 2003 7:47 PM

Aren't we still in Kosovo too?

Posted by: John Resnick at September 18, 2003 8:16 PM

Why would the world still insist that Bosnia is one country, when it's obviously two ?

If two countries aren't established when the international presence leaves, then one country will be formed by genocide.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 19, 2003 5:31 AM