It was not supposed to happen that way. History had ended, and the New World Order was upon us. But then, on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, unleashing the Gulf war. Less than a year later, on June 27, 1991, fighting erupted in the land that was formerly Yugoslavia, right after two of its republics, Slovenia and Croatia, had seceded. And the fighting in the Balkans, which once gave us two wars (1912 and 1913) as a prelude to the Great One, continues—with tens of thousands dead and perhaps a million refugees.
We are used to Middle East wars; there have been five or nine since 1945, depending on how we count. But in Europe, one hour by plane from Munich and two from Paris?
If we want to pick a single date for history’s “end,” July 16, 1990 will do best. On that day, Mikhail Gorbachev and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl came together in Stavropol to sign a document which, in effect, was the death warrant of the Soviet empire. In Stavropol, quickly dubbed “Stavrapallo,” Gorbachev conceded what Soviet policy had fought tooth and nail for 45 years: a Germany reunified within the West. To do so was to quit. For to give away the strategic brace of the Soviet empire was to give away the rest. It was East Germany that had helped Moscow to contain, encircle, and cow its restless satrapies. And if Gorbachev had ever hoped to reform the empire in order to restore it, the opportunity was now gone forever. The rest was rearguard actions, including the abortive putsch of August 1991. On December 25 of that year, the Red Flag fluttering over the Kremlin was hauled down, and the Soviet Union, the “Third Rome,” was no more.
For those schooled in the modern-day millenarianism of Condorcet and Turbot, Hegel and Marx, it was easy to conclude that history had now truly come to its end. With the last great foe of liberal-capitalist democracy on the ash-heap of history, it was only logical to assume that the Hegelian Weltgeist had won. Henceforth, the great issue of politics would no longer be the Leninist question “who-whom?,” but the pragmatic concern “how-when?” Rule over men, to coin a phrase, would be replaced by the administration of things.
But then, right in that same summer of 1990 and right on the dot, the Gulf war broke out, to be followed one summer later by the Balkan war. Were these wars mere mishaps—or atavistic convulsions—on the road to teleology’s final triumph? On the contrary, they were more accurately to be seen as necessary results of history’s alleged finale. For neither of them would have broken out in an intact bipolar world.
In that world, Saddam Hussein, a Soviet client, would not have dared invade Kuwait, a mini-state firmly ensconced among America’s protectorates. For a key rule of bipolarity has always been: neither attack, nor allow your clients to attack, a critical asset of your mortal rival. Washington and Moscow had well absorbed the lessons of past alliance politics when unruly junior partners (like Austria-Hungary) had half-dragged, half-pushed their patrons (Wilhelmine Germany) into war. But with Soviet might melting away like the wicked witch, so was Moscow’s control over its satraps.
Conversely, if Soviet power had still been undamaged as Saddam executed his Kuwait caper, the United States, taken by surprise, surely would not have fielded half-a-million troops so close to Moscow’s underbelly. The U.S. would have drawn a line in the Saudi sand (and no more) to deter a second Iraqi thrust. But to unleash a full-scale war on the edge of the USSR? Hardly. The risk of an existential clash would have loomed too high.
In an intact bipolar world, where Communism was still a potent force, the war in Yugoslavia would not have erupted, either. After World War II, this strange concoction of six republics and two autonomous provinces labeled the “Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia” was held together by the sheer force of Communist power. Joseph Broz, better known as “Tito,” and his Partizani had prevailed in the internal war against Serbian Chetniks and Croatian Ustashi, and as Nazi military power collapsed across all of Europe in early 1945, Tito could claim that he had also defeated the Germans.
The aftermath of this “war of national liberation” was a Soviet state. The 1946 constitution was patterned after the Soviet one. The economy was nationalized, and though Yugoslavia was pro forma a federal construction, power was centralized at the heart of the Communist party. Though the system was called “administrative socialism,” that was but another word for a Stalinist dictatorship.
Yet if one-man Communist rule was the skeleton of the organism, Soviet enmity soon provided the sinews and muscles that held it all together. By early 1948, a bitter struggle had broken out between the two “fraternal” states, and in the summer, Stalin had Yugoslavia expelled from the Comintern. Steady, and vicious, pressure from Moscow followed, suppressing the hatred the warring nations and tribes of Yugoslavia had brought into the federation—and though exhausted, not forgotten. The specter of a Soviet attack, waved like a flag by Belgrade, delivered an ersatz nationalism for free. Building on the partisan myth, Yugoslavia became an armed camp—drawing legitimacy and cohesion from the brooding foe outside the gate.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, indeed until Tito’s death in 1980, Yugoslavia could find another “national” mission in that rickety but logical by-product of bipolarity known as the Movement of the Non-Aligned. Virtually invented by Tito, non-alignment was an institution and ideology that continued to contain the mortal tensions built into the Yugoslav construction. It was also a foreign policy which legitimated independence from the Soviet Union, which bestowed a national identity on a nation that had none, and which produced tidy diplomatic and economic gains, to boot. For with this anti-bipolar policy Yugoslavia could draw profit and prestige from bipolarity: soon both East and West were courting the maverick Stalinist regime, delivering aid and even arms.
It was thus no accident, but quite fitting, that Yugoslavia exploded precisely in the summer of 1991. What could have symbolized the collapse of bipolarity better than the green light a tottering Soviet Union had given to U.S. intervention in the Gulf? No longer a “pole” in world affairs, Moscow had sunk to the position of supplicant, doing Washington’s bidding in the Security Council and begging for money during the London G-7 Summit in the summer of 1991. Little wonder, then, that the tectonics of the Yugoslav polity now began to shift ever more loudly.
Loudest of all was the chauvinism of the Serbs. Though Tito himself was of Slovenian-Croatian stock, the Serbs had been running Yugoslavia since the end of World War II. Belgrade was the power center, and Belgrade was Serbia. The Serbs dominated the officer corps, the bureaucracy, and the secret police. Nevertheless, as always, the Serbs felt slighted and demeaned, robbed of their deserved status and patrimony. They had after all bled more than any other nationality during World War II—or so they told themselves—and yet, instead of rewarding them, Tito had punished them. To curtail Serbian dominance, Tito had amputated Serbian territory in the north (Vojvodina) and in the south (Kosovo). And now, in 1991, as the other republics moved to strike out for national independence, the Serbs saw themselves in the role of the ultimate loser. Their brethren made up 30 percent of the population in Bosnia, 17 percent in Croatia, 55 percent in Vojvodina, and 10 percent in Kosovo—an irredenta destined for oppression by the lesser races.
When Slovenia and Croatia absconded in the summer of 1991—a decision aided and abetted above all by Germany and Austria—the die was cast. If Yugoslavia could not be glued together by ideology or by an external enemy, then “Greater Serbia” was the second-best solution. And that required brute force, of which the Serbs had plenty, to carve out a large chunk of Croatia (achieved earlier this year) and to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia (the Serbs now hold 70 percent of Bosnian territory). We should expect Kosovo to be next. Though the population there is 90-percent Albanian, it has been the fountainhead of Serb nationalist mythology since the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. This was where the Serbs fought—and lost—their cosmic battle against the Turkish infidel; it is, as the Serbs are wont to portray it, the very birthplace of their nation.
History, in short, has returned with a vengeance—like a film stopped for 45 years which has suddenly resumed. Everybody remembers the last performance. The Serbs remember the “Independent State of Croatia,” a creation of Hitler and Mussolini under the fascist Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic. In May 1941, the Ustasha commander of Bania Luka, a certain Dr. Gutic, told his followers: “I have given orders for the total extinction of the Serbs [on Croatian territory]. Annihilate them wherever you can find them.” And annihilate the Croatian fascists did—in ways that even shook their Nazi overlords. Close to two million Yugoslavs died during World War II, half of them in the mutual slaughter of the South Slav nations.
But genocide did not remain a Croatian monopoly for long. Soon Serbian nationalists rallied around Colonel Draza Mihailovic, a monarchist fighting for “Greater Serbia.” Mihailovic’s Chetniks (from the Serbian word for “band” or “company”) began by attacking German positions, but Der Führer knew how to deal with these “bandits.” He gave orders to murder 50 to 100 hostages for each German killed, and so Mihailovic stopped—to the point of turning his forces into something of an “official” resistance (which would even collaborate with the Germans and Italians). His Chetniks—Serbs and Montenegrins—then turned against Serbia’s other enemies: Muslims and Croats. In terms of sheer bloodlust and sadism, the Chetniks were every bit the equal of the Ustashi.
Nor were Tito’s Partizani more humane. After several hapless attempts to bring Chetnik and Partisan forces together, a third internal war erupted. In addition to Ustashi murdering Serbs, and Chetniks murdering Croats and Bosnians, the Chetnik and the Partisan resistance armies went to war against each other. (At one point, Mihailovic even asked the Germans for help against Tito; they refused.)
The payback came during and after the war. Wherever the Partisans were victorious in Croatia and Bosnia, mass executions followed. The worst, however, took place after the war. In the spring of 1945, anybody tainted by collaboration with the Germans tried to save his life by escaping to Italy or Austria. Ustashi, Chetniks, and anti-Tito Slovenians were pushed back by the Allies, only to be slaughtered by the Partisans. In Bleiburg (on the Austro-Yugoslav border) several tens of thousands are said to have been machine-gunned to death on May 15 and 16, 1945; a similar massacre took place just inside Slovenia in Kocevski Rog.
In short, almost everybody in the lands that were once Yugoslavia has accounts to settle and memories to live down. That does not make for cool heads or for compromise. It is a European Lebanon—a Hobbesian world with plenty of ammunition. It is a struggle to the quick for turf and power among nations and tribes bound together by nothing but hatred and fear—and the curse of settlement patterns where ethnic boundaries do not coincide with political ones.
Nor is it so clear, at second sight, who the good and the bad guys are. Slobodan Milosevic, the neo-Communist leader of Serbia, is no liberal democrat. But neither is Franjo Tudjman, his Croatian counterpart, whose ideological roots reach back into the clerical fascism of the Ustasha period. And both Serbs and Croats, though deadly enemies, are not above striking a deal over the dead body of Bosnia, whose Muslims (by no means the Khomeinist fundamentalists of Serbian propaganda) will be the ultimate losers of this war.
It is in Bosnia-Herzegovina where the moral issue has hit the world squarely in the face. When the fighting erupted last year in Slovenia and Croatia, the West could still becalm itself by weighing the case in terms of “on the one hand, on the other.” Had not Slovenia and Croatia seceded without trying for a peaceful divorce? How would the rest of Europe live with the precedent of unhappy nationalities just breaking away? What about the Serbian minority inside the new state of Croatia? (At the turn of 1991-92, a European Community commission was to certify whether the two breakaway republics met the EC’s conditions for recognition. A critical item was the protection of minority rights. Slovenia passed the test, Croatia did not.) Also, the Croats put up a good fight, and with one-third of their territory in Serbian hands, the war suddenly stopped.
But Bosnia-Herzegovina was different, even though the dynamic of the conflict closely resembled the precedent of Croatia and Slovenia. There it had been secession that triggered the Serbian onslaught. Here it was the referendum of March 1, 1992—with 99 percent in favor of independence—that lit a very short fuse on a very large powder keg. Also, Bosnia harbored the largest Serb minority in any of the non-Serb republics—more than 30 percent of the population. (Croats made up 17 percent.) Still, the moral issue crystallized very quickly.
As Muslim and Serbian militias were sniping away at each other, the residents of Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo suffered an endless bombardment from the surrounding hills. In the towns of Bosanski Brod and Biyelina, Serbian militias executed veritable massacres among the civilians. But what turned confusion, even indifference, in Western Europe and in the U.S. into pure outrage was television, carrying into living rooms images thought forever banished from Western eyes: chilling pictures of concentration camps, with emaciated figures looking at us through barbed wire. And what the Serbs themselves called “ethnic cleansing” brought back terms like judenrein.
Nor were the Croats inactive. If the Serbs now held 70 percent of Bosnia (according to their own count), the Croats have virtually absorbed the rest. By the end of the summer, Muslim resistance was essentially concentrated in Sarajevo and in Bihac (a pocket in the northwest).
There was no moral dispute this time. There was nobody whose heart did not go out to the Bosnian Muslims or who argued against helping them. Nor was there that curious bout of shadow-boxing which had pitted Germany and Austria on one side against France, Britain, and the United States on the other during the Croatian campaign. That performance looked like a veritable replay of World War I, with Austria and Germany lining up behind the former Hapsburg possessions Croatia and Slovenia, and the three Western powers tacitly supporting their old ally Serbia by upholding its claim for an intact Yugoslavia. Apparently, memories die hard in the West, too. This summer, during the Munich G-7 Summit, the French President, François Mitterrand, reminisced: “I have not forgotten the historic ties between France and Serbia and the solidarity that bound them together in two world wars.”
Memories also quickly melded with Realpolitik .Especially the French were quick to spot a “Teutonic bloc” redivivus as they watched their good German friends, the Austrians in tow, making a headlong, follow-us-or-else dash for the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia. Here too, then, history staged a comeback—though as a pale copy of the real thing that was World War I.
But by the time the Serbs (and the Croats in the shadows) proceeded to carve up Bosnia, the jockeying in the West for position had virtually stopped. The United States wanted to help, and so did Britain and France. Indeed, in the UN Security Council they all teamed up to support Resolution 770 which sanctioned “all necessary means” to assure the transportation of relief supplies to beleaguered Sarajevo. There was no shortage of moral outrage this time, and there was no dispute over the identity of victim and aggressor.
The dispute lay elsewhere—pitting Moralpolitik (intervene!) against Realpolitik (stay out!). Another novel feature of the debate both in the U.S. and in Europe was the surprising, almost bizarre, line-up, with Left and Right freely intermingling on either side of the argument.
In the run-up to the Gulf war, by contrast, the familiar battle lines had been quickly reestablished. On the whole, liberals and protagonists farther Left opposed the war; conservatives, with some notable exceptions, advocated military force against Saddam Hussein. Especially in Western Europe, the moribund peace movement (though with significant exceptions there, too) tried to recapture yesterday’s glory by protesting the war against Saddam, thus in effect taking his side. Generally, the Social Democratic Left took a similar route—condemning the Iraqi invasion, but condemning the use of American power even more (the tide did turn when Iraqi Scuds hit Israel, reminding Germans of the Holocaust and all West Europeans of the unsavory role they had played in the sub-rosa supply of nuclear and chemical warfare materials to Saddam).
Essentially, the Gulf war reactivated classic anti-American reflexes; its real, though subliminal, motive force was fear and resentment of the United States. And the subconscious syllogism went as follows: Power is bad; America has lots of power; ergo, America is bad—and worse than Saddam. Fittingly, then, the West European peace movement could still send thousands into the streets during the Gulf war; but virtually nobody would go out to protest Serbian conquests.
In the United States, it was mainly the memory of Vietnam which had animated liberal opponents of intervention in the Gulf—hence a rhetoric that depicted economic pressure as more effective and less risky than war. But in the summer of 1992, this familiar world was no more. In the U.S., such conservative stalwarts as Jeane Kirkpatrick became the strange bedfellows of liberal columnists such as Anthony Lewis in arguing for military action against the Serbs. In Europe, Kirkpatrick’s sister-in-spirit, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, joined Laborites and Continental Social Democrats in calling for forceful intervention.
There is perhaps a certain logic to this curious melee. On the Left, the issue—or the threat—this time was not American power; if anything, it was the lack of it. The U.S. did not flex its muscles; since American interests were only remotely affected, Washington took the lead in not leading. That allowed liberals, especially European liberals, to follow their basic instincts. Since the Greek Uprising (1821-29), the liberal creed has on the whole been interventionist when the issue was not the balance of power but humanitarianism or ideology. Bosnia fit this case.
Conservatives are usually not so enthusiastic about intervention when compelling interests are absent. It was thus left to strong believers like Thatcher and Kirkpatrick to sound the alarm—perhaps also to stick a thorn into the side of an unbeloved successor (John Major) or a wishy-washy deviationist (George Bush). They did so by invoking “Munich” and by assimilating an ethnic war to the cosmic battle against (in Kirkpatrick’s words) “would-be aggressors and dictators” à la Hitler and Stalin—thus rolling a moral concern into a grand-strategic one. The message was: intervene now, or face worse later—as if Serbia were Nazi Germany and Milosevic Der Führer.
But Serbia does not have the most powerful army in Europe, nor is it beholden to visions of dominating the Continent. And while Milosevic may be a nasty, neo-Communist power-monger with ambitions, he falls a bit short of the evil genius that was Hitler. This is precisely why those moderate conservatives at the helm in Washington, London, and Bonn—and even in Paris, where Mitterrand held off his interventionist Socialist brethren—chose discretion over valor. For the likes of Bush, Major, and Kohl—indeed, for anybody in the position of making real choices with real consequences—the issue was not as easy as for pundits and former prime ministers.
In the annals of the modern state system it is hard to find instances of intervention motivated purely by humanitarian concern. In addition to the moral motive, three additional conditions have had to be satisfied. Is it in my interest? Is there a reasonable chance of success? Can I muster the requisite means?
In the Gulf war, all four conditions were met. First, the invasion of Kuwait struck a powerful moral chord in the West, and it kept resonating in spite of the few apologists who tried to paint Iraq’s oil grab as an instance of intra-Arab distributive justice. Kuwait, a tiny defenseless neighbor, had been a threat to nobody. And Saddam Hussein, the “Butcher of Baghdad,” was evil personified—an unusually ruthless tyrant who had even dropped poison gas on Kurdish civilians.
Second, there was a trio of compelling interests. (1) If Saddam were to join his own oil riches to those of Kuwait, he would acquire a commanding position in the market and thus the ability to manipulate the price and the output of this strategic resource. (2) If he got away with his conquest, he might end up dominating the Middle East. Joining Africa, Asia, and Europe, this was the most critical strategic region in the world—and without the West, there was nobody else to uphold the balance. (3) Working furiously at long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, Saddam soon would also pose a threat to points beyond.
Third, there was a reasonable chance of success at an acceptable cost because Saddam’s military disposition (rigid deployments plus long lines of communications) and the nature of the battlefield (an open desert) uniquely favored Western weapons and tactics.
Fourth, because of all of the above, it was possible, though still not easy, to persuade Western societies to support the war and to underwrite the mobilization of the requisite means.
In the Balkan case, only the first condition was unambiguously present: moral outrage. It was easy to argue in simple and forceful ethical terms. If a thug beats up an innocent, it is my obligation to intervene. But statesmen have a more difficult problem than individuals. When they order their young to face death, there must be compelling interests which justify the sacrifice in terms of their own nation’s welfare. Statesmen do not live by the precept that virtue is its own reward. They must also ask: is there a reward beyond duty? Or in the vernacular: can I do well by doing good? Will a small sacrifice now forestall larger costs later? Or will non-action today lead to calamity tomorrow?
This may be a callous way to make the point, but it hardly defies historical reality. The West did not intervene in Cambodia, though the figure of three million murdered by the Khmer Rouge is now etched forever into our memories. Between 1967 and 1970, Nigerian federal forces killed hundreds of thousands of secessionist Biafrans as the world stood by. The death factory at Auschwitz was never bombed.
Now came Bosnia’s turn. Here there was no oil to be safeguarded, no nuclear-armed dictator to be stopped, no strategic balance to be restored. In short, there was no compelling interest to galvanize moral action.
Nor did the Balkan war offer a reasonable chance of success at a reasonable price. In the Gulf, forces armed and trained for World War III went after an army that had been unable to best the rag-tag Holy Warriors of the Khomeinist revolution. Technology was on the side of the West, and so was topography. Against the best professional armies in the world, Saddam’s conscripts were sitting ducks in the desert. After a few weeks of bombing, Iraq’s military infrastructure was kaput and its dug-in troops demoralized—courtesy of cruelly brilliant skies and of American Star Wars weapons.
Yet even in this ideal setting, America’s eyes in the sky and countless hunt-and-destroy missions could not eliminate Saddam’s Scuds: all their launchers needed was the cover of a bridge overhead. Now add the clouds over Bosnia—and the copses, mountains, and forests below. Here there would be no dug-in divisions, but artillery moved in minutes and mortars carried away in knapsacks. Here (recalling the role Bosnia played in Tito’s war plans) would be a network of hidden and hardened depots, command posts, and arms factories. Satellites would not find them, and pinpoint strikes would not destroy them. Here, finally, there would be no neatly drawn battle lines but house-to-house fighting, guerrilla tactics, and civilians in between—in short, not Iraq but Lebanon.
There was no cheap solution. By August, Britain, France, and Italy stood ready to dispatch 4,400 men to protect relief convoys bound for Sarajevo. Such a wagon train might feed the hungry, but it could not stop the fighting. It would be a bluff easily called.1 This time, Western forces would be the sitting ducks—strung out along 180 miles of road between the port of Split and the beleaguered city. A credible and effective Sarajevo relief force would require divisions, not regiments. These would have to secure a corridor from the sea, clean out the snipers, take the hills, occupy the approaches—and have plenty of men to spare for wide-ranging mobile operations against hit-and-run attacks on an ever-widening periphery.
But then what? There was still the rest of Bosnia—from Bihac, one of the last Muslim holdouts in the west, to Goradze in the east. There would still be lots of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims willing to fight, trying to improve on, or to reverse, the status quo. On the ethnic leopard skin that is Bosnia, a single safe harbor (as for the Kurds in northern Iraq) would not do. The entire country—or lots of little chunks—would have to be pacified, and at that point, divisions would turn into army corps.
As for a “Baghdad strategy”—massive firepower delivered by air to take out power plants, electricity grids, airports, truck convoys, and bunkers in Serbia—it would surely hurt Serbia, but it would not necessarily stop the bloodshed “micro-managed” by local warlords with the help of ample supplies of assault rifles and mortars.
Lebanon was the most instructive analogy because the objective in Bosnia would be similar. The purpose of intervention would not be to break the will of a single power center or to drive out a foreign invader but (to quote the Economist) “to pacify a non-country that has collapsed into tribal warfare.” (Remember “pacification” in Vietnam?) Massive fire power, delivered “cheaply” by air, would be in the position of a jackhammer where a dental drill was required. It would make the rubble bounce but not rearrange ethnic jigsaw puzzles. (Ask the Israelis, the best soldiers around, how well they did in forging a political order with warlords and holy men, Shiites and Maronites, Druze and Palestinians. They bled, lost, and left.) True, the first order of business would be to stop the slaughter in Bosnia. But Serbs, Croats, and Muslims would still be in place afterward—full of hatred and lust for revenge.
The question then was: if we go in, how and when do we get out? Generals do not like open-ended commitments, and democratic electorates do not like an endless succession of sealed coffins. In the absence of compelling interests, it was the vision of a quick and cheap success that animated Western interventionists. A closer look at the political and military realities on the ground did not warrant such optimism. And this was why those charged with making real choices were so reluctant to match moral outrage with equally impressive military means.
There was another question, virtually shrouded in a taboo. If we were obliged to help, but dared not do so for sound politico-strategic reasons, why not deliver sophisticated arms to the Bosnian Muslims? True, I am not bound to come to the rescue if my chances are small and the risk to my own life is large. But then, I am at least obliged to throw the victim a club or a gun so that he can help himself.
The West did not do this, nor did it even openly debate the issue. One argument was: “But arms deliveries would prolong and enlarge the bloodshed”—as if brief and one-sided bloodshed were better. Another counter was: “On whom will today’s victims turn their guns tomorrow?”—as if it were better for them to die now than to retain the capacity for mischief in the future. These were curious arguments and they betrayed a moral confusion that reflected the larger confusion engendered by the Balkan war.
What does this clash of Realpolitik and Idealpolitik tell us about the “New Europe” and the “New World Order”?
It is hard to fault the United States for not leading the charge. After all, Western Europe—potent, prosperous, and in place—should take the call first when its own house is on fire. But together with the Gulf war, the Balkan tragedy spells out a sobering message: if the United States leads, action follows; if it does not, little of consequence happens.
Nor should it come as a surprise that Europe, once liberated from the fetters of the cold war, would flummox its visionaries. Left to its own devices and no longer subject to the discipline of a great quasi-religious conflict, Europe is returning to history—almost surreptitiously in the West and with a vengeance in the East.
Instead of coalescing around a single purpose, Western Europe is renationalizing ever so slowly. France worries about German power, Germany is angling for status commensurate with its clout, and Britain worries about both of them. Had they joined forces early on in the Yugoslav drama, perhaps they might have been able to dominate the stage instead of signaling their impotence to the protagonists of “Greater Serbia.” By now, Serbian conquests in Croatia and Bosnia are virtually complete; any intervention would be too little and too late. The best that we might still be able to do is to fall back on deterrence by putting international forces in place—in Macedonia or in Kosovo—before terror follows temptation.
European institutions, proudly poised to conquer the post-cold-war future, may soon feel the fallout. A year ago, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)—with 51 members the largest of the bunch—stood ready to replace NATO as the European security organization. It now looks bound for irreversible coma—a bit like the League of Nations which died an unheralded death in 1936 when it could not stop Mussolini’s aggression against Abyssinia. The purely European nine-member West European Union (WEU) has been in coma for decades, but there was hope at last when the Balkan war began. As the military arm of the EC, it would act without America. Today, the British would rather place their 1,800 troops earmarked for Sarajevo under UN command; and the French prefer their own officers in command of their 1,100-man contingent.
Together with Europe’s hapless performance in the early stage of the conflict, this does not bode well for the EC whose grand design for a more perfect union—the Maastricht treaty—remains unratified. The display of barely camouflaged discord may well add to the doubts about sacrificing national identity and sovereignty to the uncertain god of Europe: if we cannot act together, it may be better to stay apart. At any rate, if the nation-state and nationalism are making a comeback everywhere else in Europe, why would the Twelve be able to defy history and march in the opposite direction of an e pluribus unum?
Are the 1990’s then going to resemble the 1930’s? No, of course not. Serbia is not Nazi Germany, and Milosevic is no Hitler. This time, no power of any weight wants to overturn the overall status quo, and there are no revisionists with big chips in the European game. Still, farther east and south, restless nations and tribes have read the handwriting on the wall: superior firepower is worth more than a 24-carat moral claim or a benevolent resolution on the part of the EC or the UN. History has not ended; only that great master of discipline, the cold war, has taken a bow. The little wars have just begun.
1 Would Milosevic dare to attack the armed emissaries of three great European powers? He would not have to assume that risk. He would claim innocence and point to those angry patriots in place fighting for the rights of the Serbian minority.