On the peacefare.net website, distinguished professor Daniel Serwer published a set of recommendations of his on the future of the US engagement in the Balkans, with special emphasis on Bosnia and Herzegovina. When comparing these recommendations with the actual on-the-ground situation, the only conclusion that can be extracted is that they are nothing but complete balderdash.
Here is why.
If we go back in Balkan history, no earlier than 1878, we will see that at that time the area of Bosnia and Herzegovina could be found somewhere at the end of the Ottoman Empire, with the Porte in Istanbul not too interested in the development of this appendix, in which the revolts of the non-Muslim population had already begun. The only thing that mattered to Porte was that BiH operate as a buffer zone towards the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, allowing the Kingdom to create its own buffer zone toward the Ottoman Empire. In this “vilayet”, people arrived as “exiles” from Istanbul, while local powerful figures (beys) enjoyed almost unlimited power. Serbs and Croats could be respectable merchants and craftsmen, but it required much more money and time compared to the Muslim population. The situation remained unchanged for years, and then the great powers gathered at the Berlin Congress, at which the fate of BiH was decided.
Allegedly, explaining the need for the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to occupy and later annex Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Monarch’s Foreign Minister Gyula Andrássy said that in that part of the Balkans, “the population consists of Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics, who do not live separately but rather mingle in the same districts, towns and villages”, while underlining that over 200,000 people not wishing to return had fled from there to the Monarchy. He stressed that these three nations live amid such a state of antagonism, that a foreign power can only be deemed necessary to prevent conflicts in the neighbouring country.
After the entry of Austro-Hungarian troops in BiH, a rather challenging attempt despite the approval of the population, yet with fierce armed conflicts mainly with the Muslim population, Benjamin Kalay was appointed warden and, miraculously, tried to follow what Mr. Serwer proposes; the civilian option.
What was unsuccessful back then due to the schism between the “Orthodox and the Catholics” would not be accepted even today, however circumstances have slightly changed. Namely, the civil state abides by the “one man-one vote” principle in the elections, which would lead to the further domination of Bosniaks in the state.
No, this is not paranoia. I recall that the 2013 census indicated a slight Bosniak majority in BiH, the political representatives of which have repeatedly stated that they, as the majority nation, should ensure that the other two constituent peoples, but also those who do not belong to them, feel safe and enjoy all of their rights.
Therefore, Bosniaks should provide Serbs, Croats and others with all the rights … as long as they are “civil”.
From the end of the war until today, Bosniak leaders proclaim that both Serbs and Croats have a “mother country” and Bosniaks do not, and that should be BiH, connected by strong ties with Turkey. However, in such a state there is no place for a “civic option” story. Very soon, Bosniak political leaders would be called upon to face a dilemma; either abandon the principles of the “mother country of Bosniaks” for which they had fought for decades, or give up on the theory of the “civil state”. It is clear which option they would choose.
The “One man-one vote” principle represents an axiom that would end up deepening the roots of the conflict between the Bosniaks themselves and then the one between the three constituent peoples. Instead of stabilizing the situation, it would end up yielding the opposite results. This is how things are in this country.
As for the influence of Russia and China, it would be nice to consider cooperation that would lead to an improvement in the political situation in the country, instead of weakening it. But that is where the economy comes in …
It is pretty nice to theorize about engagement in a foreign country from the safety of your own home, no matter how much someone considers thyself a savant on that topic. It is qualitatively different when you actually live in the state, as Mr. Serwer suggests. A state in which entities and cantons disappearing would not be a good solution. Amendments to the Constitution are necessary in terms of implementing the Sejdic-Finci judgment, yet these changes must not be regarded as unpacking the Dayton Accords.
In the end, a logical question arises: what is the best option for the future of BiH?
The answer is simple: the kind of state that Dayton envisioned – a state of three EQUAL PEOPLES and two entities. /ibna