On November 21, 1995, the Dayton Accords put an end to violence in Bosnia-Herzegovina and created a hybrid state entity, based on the division into communities that validated the main claims of nationalist factions under the international control. International media takes this opportunity to wonder about the lessons drawn from this agreement.
The International Herald Tribune gives the floor to two former High Representatives for Bosnia-Herzegovina whose articles make us think of a settling of scores.
Carl Bildt, who held that post from 1995 to 1997 before he became a member of the Administrative Council of the Rand Corporation, praises the Dayton process and its first results but considers that later (that is, after he left his post) the international community (in other words, his successors) did not make significant achievements and today Bosnia is paying the price with serious economic difficulties.
Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia from 2002 until early November 2005, for his part affirms that the international community made an excellent job in Bosnia-Herzegovina, except for the first two years that followed the Dayton accords (that is, during Carl Bildt’s mandate). He affirms that Bosnia is solving its economic problems and at the same time it is joining the “Euro-Atlantic” community.
Both authors show a clear Atlantist fervor. Thus, Carl Bildt praises the work of the United States and affirms that nothing could have been possible without that country in 1995, while Ashdown rejoices of the fact that, under his mandate, Bosnia sent troops to Iraq to cooperate with the Anglo-Saxon occupying forces.
In Der Standard, Wolfgang Petritsch, who held the post of High Representative for Bosnia between Bildt and Ashdown, considers that there was excellent economic work at the start (that is, when he replaced Bildt), but he regrets the neo-liberal shift of economic policies adopted in the later years (Ashdown’s mandate) and the inability of the international forces to arrest Karadzic and Mladic. However, he acknowledges that an eventual incorporation of Bosnia into the European Union would benefit everyone as it could serve as a cohesive element for the future.

In a few words, these three interventions can be summarized as follows: I did a good job, the problems are the result of the errors made by those who occupied the post before or after me and the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina depends on its incorporation into the Euro-Atlantic community, a priority related with a rapprochement to the former regions of Yugoslavia. Personal rivalries have been triggered in the Atlantist field prior to some lucrative nominations.

When all seems to indicate that the time has come to commemorate the actions of the European Union, UN or NATO in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Srdjan Dizdarevic, president of the Helsinki Committee for Bosnia-Herzegovina, tells the French communist newspaper L’Humanité about the problems that still persist in Bosnia and offers a description of the situation in the country: the ethnic-religious system that today divides the country prevents anyone not belonging to one of the three big communities from participating in any elections; corruption is wide-spread; nationalism remains strong and organized crime is powerful. Nothing is further from the self-approval of the three former High Representatives.
In a long text published by the Italian communist daily Il Manifesto, Miodrag Lekic, a former Yugoslav ambassador and ex-candidate in the presidential elections in Montenegro, regrets the situation in Bosnia. Lekic offers a similar analysis of the current situation in Bosnia and extends it to Kosovo. He notes that the divisions among the different communities prevail. For him, Dayton froze the situation but did not solve anything in regards to human rights in that region. Thus, he express concern for the independence projects for Kosovo backed by the International Crisis Group of George Soros and expresses his reservations about the “natural death” of Yugoslavia.

Kuwait’s news daily Al Watan also gives a space to two analysts who speak about the consequences of the Dayton Accords. However, in an implicit manner, it seems they are more concerned about the reconstruction of Iraq than about that of Bosnia.
Kuwaiti journalist and writer Mohamed Khalaf presents the process that began in Dayton as a model for the reconstruction of a country after a period of war. He praises the association of military deployment, political will, cooperation and funding. Nonetheless, he thinks that it will be difficult to set up a unified government.
Being much more explicit, the director of the Rand Corporation and former US representative in the Balkans, James Dobbins, also praises the work done in Bosnia and affirms that it should serve as an inspirational source for the US actions in Iraq. In his opinion, the United States would benefit from the experience of what was done there: it is necessary to guarantee the stabilization of the country before engaging in an institutional discussion. Thus, he asks Iraqi representatives to reflect on the way to put an end to what is presented as a civil war and he suggests that the Iraqi constitution be put aside for the time being.
However, this comparison between Bosnia and Iraq has clear limitations: there were no community conflicts in Iraq prior to the invasion that clearly used and magnified ethnic-religious divisions; any attempt to apply a “Bosnian model” to the Iraqi problems would thus be obstructed by the difference of the problems of both countries. Nevertheless, the media myth of a “civil war” in Iraq rests upon multiple comparisons with the Yugoslavia of the 1990s. If we look carefully, we can see that Yugoslavia could have served as a model to stir up tensions among communities. It was there where the US general staff put into practice its theory of the “dog fights”: isolating a population and driving people to self-destruction so that they are forced to accept any decision coming from the outside to recover peace. The fire in the library of Sarajevo, a symbol of cultural pluralism in Yugoslavia, prepared the conditions for the looting of museums in Baghdad, a symbol of Iraqi national unity, under the expert eye of Ambassador Galbraith, a former expert in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

Something is for sure; the war in Bosnia led to a demonization of Serbian nationalism that opened the door for a mono-causal representation of the violent acts in Kosovo, which justified the intervention and the end of the Yugoslavian division with the dismemberment of Serbia. NATO’s military operations, which at that time took place ignoring international law, also led international public opinion to accept the principle of military actions without the approval of the UN Security Council.
This relationship is also recalled in The Guardian by journalist Diana Johnstone (who recently participated in the conference Axis for Peace 2005). Johnstone again analyzes the media myths that continue to characterize the representation of the Yugoslavian conflict. To mark her reinstatement by The Guardian, she notes that she never tried to deny the atrocities committed during that conflict but to place them in context. Thus, she tried to show that Serbian nationalism was not worse than Croat nationalism in Bosnia or Albanian nationalism in Kosovo and said that comparing Milosevic with Hitler was simplification to arouse emotions and not to make a relevant analysis. What is worse, this mixture of ideas served as a pretext for the war against Serbia, violating international law and thus opening the door for future adventures.
The disrespect for international law by the world’s top military power is a danger far worse for world peace than the nationalism of a small country. This is a lesson that can be drawn from the war in Yugoslavia that is still hard to admit.