Western Interference, not Serbian aggression, is responsible for
the war in Bosnia.
'It is the most exclusively Serbian federal army that is chiefly
to blame for the fighting in Croatia. In Slovenia and now in Bosnia
Herzegovina·When President Bush mounted the task force that drove
Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, he acted in the name of a new world
order. The same arguments apply to Yugoslavia where Mr Milosevic
is using force to hold territory that is not his in the name of
Serbia and of communism·At the very least it is time for the West
to ensure the rigorous enforcement of military and economic sanctions
against Serbia.' (Evening standard, 18 May 1992)
The Western media has portrayed the current bloodletting in Bosnia
Herzegovina as exclusively the product of Serbian aggression.
Even more than in the Croatian conflict, the war in Bosnia has
been used to promote anti-Serbian sentiment. The European Community
has constantly pressured Belgrade and introduced sanctions against
the Serbian rump of the Yugoslav federation. Britain and America
have pushed to suspend Yugoslav membership of the Conference on
Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) because it 'can in no
way be described as meeting CSCE standards or commitments'. Politicians
and commentators alike have presented Serbs as barbaric, bloodthirsty
In fact, the war in Bosnia, as that previously in Croatia, is
the product less of Serbian aggression than of Western interference.
While the initial impetus to conflict in Yugoslavia came with
the attempt by the old Stalinist bureaucracy to use ethnic divisions
to bolster its rule as it lost its grip on the country, it was
the impact of the market and of Western Intervention that transformed
these rivalries into bitter war. At the same time, Western pressure
on Serbia has forced Belgrade to defend its interests through
military means, further accelerating the process of disintegration.
The demise of Stalinism in Yugoslavia, as throughout Eastern Europe,
has led not to the end of the East-West divide but its recreation
in a new form. The division of Europe between a capitalist West
and a Stalinist East has been transformed into a division of Europe
between a relatively prosperous West (which includes privileged
areas of the old Stalinist bloc) and the bulk of Eastern Europe
which remains on the periphery of the capitalist system and maintains
a third world-like relationship with the world economy. Nowhere
is this more evident than in Yugoslavia.
In Yugoslavia the northern republics of Croatia and Slovenia have
benefited from the spread of market forces and have been reintegrated
much better into the world economy. The southern republics remain
impoverished having gained little from the market. The differential
impact of the market encouraged Croatia and Slovenia to break
away from the rest of the federation in order to maintain their
privileged position. The two northern republics fomented nationalist
rivalries, militarised the conflict with Serbia as a way of drawing
in the West and aggressively promoted the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Not only did the economic impact of the market enforce the de facto partition of Yugoslavia but Western political considerations accelerated
the disintegration of the federation. None of the Western powers
desired the demise of Yugoslavia - indeed they initially worked
to maintain a unitary state fearing precisely the kind of chaos
and instability now visited upon the region - but one it was clear
that Yugoslavia was falling apart the West's political strategy
simply accelerated the process.
For the Western powers, Croatia became a symbol of European 'civilisation'
and 'freedom' and its war with Serbia was portrayed as the defence
of European values against the barbarian hordes. Germany, in particular,
was keen to promote Croatian nationalism as a way of consolidating
its sphere of influence, legitimising its foreign and diplomatic
aims, and helping to rewrite its own past by normalising Croatia's
But the logic of fragmentation did not end with the secession
of Croatia and Slovenia. The weakening of Belgrade's authority
and the fomenting of ethnic divisions rent apart the rest of Yugoslavia
too. Bosnia Herzegovina voted for separation and won EC recognition
as an independent state. The divisions that had destroyed the
federation did not magically stop at Bosnia's borders. In a state
composed of three main groups - Croats, Serbs and Muslims - there
was an explosion of inter-ethnic strife. A population which had
lived peacefully together for the past half century now found
itself in the middle of a bloody civil war.
The cynicism with which ethnic divisions are being manipulated
is best illustrated by the attitude of Croatia to the Bosnian
conflict. Initially, Croatia backed the Muslims against the Serbs
and encouraged Bosnia Herzegovina to break away from Belgrade,
hence weakening central authority. Now, Croatia is, in effect,
working with Serbia against the Muslims to effect a partition
of Bosnia and enhance its control of the region.
The scapegoating of Serbia by the West has itself created further
fragmentation. Politically and diplomatically isolated, the Serbs
have been forced to play their one strong card - military strength
- to defend their interests. Far from the war being the result
of Serbian aggression, Serbia is being forced desperately to defend
its interests through military means.
The manner in which the Yugoslav conflict has spun out of control,
and its impact on the rest of Europe, has deeply worried the West.
For the imperialists, the key issue is the need for someone to
impose order on the region. But no power has got the capacity
to do so. The inability of either the EC or the United Nations
to enforce a ceasefire demonstrates the lack of control the West
has over the conflict. There is little possibility of a Gulf-like
intervention, especially given the divergent Western interests
in the area. Having unleashed the forces that have led to the
fragmentation of Yugoslavia, the West can do little but watch
the carnage continue.
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