Danko Plevnik, Ph. D. : EU has no explicit geostrategical approach toward Bosnia and Herzegovina

Member of the Council of GEOFO Danko Plevnik, Ph. D. held a lecture at the Conference "EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina between managing of the crisis and building the state on September 9th in Sarajevo. The Conference was organized by Sarajevo and Bruxelles Offices of Foundation of Heinrich Böll.

Plevnik has spoken about repercussions of the new war on terrorism for Bosnia and Herzegovina and its integration in the EU.

Dr. Danko Plevnik: Repercussions of the new war on terrorism for Bosnia and Herzegovina and its integration in the EU

In the 1950's America, the notion "communist" did not apply only to the members of the Communist Party, who considered themselves communists, but also to those who worked on the hydrogen bomb. At one point in 1953, even the creator of American atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, came under the security removal treatment. Today, "communists" are replaced with "terrorists," and every Arab who is applying for U.S. visa is asked whether he knows how to make a bomb. Just an ordinary bomb, for now, not an atomic bomb.

As in any other war, the first casualty of the war on terror is the truth. What should we talk about when we talk about terrorism? If we are talking about geopolitical terrorism, which is the terror that aims at introducing heterarchy (the rule of foreigners) in a country, which influences a shift in the power balance in a region or disturbs world order, then this term could apply only to the Taleban regime in Afghanistan while under direct influence of al-Qaida.

However, after the war in Afghanistan, we can no longer talk about geopolitical terrorism, unless its definition is consistently applied on war in Iraq or the influence of al-Qaida on changes in the U.S. security system. After the Berlin wall came down in 1989, and communism and USSR fell in 1991, American strategic community thought that the peace dividend would grow and the United States should use the opportunity to catch what Charles Krauthammer called the "unipolar momentum" and enter the unipolar era. However, a unipolar world is meaningless both in physics and in geography.
That same community claimed after 9/11 that the war on terrorism would continue for the next 30 to 50 years, that it would be global and that the reaction to it should not be unipolar. Who will be in charge of anti-terrorist wars? Counter-terrorism agencies that have demonstrated close links between intelligence agencies and terrorists. If, for example, 80% of espionage funds goes to the Pentagon, a new era of terrorist elements and intelligence blowback should be expected that would feed the spiral of international terrorism. Allowing secret intelligence and military actions contrary to the international law will lead to new wars between terrorists and secret services. As written in U.S. Congress report, "while such covert initiatives will be endorsed by few countries, they will be understood and tolerated by most."(1).

The fact that there were 14.2 million activities in 2003 that classified official documents as strictly confidential -- twice as much as in the past ten years -- leads to the conclusion that such tendency would continue. (2).

If a threatened world is on the one side, who is on the other? Al-Qaida. How did al-Qaida become so prominent on the global scene? The book Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy, edited in 2000 by leading conservative strategic intellectuals, Robert Kagan and William Kristol, does not have a single word devoted to al-Qaida. Only in chapter by Reuel Marco Gerecht, a former CIA specialist in Directorate for Operations, could one learn that the Central Intelligence Agency's "favorite, Usama bin Laden, became, especially after the embassy bombings in Africa, a more palatable and probable suspect"(3).

Where does the exaggeration of the terrorist threat lead? According to Gore Vidal in "National Security State"(4), monopolizing security despite such ethical claims becomes the foundation of modern policy to which democracy, human rights and international law must be subordinate. If the United States had limited its control of others' sovereignty through NATO, then it is spreading it throughout the world via the right to fight terrorism as a new geopolitical lever. Is terrorism really a threat to survival?

One should listen to the reasoning of experienced geopolitician Zbigniew Brzezinski, who thinks that the threat to international security and central strategic war remains nuclear deterrence of Russia, not the fight against terrorism, which is overblown. He thinks that "the public perception of the terrorist group al-Qaeda as a highly organized, tightly disciplined, globally pervasive underground army of technologically skilled terrorists directed from an efficient command and control center" is overestimated. He does not see sources of insecurity in the real Balkans, but rather in the "new Balkans" located within the southeastern rim of middle Eurasia. The main interest of the EU, in his opinion, is "global stability"(5).

Bosnia and Herzegovina have no weapons ABC. There is no critical mass of events for something like Bosnian terrorism, which is different than the situation with Basque, Irish, Corsican, Breton or Kurdish terrorism. Terrorism is not a novelty in Europe. United Kingdom has had attacks from Irish bombers since 1870's. Spain has been struck by Basque terrorists since 1960's, with the death toll of more than 700. Italy has had ethnically clean terrorism, and 415 died as victims of terrorism between 1969 and 1986 (6). Germany has faced leftist terrorism for years and recently rightist terror as well. Political terrorism did not avoid Netherlands and Sweden either.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorism was introduced according to a classical recipe of state terror: Serbian secret services conducted terrorist operations in eastern Bosnia in order to turn terrorism into war eventually. A few hundred to a few thousand volunteers from foreign countries, mostly Muslims, joined legitimate defense of Bosnia during the war. However, they were soon detected by the international community as religious fanatics and a terrorist threat. After 9/11, SFOR paid more attention to their "recognition" as terrorists and apprehension of humanitarian workers from Muslim countries than to their official and declared duty--apprehension of indicted war criminals Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić.

Of the six Algerians who were surrendered to the U.S. by the Bosnian authorities in the beginning of 2002 for suspected links with Al-Qa'ida and sent to the Guantanamo Bay, four had Bosnian citizenship: Muhamed Nesle, Mustafa Ait Idr, Budela Hadz and Bumedian Ladgar, as well as Tarik Mahmudu Ahmedu el-Savahu, who was imprisoned in Afghanistan. After the war, no major terrorist act was conducted either in BiH or through BiH. It was like in any European country or a country in the region; there has been political and mob terrorism, but no "anti-civilizational" or geopolitical terrorism.
Instead of becoming "small Afghanistan," from which terrorist actions would be undertaken all around the Western world and whose white-skinned citizens would become part of the "white al-Qaida", causing less suspicions with anti-terror agents, as planned and desired in some intelligence circles, Bosnia became a country sending units to Iraq and a potential enemy of al-Qaida.

The main threat to Bosnia, however, does not come from abroad, but rather from within, from its own policy and not from global terrorism. Political insecurity of BiH originates with the structure of its political system, not with its terrorist potential. Obsessing about destabilization with the help of terrorism is therefore quite out of place and tendentious with regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Consequently, there is no need to believe that EUROFOR would be more efficient than SFOR, because members of the European force who missed to catch war criminals within the NATO force will probably continue to do the same within the EU force.

Terrorism is still American political issue and it will not be the main question that will be asked of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the next two years when the Stabilization and Association Agreement should be concluded with the EU. The issue of stability, although formally an interest to the EU, will not be as important to the EU as to the U.S. Only the U.S. defined its continued military presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the mission to catch terrorists and fight against terrorism, which is logical considering the current American grand strategy.

Richard Perle thought that "stability" was the main argument for American military intervention in Bosnia. The Bush administration defined American interest in that stability exclusively as regional stability. Moral concern over Bosnia became American vital national interest only after Bosnia destabilized the whole region. Before then Bosnia served to destabilize European foreign and security policy and as a break to find new transatlantic partnerships.

Can Bosnian stability be preserved without foreign troops? Will it be compromised by a terrorist action? No, it is threatened by an unjust system coming out of a just peace in Dayton. Its application and its amendment is the "catch 22" in Bosnia. If the Republic of Srpska is not abolished, BiH and the region will be destabilized in time; if it is abolished, destabilization will also take place. Terrorism cannot improve that constellation, and therefore terrorism will not have real space in which to play out, except as food for media antagonization. This is particularly true of global terrorism, which cannot ensure enough financial, logistical or spiritual resources here in the long run.

However, Zbigniew Brzezinski predicts that "the EU expansion and the NATO enlargement" will, on its path eastward, meet the dangers of "a geopolitical no-man's-land". And I would say that geopolitically lukewarm approach of the EU to Bosnia makes Bosnia, still, a geopolitical everyone's land.

(1) Paul Todd & Jonathan Bloch, Global Intelligence: the World's Secret Services
Today, London & New York, Zed Books, 2003.
(2) Trent Lott & Ron Wyden, "Hiding the Truth in a Cloud of Black Ink,"
The New York Times, August 26, 2004.
(3) Robert Kagan and William Kristol (eds.), Present Dangers: Crisis and
Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy, San Francisco, Encounter Books, 2000.
(4) Gore Vidal, Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia,
New York, Nation Books, 2004.
(5) Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership,
New York, Basic Books, 2004.
(6) Franco Ferracuti, "Ideology and Repentance: Terrorism in Italy", in Origins of
Terrorism, ed. Walter Reich, Washington Woodrow Wilson
Center Press, 1998.