Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Lesson of Srebrenica


Ten years ago, the UN safe haven of Srebrenica fell, leading to the massacred of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim by the combined force of the Bosnian-Serbs Army and Serbians Paramilitaries. The Dutch Battalion (under UNPROFOR) guarding the enclave stood by as the atrocity unfold before them. Too many people have blamed the Dutch, but I do not. How does one single battalion fare against an entire army with armors and artillery bending on destruction? Yes they could have fought to the last man protecting the enclave. That would have been noble. Pundits would have compared them to King Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae, or the Light Brigade. But 500 more deaths would change nothing. We may love the valor of the Light Brigade but their deaths were in vain. I wonder if any of the critics of the Dutch are willing to sacrifice themselves in the same situation. I am not certain I would. Had the Dutch receive the air support they requested, things may had turn out differently. And so the impotency of Srebrenica was repeated again and again – from Rwanda to Darfur.

The moral outrage of the Srebrenica tragedy is that it could have been prevented with the resource available at hand. The blame laid squarely at UNPROFOR command. UNPROFOR had the military capability to humble General Mladic and his thugs but they fail to act. There were 39,000 peacekeepers in Bosnia at the time. Their number is about half of the Bosnian-Serbs and the Serbian Paramilitaries combined (approximately 80,000). However, that number is deceiving. UNPROFOR had the advantage of air lift capability, high tech equipment, and air superiority. Not to mention the Serbs had to deal with the Muslims and Croats. An illustration of how irrelevant troop strength is that the US lead IFOR later on had less soldiers than UNPROFOR but was far more successful. The different between the US lead IFOR and the UN mandate UNPROFOR was moral courage. Mladic (and Milosevic) understood that non-compliance against the US meant immeasurable pains – bombs, bullets, and steels. They understood that non-compliance against the UN peacekeepers carry absolutely no risk.

The UN command has forgotten the lesson of appeasement and accommodation – that it does not work against immoral thugs. They do not feel guilt or care about reputation. The judicial indictment against Karadzic, Mladic, Milosevic, and numerous genocidaires did not end the genocides; 500 lbs laser guides bombs did. But the world learned nothing from Srebrenica. We continue to hand out indictments instead of bombs. The Janjaweeds laughed at the ICC and resumed their rapes and murders.

Gregory Djerejian lamented that ten years after Srebrenica, Mladic and Karadzic are still walking freely. His concern is misplaced. We ought not to be upset about capturing them – they will be captured in due time. They are out of power and unable to do harm. We should be upset – no, we should ashamed - that we allowed them to carry out their heinous acts in the first place. And our shame is compounding every day as the genocide in Darfur unfold. Derek Chollet at Democracy Arsenal captured the lesson of Srebrenica – surprisingly from someone Left of Center.
This is not a wholesale endorsement of unilateralism--we are seeing everyday, in Iraq and elsewhere, the costs of going it alone. But thinking about Srebrenica does serve as a reminder that when it comes to solving the world’s problems, a little American muscular unilateralism—maximalism—ain’t always a bad thing.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dan Morgan said...

How this all could have happened in the heart of Europe is beyond me. People just went to work and went about their lives as hundreds of thousands were killed or raped. Makes you wonder why we even tried to get military help from Europe in Iraq, when they would not even use the force necessary in their own backyard.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Ted C is Me said...

"Common Foreign and Security Policy"?? Srebrenica blew the EUnuchs' credibility for all time...

7:19 AM  
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