- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Mistakes in Bosnia

Former Ambassador Swanee Hunt is worried that the Bush administration might make the same mistakes in Iraq as the Clinton administration did in Bosnia.

Mrs. Hunt said U.S. diplomats only created more instability when they negotiated the 1995 peace accords in Dayton, Ohio, that ended the civil war in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was involved in Bosnian peace efforts as President Clinton’s ambassador to Austria from 1993 to 1997.

Mrs. Hunt said the peace treaty legally enshrined ethnic divisions that originally split Bosnia and Herzegovina among Serbs, Croats and Muslims and, in effect, rewarded Serbs, who committed widespread atrocities, with half the country under a weak central government.

“We subscribed to a flawed, traditional paradigm at Dayton and still do: That those who engineer war are the only ones who can engineer peace. … War-makers are rarely adept at peacemaking,” she said in a paper yesterday to mark the approaching 10th anniversary of the peace treaty, reached Nov. 21, 1995.

Mrs. Hunt said a second factor adding to the continued problems in Bosnia was the division along ethnic lines that created two semi-autonomous entities, the Serb Republic and the Bosnian-Croat Federation.

“Ethnic labels used by war criminals to justify the land grab known as ethnic cleansing were written into Dayton’s political structure,” she said.

“In a country as diverse and integrated as Bosnia, such divisions are not only artificial, but also have hindered reconciliation and the return of refugees.”

Mrs. Hunt noted that Serbs made up about 30 percent of the population before the war broke out in 1992.

She also complained that authorities in Bosnia have failed to fulfill commitments to bring war-crimes suspects to trial, especially Serbian wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and Gen.Ratko Mladic.

“The international community looked the other way, as local authorities ignored their directive to apprehend indicted war criminals for trial at The Hague, and NATO made no effort of its own to capture them,” Mrs. Hunt said.

“The U.S. can learn from our mistakes in Bosnia. Despite the new Iraqi constitution, widening divisions between ethnic groups threaten to drive the country into civil war.”

Mrs. Hunt, director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, said Iraqi women can help bridge the divide.

“[Shi’ite], Sunni and Kurdish women insist they have more commonality than difference,” she said.

Relevant ally

Azerbaijan could set an example in the Muslim world with a free and fair election on Sunday and boost President Bush’s efforts to promote democracy in Islamic countries, according to a woman who straddles the Islamic and Christian worlds.

“I think [the election] will prove to be a key turning point for Azerbaijan,” said Zeyno Baran, director of the international security and energy program at the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom.

Miss Baran, born in Turkey and raised in Greece, said a legitimate presidential election on Sunday will “encourage support for a peaceful resolution” to Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia and will “further reforms that will draw the country closer to European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.”

Addressing a recent forum at the Heritage Foundation, she added, “Clearly, these elections will also be extremely important for President Bush’s democracy-and-freedom agenda.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who won a politically flawed election in 2003, is seeking re-election on Sunday and campaigning on political and economic reforms. Mr. Aliyev, son of former President Heydar Aliyev, issued an executive order in May to lift restrictions on opposition political parties, invite international observers to monitor the election and permit exit polls.

“This order provided for measures unprecedented in Azerbaijan,” Miss Baran said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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