Thursday, October 30, 2008

Destructive dynamic occuring in Bosnia; France boosts Military spending

The above is a Washington Post article written by Edward Cody entitled “France Boosts Spending on Military.”

That title caught my attention. France boosting military spending? Is France at last pulling its head out of the sand? Maybe. France could have learned that it needed to boost military spending after the 1991 Bosnia debacle. Ridiculously, many in France blamed America for that: “The Europeans, the French especially, may resent the apparent ease with which U.S. involvement put a temporary end to the conflict in Bosnia, and there has been acerbic comment in the French press, noting that if the United States had wished, it could have achieved its present ends a lot earlier and thereby saved thousands of lives. . . .” [Judt, A Grand Illusion? An Essay on Europe, p. 138].

Over here on the sensible side of the Atlantic, we thought that Bosnian crisis was a European problem. Europeans had their own military forces. They didn’t have to take them very far. Bosnia was in Europe. Had the U.S. barged in as the French press apparently thought appropriate, the French would have criticized us for that as well. Who did America think it was barging about the world and sticking its nose in places it didn’t belong? The French didn’t seem capable of learning the real lesson, namely that Europe either as a whole in NATO, or as individual nations needed military forces sufficient to solve its problems. It did no good to let “thousands of lives” be lost and then complain that the U.S. should have crossed the Atlantic to come to Europe’s aid sooner.

Tony Judt wrote A Grand Illusion? in 1996. Now another Bosnian crisis may be on the way: This is an article by Richard Holbrooke and Paddy Ashdown. They think Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik is up to no good: “he has, in two years, reversed much of the real progress in Bosnia over the past 13, crucially weakened the institutions of the Bosnian state and all but stopped the country’s evolution into a function (and EU-compatible) state. . . As a result, the suspicion and fear that began the war in 1992 has been reinvigorated. A destructive dynamic is accelerating, and Bosnian and Croat nationalism is on the rise. . . . While the Bush administration largely turned its back on Bosnia, the EU became deeply engaged; EU membership has been the critical lever for pressing reforms in Bosnia since it was made policy in 2003. But the EU did not develop a coherent strategy, and by proclaiming progress where it has not been achieved, the EU weakened not only its own influence in the country, but also the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and the international military presence (the European Union Force, EUFOR, which succeeded NATO) the drivers of progress in Bosnia since Dayton.”

France and the EU has had 13 years since America “brought an end to Bosnia’s three-and-a-half-year war.” Has it used this time well? If they should go back to war in Bosnia is some entity in Europe ready to jump in and fix things? Hey you guys, you’ve had 13 years. What have you been doing?

Well, we see what they’ve been doing. They told the Serbs that unless they played nice they couldn’t be considered a “EU-compatible” state. It doesn’t sound as though that’s working very well. It sounds as though Dodik would rather Bosnia was a Russia-compatible-state. You can’t threaten Dodik. You can’t tell him that if he misbehaves you’re going to send EUFOR after him. He would think that’s funny. Shoot, I think that’s funny.

Getting back to the Washington Post article on France’s increase in military spending. It turns out they are worried about losing 10 French soldiers in an ambush near Kabul. They want to spend the money on more reconnaissance satellites, an antimissile alert system, and reconnaissance personnel. They are worried about Afghanistan, not Bosnia. We may be overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan but if Dodik and the others in Bosnia decided to have a little war, the French Press will be sure to demand that the U.S. rush back over there and end it. Does anyone in France see the absurdity in that?

Lawrence Helm

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