August Books 10) Peace Without Politics?

10) Peace Without Politics? Ten Years of International State-Bulding in Bosnia, International Peacekeeping vol 12, no 3, Autumn 2005; ed. David Chandler.

A collection of eleven essays on the intervention of the international community in Bosnia, by some of the leading writers in the field; papers produced my my own employers in the days when we concentrated much more on Bosnia are cited extensively, and I know several of the authors personally. Very thought-provoking, and also mercifully brief (170 pages, fairly large type).

There is an opening debate in the form of an introduction by Chandler arguing that the international community’s efforts in Bosnia since 1995 should be seen as largely self-serving and ineffective, an article by Sumantra Bose making the opposite argument, and a full article by Chandler restating his position in greater detail. Even though Chandler thus gets two bites at the cherry, I find his arguments totally unconvincing – he really doesn’t understand the EU, which from his description appears to be a power-hungry monster straight from the pages of the Daily Mail – and Chandler is supposedly a leftie! I agree with almost everything Bose says about the international intervention’s sucesses and failures; he also has some trenchant criticisms of my own employers’ output from the period before I worked for them.

The next section includes a very good article by Dominik Zaum on how the payment bureaux were abolished; a sightly too short assessment by Gemma Collantes Celador about police reform; and a rather too long piece by Daniela Heimerl on refugee return, which didn’t advance my knowledge beyond when I last looked at the issue in December 2002.

Then a rather fascinating bunch of four papers. The first, by Vanessa Pupavac, looked at international gender policies in Bosnia – normally a topic that doesn’t excite me much, but she had some very interesting analysis of two very specific and rather different sub-topics, the gender provisions in the electoral law and the provision of micro-financial assistance to female entrepreneurs. Unfortunately her conclusion was basically just to say that it’s all very complicated, but it was interesting to get there. The next, by Adam Fagan, was even more interesting, challenging received wisdom on NGOs and civil society development in general and in the Bosnian context in particular; again, I could have wished for more meat in the conclusion, but I liked it.

Then Florian Bieber has a compare and contrast exercise on Brčko and Mostar, given the heightened but different levels of international engagement in both towns. I agree with his conclusion that the more intrusive regime in Brčko, rather than the policy followed in Mostar of well-meaning rhetoric followed by humiliating concessions to local warlords, was more successful for precisely that reason, but blinked a bit at one or two inaccuracies. Even more so with Roberto Belloni’s article on refugee return in Prijedor, a place I used to know pretty well, where I found myself alternately nodding firmly in agreement and wincing at misprints – the letters č and š written as c and s, but ć remaining ć, and Kozarac, the small town at the centre of the narrative, acquiring an extra diacritical mark to become Kožarac. I’d still like to know more about the precise circumstances in the local political micro-climate of Prijedor that made it such a success – obviously the former local police chief getting shot dead while resisting arrest by British troops in July 1997 improved matters immensely (not a statement I make lightly), but there must have been more to it than that.

Michael Pugh’s article on the political economy of Bosnia was so full of jargon that it became utterly incomprehensible, and I skipped it. The final essay, by Richard Caplan, takes a fair look at the international actors present in Bosnia and their relative lack of accountability, and then actually makes policy recommendations. Most of these are fair enough, though I would have a minor concern that creating new mechanisms for accountability might actually entrench the international actors who should be planning for their own withering away.

Didn’t have to pay for this – it arrived somehow on my desk at work – but I think it’s pretty good.

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