WAR IS EASY; PEACE NOT SO MUCH.
War is all about one thing: force. Whoever applies force most successfully rules. Period. End of story.
Peace is the perfect opposite of war in this: it, too, depends on one thing, the subjugation of force to governance, and, hopefully, rule of law. Unless and until all of the use of force within a country is brought under the command and control of government, there is no peace.
When, after defeating the government and army of Saddam Houssein, American peacemakers declined to force the Kurdish pesh merga militias to subordinate themselves to the government in Baghdad, they guaranteed and legitimized the resistance of Sunni and Shi’ite Arab militias to state control, not to mention smaller mosque or mafia-based paramilitary units. What the international forces (i.e. the US) wouldn’t do, the al-Maliki government in Baghdad couldn’t do, and this failure to subdue the many centrifugal armed groups in Iraq is what has turned that once rich and functional country into a ruin.
In Libya, the triumph of a congeries of international and local forces over the government and army of Muammar al-Qaddafi was also followed by no effective regulation of those various heavily-armed local fighting groups by a legitimate central government. Instead, Tripoli is the isolated capitol of a dysfunctional pseudo-country overwhelmed by internecine blood-letting.
Back in the day, when armed force was a prerogative of the state, peace was relatively easy to obtain. One side just had to defeat the other and install its own or puppet governance.
Today, defeated governments rarely control all the armed forces within their borders. In fact, as a government nears defeat, it usually disintegrates into a chaos of superseding loyalties to sectarian or ethnic concepts or to local tribes, clans, imams or mob bosses, each with its own paramilitary force. Under these conditions, the law of war: force wins, rules, and governments obey the gunmen.
Another good example of what happens when American and international forces declare peace and go home is Bosnia, whose wretched state was well described recently by NYTimes columnist Roger Cohen.
Oddly, Cohen leaves undescribed the American decisions, enacted through the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995, which helped make Bosnia the mess it is today.
Peace a la Dayton was declared but not enforced, and so power in Bosnia was allowed to revert to the self-same warrior bands that had plunged the place into mutual murder in the first place. The UN “Peacekeepers” had neither the mandate, the will, nor the resources to subdue, much less disarm the Bosnian Serb, Croat or Bosniak (Muslim) Nationalist militias, many of them made up of underworld strong-arm squads. Across Bosnia, they retained their wartime control of most of the “entity’s” constituent areas. All the UN administration achieved was the creation of militia/mafia-controlled nationalist political parties to give the warriors’ absolute power a civil mask.
Mafia control of politics meant corruption-dominated governance, steeped in hyper-nationalism, insuring a fractured, multiply mutually antagonistic citizenry and a duplication, or in Bosnia’s sad case, a triplication of thieving, conniving government jobs. Bosnian citizens were cowed but not fooled. They knew what the international peace had brought them, and so did foreign investors, who declined to pay for the inefficiencies and extra costs of Bosnia’s criminarchy, and stayed away. Today, Bosnia is not so much a failed as a faux-state Still split into ethnic parts, Bosnia exemplifies the pathologies of its people, mutual hatred and self-loathing.
Peace in name, but with outlaw forces still in considerable control of government, also disfigures Bosnia’s original attackers, the governments of Serbia and Croatia, whose reputations with their own peoples and potential investors are stained by well-documented criminal impunity and administrative corruption.
The real impetus of Dayton, never admitted and rarely suggested by critics, was the preservation, not of peace, but of the status quo. The genealogy of American Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s Dayton deal was out of Metternich by Kissinger, an anachronistic, academic exercise in “balance of power” self-delusion, in which Slobodan Milosevic was to be America’s regent of regional stability.
The rush to conclude a treaty was to head off a humiliating military defeat of Serbian forces by a joint Bosnian-Croatian army, trained and armed with the help of the United States. As the delegates convened in Ohio, this force was rolling up the Serbs across all of northern Bosnia. Within weeks, it seemed likely, Milosevic’s military and their Bosnian Serb surrogates would have their backs to the Sava and Drina Rivers, without nothing less than a full withdrawal from Bosnian territory in store.
Somehow, Holbrooke ignored Slobo’s much greater debts to the Serb nationalists and organized crime leaders who had done his bidding in Bosnia. Once he made “peace” in Dayton, his killers transferred their lusts for blood, plunder and ethnic triumph to Kosovo, and reining them in, just because his partners from Washington were asking him to, just wasn’t in the cards.
After 10,000 Kosovars had been killed and 800,000 displaced by Milosevic’s security forces and associated “irregulars,” it took almost a year of US and NATO bombing (sometimes of civilian and diplomatic targets) to conclude yet another uneasy “peace” and a brace of new corrupt and mob-compromised oligarchies to the Balkans.
Yes, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo all have regular elections and civilian governments now, and the beginnings of normal regional relations. But behind this mask, people who actually live there will tell you, are governments dominated by a few billionaires and a few organized crime gang leaders.
In Afghanistan, our real allies, the people who have staked their families and their futures on the dream of a modern, democratic state shudder as a justifiably impatient Obama rails at an unjustifiably corrupt and inept Karzai and heads for the exit, beyond which lies a false and murderous peace that an international consensus seems to think is “good enough for them.”