Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Delanceyplace.com 4/29/08-The Dayton Accords

In today's excerpt--the Dayton Agreement, which was in part brokered by the World Bank and which brought a fragile but sustained peace to Bosnia after three and a half years of war. It created a soft partition, separating Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Its success--without the involvement of American ground troops-- has served as the key reference point for the proposed Biden-Gelb plan for peace in Iraq:

"The World Bank was created by its founders [in 1944] precisely to tackle the biggest problems in the world: the threat that poverty might lead to war, that desperation might lead to desperate isms. ... In 1994, it was Bosnia that needed saving most. Sooner or later the country would reach some sort of cease-fire, and the Bank would be expected to help out. ... Bosnians were the survivors of a war that had displaced 2 million people since 1991, killing 250,000. The territory of Bosnia, once a model of multiethnic society, had become the bloodiest slaughterhouse in Europe since World War II. A relatively affluent society had been reduced to burning books and furniture and shoes for heat; there was little food to be found, and snipers struck at any moment. ...

"For the past four years, the outside world had ignored the plight of the Balkans, as though the end of the cold war had entitled them to shrug off foreign crises. The country's Muslim majority--known, confusingly, as Bosniaks--had suffered attack first by the Orthodox Christian Serbs, then by the Catholic Croats; they had hunkered down in their encircled capital, stoking their resentment at the civilized world's indifference. ... Serb aggression--and Serb contempt for the outside world's restraining pleas--had climaxed in a small town called Srebrenica, where the Bosnian Serb army slaughtered more than seven thousand Bosniaks, herding some into execution sites and hunting others as they fled from the carnage. The United Nations, whose peacekeepers were supposedly monitoring this 'safe zone,' was buried in black shame....

"In Bosnia in 1995, there was no way the warring parties could discuss reconstruction; they could not even agree where the discussion should be located. It took the World Bank's mediation to focus the Bosnians on practical problems: Should there be a central bank? How to reconcile conflicting tax and customs systems? ... On November 20, after three weeks locked up at the airbase [in Dayton, Ohio], Richard Holbrooke was prepared to disband the talks and declare defeat. ... An ultimatum extracted a final round of concessions from the Serbs, which persuaded the Croats to sign on; it remained for the Americans to sell the deal to the Bosniak president, Alija Izetbegovic. ... 'It is not a just peace,' Izetbegovic finally declared, and Holbrooke's heart was in his mouth. But the yearning for reconstruction, for a return to normalcy after four years, seemed to push Izetbegovic on. 'My people need peace,' he said slowly. Holbrooke took that for a yes and made swiftly for the exit. ... Izetbegovic's acceptance of the deal had been balanced on a knife edge, and without the promise of substantial World Bank aid, he might have rejected it. ...

"In 1996, the Bosnian economy grew 86 percent, the next year it grew another 37 percent; unemployment halved from about 70 to 80 percent at the start of 1996 to around 35 percent two years later. Even allowing for the inevitable bounce after war, this was a robust recovery."

Sebastian Mallaby, The World's Banker, Yale, Copyright 2004 by Sebastian Mallaby, pp. 119-142.


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