UN's LEGACY IN BOSNIA: MORAL EQUIVALENCE AND MORAL RELATIVISM
Evil Done Brilliantly, We Blame the Victims
The Victoria Advocate
10 June 1993.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Two phrases about the war here keep popping up in the words of supposedly decent Europeans and Americans.
In Brussels last week, I heard over and over again in conversations about Bosnia: “Let the Serbs win quickly — then it will all be over with.”
Here the phrase is different but related: “The Croats and Bosniaks are just as bad as the Serbs — they’re all the same.”
Both phrases make the speakers feel better, confirming to them that no one needs to feel guilty or cowardly for not doing anything effective here. They can sleep better nights, knowing 1) it will soon all be over, and 2) nobody could have or should have done anything more to save all these SOBs who are morally equivalent.
In virtually every conversation with the international and humanitarian groups here, I heard the Croatian and Bosniak victims blamed as much as the Serb aggressors.
“We now have the complete degradation of Bosnia-Herzegovina,” one leading U.N. official told me here, typical. “Now, everyone is touched by the atrocities and become corrupted by them; the atrocities have become balanced.” That is what some people here call, sometimes cynically, “U.N.-neutral,” and being for the use of “muscle, not force.” But it is more than that, for the international groups are not neutral. From the very beginning, their “neutral” actions have served the rampaging Serbs.
When Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., was here the first week of June, for instance, and he asked his U.N. briefers whether the Serbs were not guilty of most atrocities, there was simply a long silence. Yet, anyone with two honest eyes can see the Serbs have taken over 70 percent of Bosnia and now threaten the Balkans; and that at the very least 95 of the killings are attributable to them.
When the United Nations and humanitarian groups were put here from the summer of 1991 onward, without the ability or mandate even to defend themselves from the Serbs, they soon became what they basically are today: hostages to the Serbs. And when you mix guilty over these policies with cowardice and helplessness, you get out of original idealism a bureaucratic mindset that blames the victim.
This is the terrible legacy that outside intervention in Bosnia and Croatia is going to bequeath the world for the next crisis: Decent and idealistic people, put in an impossible situation with self-imposed restraints, give power to the thugs and killers. And finally, in embarrassment and horror, they develop a rationale for it: “Everyone is guilty, so no one is guilty.”
One of the few observers to see this clearly is the respected Sadruddin Aga Khan, former U.N. high commissioner for refugees. “The U.N.’s inadequacy could not be clearer,” he wrote. “The U.N. soldiers … have become hostages … And the U.N., after decades of dodging the diplomatic bullets of the Cold War and learning to live by splitting every difference between its member states, has lost the ability to choose between right and wrong.
“U.N. officials too myopically reduce Serbian, Croatian and Bosniak atrocities to some ahistorical parity. With the flaccid organizational structures of the U.N., there is … no focus on the real cause of the conflict or on viable solutions. Rather, evenhandedness and the U.N.’s own institutional priorities too often replace vigor.”
But the terrible fact is that the Western and world intervention here (through the U.N.) does not mean non-intervention. We are involved, deeply — and inadvertently but decisively — on the Serbs’ side. Every act of the international community, from prohibiting the Bosniaks from defending themselves to constantly buying the Serbs time through our endless and ever-fruitless “negotations” with them, puts us squarely on the side of the aggressors.
With that reality, created by a theater-of-the-absurd mission that renounces force against those who live by force, comes a real disdain and dislike for the victims. Why are they so dirty, so miserable — so repugnant? Why are they in the way of peace?
Voltaire said it best two centuries ago: “Such is the wretched weakness of men that they admire those who have done evil brilliantly.”