A few weeks ago the EU has won the Nobel Prize for Peace, much to the surprise of ordinary people and politicians alike. Though, if one closely observes Oslo’s decision-making in the last years, one shouldn’t have been surprised:
Peace is not defined by the protection of innocent lives and human rights any longer – Inaction and non-interventionism have become the new doctrine for winning the Nobel Prize for Peace.
For me as a former refugee from the Bosnian civil war, this is an extremely saddening development.
During the 1990s the Balkan’s have been on fire; at least 100 000 civilians died – among them, my grandmother in Sarajevo and my mother’s relatives in Srebrenica – and even more have been permanently displaced; parents and children were forced to leave their homeland, losing everything from one day to another.
The whole world was watching the madness and the countries that could have stopped the war were waiting until it was almost too late: In the beginning America opted for non-interventionism, believing that they didn’t “have a dog in the fight”. Consequently they left the problem to the Europeans so that they would “clean their own back door”, but the Europeans were constantly moaning and quarreling, without any country being able or willing to take the lead.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees were flooding Europe and the NATO memberswere so much at odds with each other, that the credibility of NATO was endangered. The CIA even warned Defence Secretary Perry: “We’re not only risking to loose Bosnia, but also NATO”. Finally President Clinton realized he had no choice but to take responsibility and act.
Clinton disentangled the commando structures of UN and NATO and initiated “Operation Deliberate Force” which was the first hard and effective response to Serb aggression. While the bombing attacks under UN leadership have been uncoordinated, inconsistent and wholly ineffective, American leadership through NATO was able to coerce Milosevic into peace only within a few months.
Even though, the intervention came too late, Clinton should have won the Nobel Prize for Peace for his courage to finally end the bloodshed and save hundreds of thousands innocent lives on the Balkans.
However, as we all know, the Nobel Prize Committee chose the European Union as winner, with explicit reference to their contribution to peace on the Balkans. Now I, as someone who has been personally affected by the Balkan war, think that Oslo’s decision is nothing but a bad joke. While I admit that the European Union was able to bribe Serbia into delivering war criminals, I certainly reject the notion that the EU contributed constructively to ending the war in the Balkans.
What really got the EU the Nobel Prize for Peace is the misguided belief that after the controversial intervention in Iraq non-interventionism seems to be the only publicly acceptable foreign policy doctrine.
However, the lesson of the Balkans was a different one and should be recapitulated at this point.
If America and the Europeans should have learned one thing from the Balkan-Crisis, then it is that in international politics, inaction and none-leadership ultimately brings about devastation, desperation and chaos.
After the end of the Bosnian war, the international community was ashamed of their silence and has promised to “never again” wait until human rights violations are committed on such a large-scale basis. Tony Blair took the right steps towards a moral resurrection of the international community with his “Chicago Speech” and the humanitarian intervention in Kosovo. Related to that, the UN General Assembly even adopted the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” in 2005.
And yet, to my entire disbelieve and shock, now in Syria, we see the same mistakes of the 1990s being repeated by the US and Europe – once again.
President Obama (who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009) stricly follows the newly publicly acceptable pattern of inaction and non-interventionism with regard to Syria, which led into the humanitarian nightmare on the Balkans:
More than 45,000 Syrians have already been murdered and more than 1,5 Mio. have been injured and displaced within just 20 months. The neighboring countries like Turkey, Iraq and Jordan are flooded with refugees and are facing a humanitarian catastrophe. NATO is under huge pressure since the attacks on member state Turkey, Obama has chosen isolationism and left the situation completely to the Europeans and the Europeans are – like always – at odds with each other.
Sounds all too familiar? This public amnesia wouldn’t have been possible without the controversy on Iraq.
A large part of the public was convinced after the Iraq war that if you did the opposite of President Bush, you are on the morally right side. That this is an intellectual fallacy should be clear to everyone, who looks at where non-interventionism got us with regard to Syria.
Instead of manically applauding anything that seems to be opposed to Bush’s foreign policy doctrine, we should rather concentrate at solving the problems at hand; choosing the right strategy to the current crisis without intellectual boundaries that have been set by public opinion, ever since Iraq.
Despite legitimate criticism on Iraq, we should have learned by now that “leaving civil wars to themselves” doesn’t make the situation better, but worse – with a great risk of developing into an international crisis in the long term.
To conclude: Inaction as response to international crises and lack of leadership is dangerous and doesn’t get you anywhere (though maybe to Oslo).