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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2400

Kosovo's Kouchner, Inventor Of "Humanitarian Interventionism" To Monitor Sri Lanka

By Dayan Jayatilleka

"You give them a finger, they take your hand! You give them your hand, they take your arm! You give them your arm, they take your whole body!"

Fidel Castro

There are new trends and tendencies in the international community which may indicate either a witting plan or unwitting process that could end our country. First there was the recent mention by former US president Bill Clinton, on his latest visit to the tsunami hit areas (except Sri Lanka), that Sri Lanka could look to Bosnia for a model of successful conflict resolution. Bosnia is of course a former constituent republic of Yugoslavia, which broke away, was recognized by the EU, then militarily supported by NATO, is now and independent country and whose secession marked the beginning of the end of Yugoslavia. Therefore President Clinton’s reference to Bosnia as a model for Sri Lanka to follow is fraught with danger. This is all the more so since the US-NATO military intervention which ended Yugoslavia took place under the leadership precisely of President Clinton, and in 2008 we could well have another Clinton as US president, with Bill as her main advisor on foreign policy.

The Next Yugoslavia?

The story gets worse. The clearest and most recent indication of danger to Sri Lanka’s existence as a single country is the appointment by the EU of Bernard Kouchner to the International Eminent Persons Group on Sri Lanka. (The story was broken by the Asian Tribune). Kouchner was UN Special Commissioner for Kosovo, the former province of (ex) Yugoslavia that was the scene and issue of the massive international intervention against Serbia. That war of intervention was triggered by a media –manufactured refugee crisis. Many studies after the war revealed that the refugee flow grew from a trickle to a flood as a result of the active encouragement of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and following, not preceding, the NATO bombing campaign against the Serbian army. However, the KLA had hired lobbyists in Washington, and these, together with the international media, spun the story into one of an ongoing ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ which warranted military intervention. Though NATO did not actually win the war in Kosovo, the USA succeeded in getting Yeltsin’s Russia to pressurize Serbia into withdrawing its largely intact troop units from Kosovo; troops which were so well dug in and camouflaged, they could have done far more damage to the Western forces than the Iraqi insurgents did years later.

The story of Yugoslavia ended with a pro-western puppet government elected in Serbia, former Serbian leader Milosevic dying in a foreign jail, and Kosovo now about to be shepherded to full independence by the West.

The unraveling of Yugoslavia as a country commenced with Serbian majority chauvinism, which chose ex-Communist Slobodan Milosevic as vehicle - just as he, in his folly, chose it as his supportive platform - unilaterally abrogating the autonomy provisions for Kosovo. The other constituent republics of Yugoslavia elected their own governments which then held referendums and claimed independent sovereign status as newborn countries. These were recognized initially, not by the USA, but by the EU, precisely that body which has appointed the International Eminent Persons Group for Sri Lanka. The Serbs in the non-Serb regions sought safety in affiliation with Serbia, which in turn led to civil war in these former Yugoslav republics such as Bosnia. The ex-Yugoslav army which by then had decomposed into a largely mono-ethnic, mono-religious Serbian army supported the Serb minorities and militia in Bosnia (and later Kosovo). In the bloody communitarian conflict that followed, Serbian forces committed atrocities unseen in Europe since WW11, the televised images of which impacted upon Western public opinion and triggered US/NATO military strikes. So it was that the Serbian ultranationalists actually played into the hands of those forces that sought to dismember Yugoslavia (a lesson surely for Sri Lanka and Sinhala nationalism).

Father of Humanitarian Interventionism

All this took place in a new global context. After the end of the Cold War and the victory of the West in that war, the USA was seeking to capitalise on ‘the unipolar moment’, that phase in history when it was unassailably the sole superpower. Years before George W Bush and the ascendancy of the neo-conservatives, the ‘liberal’ doctrine of humanitarian intervention provided the paradigm for that project.

President George W Bush’s aggression against Iraq is attributed correctly to neo-conservatism, but few recognize two facts of the ideological accompaniment to unipolar global hegemonism: firstly, that neo-conservatism, as distinct from conservatism and realism ( of George Bush Snr and his predecessors such as Richard Nixon) was fashioned byex-leftists, mainly ex-Trotskyists who had joined the anti-Soviet crusade, and whose doctrine of permanent world revolution just assumed a new guise of permanent democratic revolution. Secondly, the spadework for the neoconservatives had been done by the Clinton admnisntration with the war against Yugoslavia, chiefly the Kosovo war, and the embrace of the liberal doctrine of humanitarian intervention.

This latter doctrine was the invention of former 1960s ‘new lefties’ who had since channelled their energies into the international NGO sector. The father of the doctrine of Humanitarian Interventionism was Bernard Kouchner, formerly of Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) and later UN Special Commissioner for Kosovo. As Special Commissioner, Kouchner has led Kosovo from a constitutionally recognised component of (a truncated) Yugoslavia, legally linked to Serbia, to a de-facto separate state in which the Serbian minority has been forcibly cleansed by Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) terrorists. It is Kouchner who is both the Godfather and midwife of the soon to be born independent country of Kosovo. It is precisely this Bernard Kouchner who has now been appointed by the EU (which first recognised the breakaways from Yugoslavia), as an ‘international eminent person’ to monitor human rights in Sri Lanka.

There is certainly a role for an international eminent persons group with regard to Sri Lanka, and that is as an intermediary which can negotiate a peace settlement. However there is absolutely no need for such a group to assist in investigating human rights violations in a situation in which nobody is allowed to move into LTTE controlled areas and investigate human rights violations in the Tigers’ clandestine underground prisons! An international eminent persons group probing Sri Lanka at this point can only hamstring and demoralize the Sri Lankan military and worse still, prove the ‘pilot car’ for economic sanctions followed by a so-called humanitarian intervention, spearheaded by India and lobbied assiduously for by Tamil Nadu.

Sack Solheim, Neutralise Norway

The worshipful valedictory by Hansen-Bauer and the participation by Erich Solheim at Anton Balasingham’s funeral provide the chance for the Sri Lankan government to disengage the Norwegians. Their conduct was unprecedented in the diplomatic annals of third party facilitation. Had the LTTE remained on the path of peaceful negotiations, had it not bloodily violated the CFA even during Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s stint in office, had it not been responsible for the overwhelming number of CFA violations, had it not boycotted the April 2003 Tokyo summit, had it not prevented the Tamil people from voting at the 2005 presidential election, had it not renewed attacks on the Sri Lankan armed forces within days of President Rajapakse’s democratic election, had it not refused to engage with the Sri Lankan delegation in Geneva, had Anton Balasingham not written a book in which he lied about the Oslo 2003 agreement to explore Federalism within a united Sri Lanka, had he shown evidence of being an authentically dissenting moderate within the Tiger ranks, it would have been quite acceptable for Erich Solheim and Johan Hansen-Bauer to say and do as they did.

However, in the absence of any of those conditions, and given the fact that Erich Solheim said nothing comparable when Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar or the Deputy Head of its Peace Secretariat Kethesh Loganathan were murdered by the Tigers, his conduct is utterly unbecoming and unacceptable.

The Sri Lankan government must make it very simple: Solheim and Hansen Bauer have demonstrated blatant partisanship and either they go from any involvement in the peace process or Norway does.

Where is our frontline?

The nomination of Bernard Kouchner shows that the issue of safeguarding Sri Lanka from an externally planned (but eventually locally supported: CBK, Ranil, NGOs) sundering is not reducible to Norway’s role. Indian PM Manmohan Singh’s meeting with the Tiger proxy and puppet the TNA, is unhappily redolent of the interventionist ’80s, while the US ambassador’s policy and funding conclave with selected NGOs has a faint whiff of what China condemns as the West’s tactic of ‘peaceful evolution’, tested in Eastern Europe and the periphery of the former USSR - of using ‘civil society’ to destabilise governments and undermine national sovereignty.

Most urgent is a set of reforms for ethnic autonomy. Those who delay and dilute devolution are playing the game of those who wish to dismember Sri Lanka. Reforms must be flexible enough to have a centripetal effect, bringing together disaffected communities, but firm enough to forestall centrifugal tendencies of reaching out to Chennai, Delhi or further a-field. Ethnic communities must have their own regional space but there must be no ethnic boundaries entrenched internally, which can be use as lines of recognition – borders - by the international community.

The late Mervyn de Silva used to write that "a country’s first line of defence is its foreign policy." I rather doubt whether at the present moment we have either a first line of defence or a foreign policy – with the emphasis on policy. What is our foreign policy? Do we have statement of it? For instance, is it still one of Nonalignment (as I hope) and what is our role within the Non-aligned movement? If our policy is no longer one of Nonalignment, what is it and why so? We neither have alliances nor a policy of power balancing, stemming from a conceptualization of the threats to us and a reckoning of our strategic, national and state interests. Now, more than ever, Sri Lanka needs an alert, dynamic, activist foreign policy.

- Asian Tribune -

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