It would be hard to say anything new about Nelson Mandela after the last day of praise and remembrance. I met him–very briefly–at a UN cocktail party in 1994. All I really remember is his assiduous effort to introduce himself to each of the wait staff. They were thrilled. So was I.
But there are a few things that might bear repetition, if only for emphasis. As correct as it is to celebrate Mandela for his pursuit of justice, it was really his pursuit of peace that made him so unusual. I wouldn’t want to minimize the courage required to stand up against racism in apartheid South Africa, but it took at least as much to stand up to those who thought violence was the only way to bring the system down and then to seek reconciliation with white South Africans in the aftermath.
That would not have been possible but for Mandela’s negotiating partner, F.W. de Klerk. As the last president of apartheid South Africa, he not only released Mandela from jail but cooperated in converting his country to a one-person, one-vote electoral system that necessarily meant the end of white domination, at least at the ballot box. He also ended South Africa’s nuclear weapons program, which was meant to help sustain apartheid.
South Africa managed its transition quickly and well, even if I find it hard to admire its post-apartheid politics (and politicians). The countries I mostly follow in the Balkans and the Middle East are not so much managing their transitions as experiencing them, and things are going slowly by comparison. It seems to me there are at least four reasons: Read more…
She often travels alone, she doesn’t use fixers, and she reports from the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Rania Abouzeid is an award-winning freelance journalist who frequently travels inside Syria to write about the three-front war between the Assad regime, the moderate opposition, and the Islamist groups. On Tuesday, she spoke at the New America Foundation about the conflict and her experiences in Syria. She is now reporting mostly for The New Yorker and Al Jazeera America.
When the protests first began in the beginning of 2011, Abouzeid was covering the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt. By February of that year, she was in Damascus covering the demonstrations and walking alongside the Syrian men and women who peacefully protested President Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime. Even as the protests took a violent turn after the government crackdown, Abouzeid said that very few people flinched when bullets were fired. And from the moment the Syrian people took to the streets, it was clear the conflict was going to be existential on both sides. The people of Syria finally had a platform to advocate for change and they weren’t going to back down without a fight. Unfortunately, that fight continues 35 months later, and with a whole new dynamic. Read more…
After a week of Thanksgiving festivities, here are this week’s top events:
1. CHP’s Vision for Turkey: An Address by Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu
Monday, December 2 | 11:30am – 1:00pm
Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW
On December 2, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings will host Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), for an address on Turkey, its foreign policy and its relations with the United States. In his remarks, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu will offer CHP’s vision for the future of Turkey with a particular focus on Turkish democracy and economics. He will also reflect on Turkey’s role in its neighborhood and offer thoughts on its transatlantic relations.
Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu has served as the chair of the Republican People’s Party since May 2010. He was first elected in 2002 as a member of the Turkish Parliament for the Istanbul province. He was reelected as an MP in 2007 and served as CHP’s Group Vice President until declaring his candidacy for the leadership of the party. Prior to his political career, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu served in numerous high-ranking positions in the Turkish Ministry of Finance and the Social Security Organization.
Senior Fellow Ted Piccone, acting vice president and director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, will introduce Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu. At the conclusion of his remarks, Brookings TUSIAD Senior Fellow Kemal Kirişci will moderate the discussion. After the program, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu will take audience questions.
Acting Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy
The Brookings Institution
TUSIAD Senior Fellow and Director, Turkey Project
The Brookings Institution
Republican People’s Party
Petrit Selimi, serving as deputy foreign minister of Kosovo and a member of the General Council of the PDK, offers these reflections on Sunday’s second turn municipal election results, the first held on the entire territory of Kosovo under Pristina’s authority since independence (now graced with a few edits):
Kosovo just went through one of the most positive episodes of its’ young democracy. Local elections were organized for the fourth time since the war of 1999 but these elections felt like a new beginning in more than one way.
Those following Balkan politics got plenty of fascinating news from Kosovo this Sunday.
The second round of the local elections took place for the first time in the entire territory of Kosovo. The first round was held on November 3 but many candidates, including in all the biggest cities, failed to pass 50% threshold in the first round. Hence the second round mattered more then usually. Read more…
Kati Marton, Dick Holbrooke’s wife, called yesterday for revivified American diplomacy aimed at preventing Bosnia from flying apart. She is right to be worried. But calls for engagement need something substantial to back them up. That was her husband’s great virtue: he was able to push all the levers of American power in the same direction at the same time, marrying power to engagement.
It is hard to know what that would mean today. The military lever, as Ms Marton acknowledges, is simply not available. American economic leverage in Bosnia is minimal. Our aid is mis-directed, trade is negligible, and investment is nonexistent. Our oversized embassy–it has many times the staff it had during the war, when I was its most frequent visitor–sponsors biotechnology seminars, boasts a donation of $533,000 for of anti-smuggling equipment and is still featuring the last ambassador’s July 4 farewell its website. Last year’s embassy effort to produce reform in the Bosnian Federation–the 51% of the country in which power is shared principally between Croats and Muslims–has come to nothing.
Nor is it clear why Bosnia should be an American responsibility. The fact is the United States never had vital national security interests in Bosnia. What it had was a dominant geopolitical position–the 90s were the unipolar moment–and very few challengers. Washington could, if it felt like it, devote its military, diplomatic and economic weight to ending the genocidal realities of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. It no longer has that luxury. It faces similar atrocities in Syria but has chosen to focus its attention on chemical weapons that have killed relatively few but represent a serious threat to a valued international norm. Other priorities–the Iranian nuclear program, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, China’s military challenge in the Pacific and America’s own economic ailments–take priority.
Kati Marton discounts Europe’s role in Bosnia, misidentifying the “High Representative” as its agent. Though an Austrian who knows a great deal about Bosnia, he is the agent of both the Americans and the Europeans. The European Union representative is someone else. The EU has a lot of what America lacks: aid, trade and investment as well as good reason to be concerned, since renewed instability in Bosnia would bring increased refugee flows and substantial financial burdens.
The only way for Washington to be effective in Bosnia today is with the Europeans, not without them. But most of Europe is indifferent and unconcerned. The most directly interested are Croatia, which shares a long border with Bosnia and is now the EU’s 28th member, and Germany, which played an important role supporting US efforts in the 1990s and now wields the biggest stick in Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel showed what she could do with a bit of clarity and a few choice words in Kosovo, where she has compelled Serbia to accept the validity of Kosovo’s constitutional framework on its entire territory.
Washington, Zagreb and Berlin are the winning formula. If you want to get something done today in Bosnia, Zagreb is vital to delivering the Bosnian Croats. Berlin has clout with both the Croats and the Bosnian Serbs (largely through Belgrade). And the Americans, as in the past, need to deliver the Bosniaks (those are the people Western newspapers call Bosnian Muslims). A concerted Croatian/German/American initiative would drag the entire EU in the right direction and prove irresistible to all the Bosnians.
But even that won’t work unless we find serious allies within Bosnia. They have proved elusive. Milorad Dodik, once the darling of the West, has embraced vigorous Serb nationalism and is now the most serious threat to Bosnia’s unity. Zlatko Lagumdzija, who once aimed at creating a cross-ethnic coalition, has failed. Croats who would prefer a more united Bosnia that could move quickly towards EU membership just don’t have enough votes.
This is where strategic patience comes in. Washington, Zagreb and Berlin should make it clear what they want the Bosnians to do. They should prepare a short list—three to five reasonable items focused mainly on constitutional reform would be my preference—and then be prepared to await the Bosnian response, cutting American and EU assistance regularly if there is none. The Americans should shrink their embassy in Sarajevo dramatically. The Europeans should get rid of their bilateral embassies altogether, relying on the EU representative to speak with a single voice.
What about the 26 other members of the EU? A few of them like the UK and the Netherlands, will back a well-crafted tripartite initiative. The rest really cannot be helpful in this situation. They should stand aside, as all but Germany did at Dayton, and let the key players use their clout. They will be rewarded by saving on embassies in Sarajevo and by enjoying the spectacle of others doing the heavy lifting. Their finance ministries will be grateful.