Serbian State Failure

Serbian State Failure

Today’s Daily Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com) headlines shout “Genocide Ruling Angers Bosnian Muslims” and so perhaps everybody should, shout and be angry that is. But this would be too easy and fails to consider several important distinctions in detail.

Was Serbian state “negligence” willful genocide, wilfully perpetrated by a state upon a helpless minority? or was it merely another example of a “failure of authority” or what we have come to recognize as “state failure”?

One cannot “sue” a State without the State’s permission. Nor can one sue a Milosovic or a Hussein without implicating the whole of the civil apparatus that supported them and countenanced their actions. On the other hand, if you focus on the individual you can effectively hold harmless civil society and the political classes.

This is apparently what has happened.

The political classes of the Serbian Republic have accepted European comity. They have recognized European collective authority and cooperated. They have shown themselves to be responsible civil society. It would seem fair and expedient then, to recognize Serbian civil society as a force for stability and continuity and lay responsibility for the genocide at the feet of those whose failure of leadership led to such excess.

A Look in the Mirror: It’s time for a closer look at our elites

Noam Chomsky advocates radical self-criticism.

How refreshing. Where else can one get a good look in the mirror?

Foreign Policy in Focus (www.fpif.org), earlier this month (Feb. 16, 2007), published an interview with Noam Chomsky (Chomsky on Iran, Iraq and the Rest of the World)(FPIF, February 16 2007) in which the enfant terrible and critic of the American foreign policy establishment reviews a wide range of subjects, interests and strategic choices available to players on the world stage. Chomsky’s insight is right on and so close to home that such reading should be required of all Americans considering a political choice of governing elites.

We in France are also preparing a full slate of elections. This year we will elect a President, both houses of the legislature and 36,373 municipal councils… talk about participative democracy! As citizens of France we are keenly aware of the need to evaluate our elites in the face of rapidly changing energy, security and social considerations. Our criteria are the hopes and desires we hold for ourselves and for our children, our friends and neighbors, all within a larger European, Mediterranean and hemispheric context.

I suspect we will evaluate our elites on their energy and environmental policies, on their approach to social and fiscal discipline, to law and order and to job creation. As we consider the individual or group to whom we would delegate authority, we consider their respect for the values we hold as our own: compassion, fortitude, perseverance, diligence.

In Europe this is an exercise in interconnectedness, not unlike the process getting underway in America. European interconnectedness however, is rooted in the landscape and extends beyond the limits of a confederation of European states, to the steppes of Asia, to Middleastern desertlands and to sub-saharan Africa. These people with their own hopes and aspirations are at our doorstep, how can we refuse them? What choice do we have?

It is only fitting that our national elites — whether they be French, English, Spanish, Latin- or Anglo-American — act in our interests. The difficult question though, is how are these interests defined? Should we look at ourselves in the mirror and say uncritically, “I like what I see”, and define our interests as a continuation of the status quo? What do we see when we look in the mirror? A society that measures success on the ability to consume? This is perhaps Life. But is it responsible?

I think not. This is how we wound up with an oil and gas lobby, and a special interest White House with an out-of-control war establishment. At what cost energy sufficiency? And why should somebody else pay that price? We cannot afford, indeed, the world will not tolerate another round of complacent partisanship in America.