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Unpublished Paper
Assuming Bosnia: Democracy after Srebrenica
ExpressO (2008)
  • Timothy W Waters, Indiana University - Bloomington
Assuming Bosnia: Democracy after Srebrenica Timothy William Waters Associate Professor, Indiana University School of Law (Bloomington) This essay is a reflection on democracy, justice and intervention. It focuses on the Bosnian experience, which requires one to consider several actors: Bosnia as a state, Bosnians as a people or peoples, and the international community. For since Dayton, the indispensable context for reform in Bosnia has been the international protectorate, which is to say the deliberate abrogation of autonomous, democratic, domestic processes for some defined, and hopefully higher, set of purposes. These purposes are expressed in the Dayton Accords, though increasingly the decentralized structures of Dayton Bosnia are seen as a real obstacle to stabilization, efficiency and prosperity – to the dual values of integration and denying victory to genocide. The assumptions underlying that project of governance, assumptions suggest a policy premised upon resistance to the fragmentation of the state under any circumstances, and an abiding commitment to reducing separation among the populations within Bosnia, which the international community has willed into being. How necessary – indeed, how related at all – are those commitments to the dictates of justice? What is the relationship of such premises, which justify our intervention, to our commitments to political process? How long can Srebrenica trump democracy? Our commitment to Bosnia is intense, but not profound. It rests on a powerful emotional conviction – and a sense of guilt – but a conviction whose connection to actual policies is arbitrary. Our – and Bosnians’ – desire for stability, prosperity and justice would be better served by allowing Bosnians a meaningful debate about their future, and our commitment to democracy makes that essential that we let Bosnians decide. The essay first describes the shape of the Bosnian polity and the role of the international community in shaping it; it then assesses core assumptions about the integrationist agenda of the international community’s intervention, including the problematic tension between its concept of justice and democratic autonomy; finally it considers several potential objections to allowing more open democratic processes. This essay discusses Bosnia, but it has implications for re-conceptualizing claims about the democratic nature of states – and when it is right to intervene in them – much farther afield.
  • democracy,
  • intervention,
  • ethnic cleansing,
  • protectorate,
  • Bosnia
Publication Date
Citation Information
Timothy W Waters. "Assuming Bosnia: Democracy after Srebrenica" ExpressO (2008)
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