As of today, I will continue my blog over at tkvogel.com/blog. Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds. I will keep this location open since I haven’t yet managed to move the comments over (any tips are appreciated!) but will no longer update here.
December 10, 2006
November 21, 2006
According to a piece in Monday’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, the English-language service of Al Jazeera aims “to offer a counterweight to the worldview of the Anglo-Saxon programs.” Whatever this may mean, they seem to be succeeding. I turned on twice last Thursday (or was it Friday?), the first time to find Riz Khan interviewing Harold Pinter at great length about what a great place the Middle East was before the Yankees screwed it all up a few years ago, and the second time to find two guys described as “bloggers from mediachannel.org” talking about how censorship in the U.S. makes it impossible for anyone interested in world affairs to gain an accurate picture. One of the guys actually compared President Bush to Joseph Stalin. The video you’ll find at the top of their website, by the way, is a commercial (presumably a freebie?) for Al Jazeera that includes the memorable slogan, “watch out CNN, watch out Fox News, watch out BBC, watch out world — because this week, Al Jazeera International is going live on television and in English.” (The dude is identified as “Danny Schecter” in the video caption and as “Danny Schechter” just opposite the page. Either way, no idea who he is.)
I have a feeling I might pass this one up for the time being.
October 10, 2006
Last night on BBC World, a reporter said that some people considered the new UN Secretary General to be “colorless.”
September 29, 2006
Putting Dayton to Bed
by Mirna Skrbic and T.K. Vogel
29 September 2006
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina | A few impatient Bosnian youths could not wait until the general election of 1 October to express their feelings about the country’s institutions. Just days before the vote, they splashed the presidency building in downtown Sarajevo with paint balloons, in colors that stood for Bosnia’s three “constituent peoples” as well as the group of “others,” which is not represented in Bosnia’s three-member presidency.
The heavy-handed reaction by policemen guarding the building sparked protests in the city. The public seemed to be mostly sympathetic to the pranksters as the presidency commands little respect. But will they vote accordingly in Sunday’s poll?
Read the whole thing here.
In Bosnia, War by Other Means
By T. K. VOGEL
September 29, 2006
WALL STREET JOURNAL
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — “I’m not anti-Serb,” Slobodan Popovic said. “I’m just trying to be a normal Serb.”
The difference is important to Mr. Popovic. He’s a senior lawmaker in the parliament of the Serb Republic, one of Bosnia’s two “entities” that were put under a very thin federal roof by the 1995 Dayton peace accords. His Social Democrats are Bosnia’s only truly multiethnic, countrywide opposition. In Sunday’s elections, they are campaigning against a Serb Republic government that nominally is from the same camp — fellow members of the Socialist International. But Prime Minister Milorad Dodik’s specialty is to play the ethnic card. “Dodik aspires to lead all Serbs, not just in Bosnia,” Mr. Popovic said, with just a bit of hyperbole. “It reminds me of the way Milosevic took power, by projecting the image of someone who can solve all problems,” he told me at a pit stop outside the Serb Republic capital Banja Luka in between campaign appearances.
Read the whole thing here.
Update: The piece iss now behind a subscription firewall. Sorry!
September 10, 2006
I recently chanced upon prints of these pictures (more to follow) that I took in Syria during a trip in August/September 1990. Since the negatives were destroyed in a flood last year and the prints are yellowing a bit, I decided to scan them. The result ain’t great but it’s better than *not* having them.
The structures you can see in the background are three-story monuments to the dead of this desert town.
September 8, 2006
I have expressed my skepticism about the “new” UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) before, here and here. France’s behavior in particular has been disgraceful though at some level understandable; I suspect what happened was that the Foreign Ministry drafted the relevant parts of Security Council Resolution 1701 and handed them over to Defense to implement only once it had been passed. The military planners then got cold feet because of the various holes in 1701.
Today’s news only seem to confirm that 1701 will not deliver the “robust mandate” some had claimed it would. According to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and other newspapers, the deployment of the German contingent for UNIFIL (a navy unit) is being delayed by various conditions the Lebanese government has imposed: UNIFIL patrol boats should not be allowed near the coast and should only be able to search suspicious vessels after receiving permission from the Lebanese government (of which Hezbollah, of course, is a member).
The issue is so delicate that the Germans have now bounced the Lebanese conditions back to the UN for a review whether they are compatible with 1701.
During the war it sounded like the Lebanese and the Europeans couldn’t wait to get a force in place. Now, it sounds as if everyone were just fine with the status quo.
September 7, 2006
The UN population agency’s report State of World Population 2006 focuses on an issue that is often missing in the debate on ‘brain drain,’ namely the enormous contribution of remittances from migrants to development back home. (The overall theme of the report is the far sexier “women and international migration,” with such mind-blowing revelations as the fact that almost half of all international migrants today are women.)
In 2005, remittances — funds sent by migrants to their country of origin — rang in at an estimated US$232 billion. With US$167 billion of the total going to developing countries, remittances are considerably larger than official development assistance (ODA) and are the second-largest source of external funding for developing countries after foreign direct investment (FDI). Experts consider the actual amount to be much higher, since these estimates do not take into account funds transferred through informal channels.
This is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine, so bear with me. I’ve been telling people back in Bosnia for years that an overeducated Bosnian working on a German bauštela contributes more to his country’s development than an overeducated Bosnian sitting all day long at Karabit being smart and looking cool (though the four packs he’ll get through that day do help the government budget). UNFPA even has some numbers:
Remittances in Europe contribute 0.5 per cent of the total GDP in the entire region. In certain countries, however, they are much more substantial: 27.1 per cent for the Republic of Moldova; 23.1 per cent for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 18 per cent for Serbia and Montenegro.
Substantial I’d say, especially considering that once again, these numbers only include money transferred through banks or similar institutions, not through the bus driver or the relative.
Of course, exporting (mostly manual) laborers cannot be a development plan for a country like Bosnia and Serbia. But perhaps figures like those in the UNFPA report will make people think twice before they equate emigration with selfishness and staying — or returning — home with patriotism.
September 6, 2006
In an article in today’s TCSDaily I talk about the way in which the new war-crimes tapes coming out of Bosnia have provided yet another opportunity for Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks to roll out their stereotypes and prejudices.
In light of the generic, if awful, nature of the pictures, it was perhaps to be expected that they did not prompt a reassessment of well-rehearsed claims and counter-claims. Pundits and politicians on all sides took the footage as proof that they had been right all along in their interpretation of the war and the crimes it had brought.
While I hope that all of this evidence will eventually come to light, I do think that such atrocity tapes add rather little to our understanding of what happened.
September 5, 2006
From a report by the Czech news agency CTK:
Czech premier hopes to find common language with Slovak premier
September 3, 2006
It may be Sunday but AP managed a brilliant hed nonetheless:
Stone-throwing Swiss celebrate bicentenary of cultural festival
Source: International Herald Tribune, 9/3
The piece itself is worth reading, too — we Swiss are very much in touch with our inner beast.
July 30, 2006
Following our own success, Cyprus offers to solve Lebanese crisis
Source: Cyprus Mail
Okay, the hed was tongue in cheek, but the offer is for real, apparently.
July 23, 2006
From today’s Observer:
Somalia inches towards war
July 22, 2006
It’s just two bloody hot, I’m racing to finish up my book on “ethnic cleansing,” and I have a whole bunch of other things to take care of. I did manage to write a quick update on the worrying situation in Bosnia over on East Ethnia, however.
July 10, 2006
(Warning: unwarranted generalizations ahead)
Went to a lecture by John Searle tonight. The guy’s amazing: he’s ancient but more agile than half of the folks in the room. (Not difficult since they were mostly Germans.) He spoke for an entire hour without notes, walking around all the time with one of those little mikes pinned to his chest. He talked a lot about his Bernese Sennenhund named Gilbert. (Previous dogs were named Frege, Russell, and Ludwig, in that order.) Gilbert is a likeable fellar but dumb as a tree trunk — a real beast with no language. He (Searle) kept 900 Germans on the edge of their seats. How come half of the room was sound asleep after twenty minutes last time I heard Habermas? Anyway, it made me want to go back to an American graduate school. I know it’s delusional and don’t worry, won’t happen, but I sure feel like it. This guy could even drag me back into a philosophy seminar.
July 5, 2006
My boys celebrating after Italy win over Germany last night
June 25, 2006
It’s unlikely many folks come to my blog to get news on the World Cup — though the Swiss rock! — but in case any of you out there are sick and tired of it (or as an unfortunate BCS interpreter recently put it on live TV, “bolestan i umoran”), here’s an article to cheer you up — especially if you agree that Europeans are just a bunch of nihilistic posers. Money quote:
Mostly soccer is just guys in shorts running around aimlessly, a metaphor for the meaninglessness of life. Whole blocks of game time transpire during which absolutely nothing happens. Fortunately, this permits fans to slip out for a bratwurst and a beer without missing anything important. It’s little wonder fans at times resort to brawling amongst themselves in the grandstands, as there is so little transpiring on the field of play to occupy their wandering attention. Watching men in shorts scampering around has its limitations. It’s like gazing too long at a painting by de Kooning or Jackson Pollock. The more you look, the less there is to see.
June 19, 2006
No sooner had I posted a little item over at East Ethnia talking about the curious fact that both Peter Handke and Noam Chomsky, people who professionally deal with words, manage to tie themselves in knots every time they actually use same, than Diana Johnstone rushed to Handke’s defense since he is so evidently incapable of making his case himself.
Let me cut straight to the heart of the matter.
After criticizing the natural tendency of “every community involved in a civil war to see itself as pure victims” and the West’s echoing of the “charge that the Muslims of Bosnia were the target of a deliberate project of ‘genocide,’ because this justifies their illegal 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia,” she goes on:
It would be more helpful to point out that wars lead to massacres, and that evacuating women and children to safety (as the Serb forces did when they captured Srebrenica) is not a usual feature of what most people understand by “genocide.” There have long been indications of Serb willingness to admit guilt for whatever really happened at Srebrenica, but only for what really happened, and in return for recognition that atrocities of the same sort were committed on all sides. If the desire for revenge (against earlier massacres of Serb villagers by Muslim forces based in Srebrenica) spurred the massacres at Srebrenica, revenge now also motivates the insistence of the Bosnian Muslim party on branding the Serbs as “genocidal.” Muslim leaders in Bosnia hope it will enable them to force Serbia to pay billions of dollars of reparations — a prospect which would be about as helpful in promoting peace as the reparations imposed on Germany after World War I, which led to the Nazi victory.
Srebrenica was a “massacre” (the quotation marks are mine, of course) and it cannot have been a genocide since the Serbs also expelled women and children. (That’s a line of argument Handke also uses, by the way.) Atrocities “of the same sort” were committed “on all sides.” Attempts by “the Bosnian Muslim party” to “brand” the Serbs as genocidal (perhaps this is a reference to the genocide lawsuit before the ICJ) is “revenge.” And finally, the Serbs’ trump card whenever the going gets tough, insisting on Serbian responsibility would lead to the emergence of fascism in Serbia. (I’ll admit that that’s my interpretation of the last sentence in the quoted paragraph, but I don’t think I’m reading too much into it. Just comforting to know that Johnstone agrees that the SRS are Nazis.)
At least nobody can accuse her of obfuscation.
June 16, 2006
Just because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean nothing’s happening…
NATO commander in Bosnia Gen. Louis Weber responding to accusations by Carla Del Ponte, the UN’s war crimes prosecutor for former Yugoslavia, that the alliance wasn’t doing enough to capture Bosnian Serb wartime president Radovan Karadzic, according to Reuters.
That’s what I tell people when I’m having them over for dinner. It’s usually fairly inexpensive, fairly decent stuff. But would you bring along 12-dollar bottles when visiting the President of the United States, as a certain dignitary from the Caucasus has done, according to a listing in the Federal Register?