Berserkistan Navigator Karadzic Ouster is Partial
Victory for Holbrooke

He failed to obtain the real prize -- extradition
of Karadzic and army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic
to face trial by the War Crimes Tribunal

By Donald Forbes

Richard Holbrooke BELGRADE, July 19 (Reuters) - Radovan Karadzic's tousled mane may no longer bob across Bosnian television screens in defiance of peace but Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy who claimed his scalp, was far from triumphalist.

Announcing Karadzic's ouster as Bosnian Serb president and head of the ruling Serb Democratic Party (SDS) on Friday, Holbrooke stressed the ifs and buts of what he achieved. In theory, prising Karadzic from power removed the biggest obstacle to inter-ethnic elections called for September to give post-war Bosnia democratic political institutions. But Western mediators have been tricked too often by Serbs during the long conflict to take their promises at face value.

"If it is implemented correctly, it increases significantly the chances of a successful election," Holbrooke told reporters in Belgrade after an "acrimonious" negotiating marathon with Serb leaders. Holbrooke admitted the job was only half done. He failed to obtain the real prize -- extradition of Karadzic and his army commander General Ratko Mladic to face trial by the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague.

There was no mention of what deals he may have struck with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and with other Bosnian Serb leaders who are as dedicated as Karadzic to the destruction of the peace process. Diplomats said Karadzic's ouster was potentially the most important breakthrough since the warring sides signed the Dayton peace treaty engineered by Holbrooke last November.

Karadzic's survival in office while Belgrade and the West haggled over his future was an embarrassing public symbol of the weakness of international diplomacy in Bosnia where 50,000 NATO peacekeepers have been unable to lay a finger on him. The more the West wanted him out, the more the Bosnian Serb hardliners grouped round him in Pale were determined to hang on to him as an emblem of defiance.

Although he has gone, the victory could prove pyrrhic in the long run.

So long as he remains at liberty in the Bosnian Serb government seat of Pale, Karadzic is free to participate in the inner councils of his hardline allies. Should this happen, there is not much mediators can do about it. Even if his old comrades ignore him, the nationalist grip on power and commitment to the separatist ideology that ignited the war remain undiminished and nothing essential will have changed.

Biljana Plavsic Biljana Plavsic, who replaced Karadzic as acting president, and Aleksa Buha, the new SDS chief, are hardliners in the same mould as Karadzic. Both are lightweight figureheads for the real power broker in Pale, parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik. Krajisnik is recognised as the sharpest among Bosnian Serb politicians. He ran the war behind the scenes while Karadzic played the public stage and took the heat when the war crimes indictments were handed out.

While Holbrooke has fulfilled his mission of keeping the Bosnian elections on track, the European end of the peace making effort has suffered humiliation. The U.S. envoy swung Karadzic's departure after several months of effort in the same cause by former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, the West's chief civilian mediator, produced only confusion. The next decisive step will be to secure the extradition of Karadzic and Mladic to the U.N. court which Holbrooke admitted will be a "long and bumpy road."

The West wants Milosevic to deliver the two men although any attempt to do so would be politically fraught for the Serbian leader whose ruling Socialists face federal elections in Yugoslavia later this year. Many Serbs regard Karadzic and Mladic as patriots. Far from accepting that either committed war crimes, they are convinced the pair saved their people from genocide. The West fears NATO would suffer casualties in a fight with Karadzic's bodyguards if it tried to arrest him and could turn him into a martyr if he himself were among the victims. Milosevic fears something worse - that an attempt by his own police to do the job would result in Serbs killing Serbs.

To learn more...
Berserkistan, July 19 · Karadzic Resigns, but Holbrooke Fails to Secure Serbís Arrest
Berserkistan, July 18 · Holbrooke Ultimatum to Bosnian Serbs: Drop Karadzic
Berserkistan, July 18 · Tough Talks between Milosevic and Holbrooke Last into Night
Berserkistan, July 18 · Bosnian Serbs to Belgrade for Talks on Karadzic
Berserkistan, July 18 · Most Powerful Man in Balkans Faces Uncomfortable Choice
Berserkistan, July 18 · Karadzic or Not, Election Boycott Feared


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