As of late July the situation in Bosnia seems to be getting increasingly complicated and dangerous, not only for those immediately involved. The First World War resulted from a chain reaction that was touched off by an assasination in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. The international situation today is of course vastly different, but the potential for deadly chain reactions is still there. Indeed, the disintegration of Yugoslavia, which began five years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is itself a prime example of the chain-reaction phenomenon, and the present crisis in Bosnia is best understood as its last phase.
Some reactions fizzle out for lack of additional links in the chain. Is the Yugoslav case likely to be of this kind? To judge from its course up to now, the answer has to be no. Potential further links abound--locally, regionally, and even globally. The process cannot be counted on to fizzle out. If it is not to lead to more horrors and catastrophes--as the 1914 assasination did--it will have to be stopped.
But who is going to do the stopping? So far, those who have made an effort in that direction--notably the NATO allies and the United Nations--have miserably failed. It might even be argued that far from solving the problem, they have even succeeded in becoming part of it. Are there other possibilities? Here, it seems to us, there is an urgent need for fresh thinking. We would like to offer as a starting point a powerful passage from the concluding chapter of a book very recently published by Monthly Review Press, Yugoslavia Dismembered by Catherine Samary:
"Whatever temporary political agreements may be reached, challenges to the oppressive and exclusionary policies of the governments in power must come essentially from their own civil societies. Forces exist and will continue to exist within civil society that are capable of resisting regressive policies and rulers. By contrast, those who base their hopes on foreign military intervention, or believe that progressive solutions to the Yugoslav crisis will come from the Western governments, are "waiting for Godot": waiting for something that will never come or will not be enough to solve the problems.
"People are resisting the processes of national homogenization that are preventing pluralist democracy from functioning. There are independent media and civil movements that are fighting against chauvinism: antinationalistic women's movements; independent trade unions; antiwar centers; organizations defending individual and collective rights. They may seem too laughably weak to support, given the scale of the war's horrors. …