It is now widely accepted that the 2003 intervention in Iraq was disastrous, with many commentators arguing that the lack of any kind of forward planning and military policy exacerbated religious and ethnic tensions there. But little seems to have actually been learned from the invasion, as the recent US-backed, Iraq government-led use of a Shia militia to conduct a scorched-earth attack on the ISIS-controlled city of Tikrit demonstrates.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis fled after the West’s invasion in 2003, and the ensuing internal conflict. Today, new waves of refugees are fleeing both ISIS and the Iraqi government’s counterattacks. Iraq is a state that exists in a formal sense only. America has helped create a facade of democracy in Iraq – installing leaders favoured by the West. The recent rulers of Iraq have had no relationship to the people and therefore inevitably rule through extreme coercion, corruption, religious division and pork-barrel politics. The advantage for America and its allies is that this allows them to wash their hands of responsibility by blaming the ongoing catastrophe on the Iraqi elite.
However, it is not just Iraq that has been destroyed by Western intervention. Although there is far less public discussion about the European Union’s interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, these cases clearly demonstrate the problems with intervention and the limitations of external rule. Both cases are notable because, like Iraq, they are widely presented as successful examples of intervention and post-intervention governance. Yet both Bosnia and Kosovo are collapsing internally. As has happened in Iraq, the EU has set up facades of democracy in both states, in which corrupt EU-chosen political elites rule.
Not only was Bosnia created by America and the EU, following the break-up of Yugoslavia and the bloody civil wars that followed, but it is a country that continues to be controlled by the EU through the office of the High Representative. The High Representative has just recently announced that, 20 years after the end of the Bosnian war, the office is still vital. This is because, without EU rule, Bosnia would no longer exist. The anti-government riots that broke out last spring revealed that the state itself can barely function at all. Even the Guardian, one of the most belligerent cheerleaders of Western military intervention in the Yugoslav wars, painted a devastating picture in a recent editorial.
Bosnia is a moribund country with high unemployment, high levels of corruption and a totally disillusioned and disaffected citizenry. This should come as no surprise. After the break-up of Yugoslavia, the EU set up a system in which rule was sustained through ethnic groups, led by EU-favoured politicians. The only way in which the West could cobble together a Bosnian state was effectively to bribe Muslim, Serbian and Croatian political elites.