Back to Bosnia, Part 2


OSCE briefing, Sarajevo

With the ballots counted, the presidents named, and the parliamentary coalitions in the making, we can begin to make notes about the future of Bosnia.

The OSCE election observation mission consisted of a professional staff and nearly 300 observers, most of whom were in-country for one week or less, but dozens of whom served for several weeks.  Together, these observers generated data for a Statement of Preliminary Findings the day after the elections.  A final report is due in December.

The short-term observers (of which I was one), mostly from the United States and Europe, were briefed in Sarajevo on several items before their deployment to the regions.  Based on these briefings, on the Preliminary Report, and on my own conversations with Bosnians that week, several tentative conclusions can be drawn.  *Judgments here are my own and not those of OSCE unless otherwise identified.*


Election Day, 2014

On elections and elections law

- The political system remains mired in the Dayton Accords era of ethnic division.  However useful this was to end the war, it now retards political development.  The governing institutional structures, political parties, and media are still divided by ethnic identity.  An OSCE media analyst judged that television and social media are the most important avenues for campaigning.

- The Office of the High Representative – an EU representative with potentially strong powers – still exists. According to one OSCE official, OHR’s role has been reduced to “sword of Damocles” guidance for Bosnia’s parties and governments, and the position itself may soon be abolished.

- The results of the election were not essentially predetermined, according to an OSCE political analyst.  The outcomes were not certain in part because there was little high-quality polling done, and in part because of the mixed blessing of incumbency.  Two examples: the Bosniak/Bosnian Muslim son of the former Bosnian president was re-elected, but the Social Democratic Party fell from 26 percent of the parliamentary vote in 2010 to 10 percent in 2014.

- Officials and voters discuss politics differently.  One OSCE official touted education as the key ingredient for further political development.  But in conversations I had with several young voters, the key issues were jobs and health care, and they said the key obstacles to addressing those were corruption and the persistence of the politics of ethnic divisions.

- OSCE concluded that the process of voting itself was conducted reasonably wellMany more complaints were lodged against the counting process.  With some colorful exceptions, this does not seem to be primarily a function of fraud.  The counting process itself was complex and long.  Local commissioners began work at 6 am to open the polls at 7 am, and manned the polls until 7 pm. Detailed closing procedures then preceded the actual counting. In the polling center I observed, 350 voters completed four ballots each.  Under the watchful eye of about 10 party observers, counting the ballots was led by a knowledgeable and respected commissioner. Still, it took more than six hours, with another hour to complete the forms.  It was after 3 am before we headed to the Municipal Center where ballots, ballot boxes and counting sheets from around the region were being collected for tabulation.  Even at that hour, we were the 7th of 33 polling stations to report.  The counting process, conducted by people working nearly 24 hours – not intent to defraud the counting process  – may have been the chief culprit.


Carpets donated from Saudi Arabia – Bugojno, Bosnia

On political Islamism

- The political role of Islamism, not formally commented upon in the OSCE preliminary report, seems to remain low.  One international official told me that there is a small but not significant Islamist feeling – partially for religious reasons and partially as a result of the bad economy, lack of jobs, etc.  There is, he continued, the presumption of increasing Turkish and Arab money in politics and the economy, but there are no details and he declined to speculate further.

- Asked specifically about the number of Bosnians leaving to join ISIS, an international official said there were no clear figures. He estimated that the number might be about 150 people, and that they did not seem to come from any one town or region.

- News of the attraction of al-Nusra or ISIS has appeared in various media, such as:
— ABC News, on ISIS recruiting in the Balkans, October 2014
— Daily Mirror, on two Austrian teenage girls, the children of Bosnian immigrants, October 2014
– PBS and Associated Press, on the arrest of 16 alleged militant recruiters in Bosnia, Sept 2014
– Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, on radical Islamists in north east and north west Bosnia, March 2013


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Airlines and Sick Passengers – updated

Update:  United Airlines responded as well, with the following email.  The reply from Austrian Airlines, posted here earlier, is further below.

“Thank you for contacting United Airlines; we appreciate your sharing your concern.

“To answer your question, yes we do have records in place of all incidents that happen on the aircraft and have methods in place for tracking.

“If in fact that an individual from your flights on October 7th were found to be contagious, and it affected any passengers direct health you would have received a phone call directly from United Airlines.

“Please know we are monitoring the situation closely and are in regular communication with health officials, who have advised that Ebola is not spread through casual contact or through the air. We have cleaning procedures in place after each flight, thorough cleanings at the end of each day and deep cleanings regularly for all our aircraft.

“We have taken several steps to protect our employees and customers during the Ebola outbreak with a wide range of protocols, including updating our aircraft disinfecting process, utilizing our MedLink resource for travel and handling decisions for ill passengers, and advocating for government screening on arrival in BRU (Brussels) and CDG (Paris) of inbound passengers from affected areas through our Regulatory Affairs team. In addition, we are increasing the provision of gloves onboard for flight attendants to use when customers are ill.

“Screening procedures are handled and determined by each individual airport and government health organizations, not by the airline.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs & Border Protection (CBP) this week will begin new layers of entry screening at five U.S. airports that receive more than 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“The new screening began at JFK (New York-Kennedy) on Saturday and at IAD, EWR, ORD and ATL (Atlanta) this week.

“After passport review, CBP will escort travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to an area of the airport set aside for screening. Trained CBP staff will observe them for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and take their temperatures. Travelers who need further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority. Those who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will be asked to complete a daily temperature log and provide their contact information.

“The new screening adds another layer to the exit screening already in place in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as Nigeria, where the outbreak has been contained. That exit screening involves travelers responding to a travel health questionnaire, being visually assessed for potential illness and having their body temperature measured.

“Between flights, all lavatories and galleys are cleaned and trash is removed. Each night, in addition to lavatory and galley cleaning, tray tables and armrests are wiped down and disinfected and floors are vacuumed. We also do regularly deep cleans on each aircraft which includes washing ceilings and overhead bins and completely scrubbing the entire interior.

“We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.”

Original Post:

On Austrian Airlines flight 94 (United 9822) from IAD-WIE  (Washington-Dulles to Vienna), October 7,  an overnight flight, a passenger vomited.  Flight attendants got all gloved up and everyone got very quiet.  Was there ebola on board?

Asked about the airline’s procedures, Austrian Airlines replied via email:

“Thank you for your mail. Austrian Airlines follows the recommendations for cabin crew procedures issued by WHO, CDC, ECDC, EASA and IATA. Accordingly, a highly communicable disease has to be suspected when a traveler has a fever of 38°C/100°F or higher, associated with at least one or more symptoms like coughing, impaired breathing, persistent diarrhea or vomiting, skin rash, bruising or bleeding without previous injury, confusion of recent onset. Concerning the Ebola-outbreak it is additionally important to find out if the passenger had possible contact to Ebola-contaminated material or sick persons or if he stayed in the outbreak region in West Africa during the last 21 days.

“If a passenger meets the above criteria the captain has the obligation (according to international health regulations) to inform the destination airport which will contact the relevant health authorities. Those authorities will decide if further actions like follow-ups are necessary or not.

“However, if a passenger obviously suffers from e.g. simple air-sickness or is pregnant and does not require any additional medical support or attention the authorities will not be involved.

“Nevertheless, I hope you still enjoyed your flight with Austrian Airlines.”

No word on that particular flight, of course. But also, so far, no reports of flight attendants getting sick.

In Response to the Perception of Electoral Integrity Index


Voters in Bosnia, October 2014.

In the current issue of PS: Political Science and Politics (47:4, October 2014), Pippa Norris, Richard W. Frank, and Ferran Martinez i Coma announce a new dataset for “Measuring Electoral Integrity around the World.”  In the spirit of Freedom House, Transparency International, and other global indices, the Electoral Integrity Project surveys experts on 49 indicators for a particular election, and generates a PEI index on a 100-point scale.

The authors anticipated relationships between electoral integrity and liberal democracy, democratic history, and  economic development.  They found these, with some interesting exceptions.  They also find that media and campaign finance, not just ballot box integrity, are important.  To be sure, this effort will become an important contribution to the study of elections, political development, democratization, and more.  But it risks suffering from a serious flaw – one that might have a simple, partial solution.  Continue reading

Back to Bosnia, Part I

After 17 years away, I returned to Bosnia last week as part of the OSCE Election Observation Mission.  It was in part exciting, rewarding, and disheartening.


Baščaršija, the lively old part of Sarajevo.

Much was improved from 1997, to be sure.  In Sarajevo, there were not tanks on the street corners.  The library has reopened, and one Wednesday night in the old part of the city, Baščaršija, dozens of small and medium-sized restaurants were crowded with customers.  Across much of the country there is very good mobile phone service, and in even small hotels and cafes outside Sarajevo is plenty of free Wi-Fi.

The people were as I remembered – smart, generous, hard-working.  The young people I met were not necessarily an accurate cross-section – they all spoke English and/or owned cars, to serve the week’s 180 international observers.  In the more suburban and rural areas I observed, the people setting up the polling stations seemed capable and dedicated.


Classes on the Qur’an, west of Sarajevo.

There were some other differences from 1997, though.  In Sarajevo and a town to the west where I was based, there were more shops and advertisements in Arabic.  Cafes noted they were “halal.”  A significant number of young women dressed in head scarves, a few in abayas, and a couple of women in the niqab.  The locals advised me these were Arabs, on vacation in Sarajevo, but they were in the towns and rural areas as well.

Conversations with most of the people I met focused on the lack of political progress since the war.  Everything was still divided by ethnic group – especially the politicians.  Provisions of the Dayton Accords that had ended the war in late 1995 seemed archaic and dysfunctional two decades later.


Rural Bosnia: Rovna, west of Sarajevo.

The country still has three presidents, one Serb, Croat, and Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim).  Indeed, anyone who self-identifies as another identity – Yugoslav, Bosnian, Roma, Jew, or other – is not eligible to be a candidate for president.  Most (but not all) of the 65 political parties and 24 coalitions are based on ethnic identity.

The young people I met seemed much more interested in making “Bosnia” work than serving their own ethnic groups or ethnic regions.  This is typical of many Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), though.



Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Bugojno.

But it was one of my first conversations in Sarajevo that made perhaps the biggest impression.  I sat down for a while with two 20-something women in fluent English.  They were probably born during, or just before, the war, and had no real memory of it.  Their wishes weren’t about Kosovo Polje or Ustashe or Srebrenica.  They said what the country needed was jobs and health care – echoing my own university students in Washington.  They agreed corruption was the problem, but the needs were jobs and health care.  They said they would issue a challenge to Bear Grylls – the famous television adventurist/survivalist – to try to survive medical care in Bosnia.

The two then went back to their beverages and cigarettes, headed for a short night of rest before another long day serving the Americans and Europeans who breeze in for a week, absorb some of the local flavor, and return home with stories of adventure.  When a colleague and I complained about how early our flights were, one Bosnian hardly hid his contempt, uttering, “Lucky.”

More at

Casus belli

BlueForceTracker is a useful bridge between military and civilian understandings of current events, providing insightful analysis by military personnel and veterans.  But in one recent article, the prolific Nolan Peterson skips a couple of important items.

In “Yes, countries with McDonald’s do go to war with each other,” Peterson effectively identifies human nature as a source of interstate conflict.  He joins classical realists like Clausewitz and Hans Morgenthau, and Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes before them.  As a military pilot, diplomat, and journalist, Peterson has seen more of human nature’s dark sides than most people.  But he omits some of the important parts of the framework – the “McDonalds peace” – in which he structures his argument.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman offered The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention in 1996.  At that time, no two countries with McDonalds had gone to war with each other. Countries with a rising level of income and declining political risk were judged as suitable for investments by companies like McDonalds in part because the character of those countries – populations and governments – preferred globalization to war.  (Incidentally, in that same first column, Francis Fukuyama of “the end of history” fame judged that the income level for a McDonalds, and Friedman’s thesis, was probably too low to consider a country unlike to go to war against similar countries.)

In 1999, NATO allies bombed the Yugoslavia capital, Belgrade, which had five McDonalds.  Friedman acknowledged the end of McPeace, sort of: he explained that the war was so short precisely because the citizens of modern Yugoslavia preferred peace and Western investment over retaining Kosovo at the cost of war.

The relationship between globalization and peace was not entirely new in 1996, though.  Harvard’s Robert Keohane and future Department of Defense assistant secretary Joseph Nye had discussed “complex interdependence” in the 1970s and 1980s. Norman Angell, the 1933 Nobel Peace laureate, had been talking about the peace-making impact of globalization (“interdependence”) since before World War I.  Angell argued that the spread of trade and technology among developed nations in Europe made war among them an irrational economic choice – but not impossible, because, as Peterson argues, wars are choices of men.  The great U.S. naval strategist, Captain Alfred T. Mahan, on the other hand, saw the late 19th century rise of trade and technology (including the Panama Canal) as a possible source of increased wealth, but also a new source of conflict. [More on Angell and Mahan, here.]

Peterson is also right to identify that McPeace developed after a bipartisan embrace of “democratic peace theory” – the idea that democracies do not go to war with each other.  This idea helped build support for assistance to “transitioning” countries of the post-Communist world of the early 1990s and, less directly, democratization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But democratic peace theory itself had earlier roots.  Michael W. Doyle discussed it in 1983, based on the 18th century writings of Immanuel Kant.

The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention is one of my favorite topics with students, not because it is high theory, but precisely the opposite.  It offers a vivid, easily accessible illustration of several complex ideas.  But like most good ideas, it has roots and histories to be appreciated.

In Defense of Christians

summit of leaders from churches across the Middle East began today (Sept 9) in Washington, with representatives from  Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Melkite Greek Catholic, Chaldean, Antiochian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East, and more. It continues Sept 10-11.

The format of the opening prayer service was apparently one which was last done by St John Paul II in 1987, and had never been done in the United States. It was based on 3rd and 4th century customs, and in several languages.

The messages were simple, and clear:  history divides us but faith [and desperation?] unites us; we must fight the most difficult way: with love; when in doubt, follow the Golden Rule.  The homily was one from St John Chrysostrum: you are the salt of the earth and St Matthew calls you to work for the whole world.   Continue reading