Events

Davos Man Meets Homo Balcanicus: Analyzing International Policy in Southeastern Europe

February 18, 2004 // 11:00am12:00pm

Having witnessed the international community's policies in the Balkans over the last decade, Gordon Bardos presented two paradigms that help to explain some of the reasons behind the failures, frustrations and shortcomings of international efforts to stabilize the region. Bardos contends that differences in character and principles between the internationalist "Davos Man" and the romantic "Homo Balcanicus" have made it difficult to affect change in the Balkans. In short, Davos Man has put too much emphasis on the material elements of the Balkan problem, which do not address Homo Balcanicus's obsession with the region's cultural history and the spiritual and psychological factors working in the region.

Based on Samuel Huntington's description of Davos culture, Davos Man embodies a rational, top-down, technocratic approach to problem solving that maximizes the importance of individual leaders and minimizes the emotional input of nationalism and historical experience. By contrast, Homo Balcanicus Homo Balcanicus is a "child of the romantics" for whom mass mobilization and the "nation" are all-important and for whom the nation makes the state and not vice-versa. The differentiation between the two paradigms can be viewed as "policy-wonk" versus poet.

In terms of the realities of the Balkans, there are significant policy implications in the differences and tensions between the two paradigms. For Davos Man "ideology trumps ethnicity" and assumes that moderates of opposing national or ethnic groups are closer to each other than they are to extremists within their own groups. For Homo Balcanicus the homeland and territory are paramount and their approach therefore tends to be regional, not piecemeal. Davos Man, when looking at problems of the Balkans, tends to concentrate on short-term solutions and finding exit strategies. In this view there is an over reliance on the War Crimes Tribunals which encourages the belief that "if we can just get rid of the bad guys most problems will take care of themselves." For Homo Balcanicus the timeline for solutions is much longer and permeated with the belief that in the long run, the international community will leave and indigenous Homo Balcanicus will still be there to determine what happens in his own manner.

Bardos has six policy recommendations that combine the two approaches to international policy in the region. He argues that high politics should be avoided, noting that war crimes indictments will not solve the problems in the Balkans. Work at the grass roots level and support for civil society should be emphasized, as currently, some of the best work in the region is being carried about by NGOs, with, for example, courses for journalists and courses on election monitoring. Third, society as a whole should not be damaged with tactics such as sanctions policies, which experiences in Serbia and Iraq have shown, did not harm the targeted leadership but devastated society at large. Fourth, some initiatives, like arms control efforts or the rebuilding of the transportation network, which are inherent to the Davos Man paradigm, should be pursued, but not, Bardos explained, the current plan to forcibly integrate the three different ethnically-based militaries of Bosnia, which would be just a symbolic gesture. Fifth, Bardos stressed that when dealing with Southeastern Europe policy makers should think regionally. Finally, plan for the long-term, since there are no quick fixes to the fundamental problems of the region.
 

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  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
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