100 years ago today, the US, Britain, Japan, France, and Italy signed the Washington Naval Treaty. Intended to de-escalate a battleship arms race, it ended up marking the dawn of the aircraft carrier age, which makes it very relevant even now. Bill and Rachel.
A top Libyan Muslim Brotherhood leader has called for the fractured country’s UN-brokered talks to dump both rival expired governments and start over with a wider table that acknowledges power realities on the ground, according to the Libya Herald:
A peace deal had to be based on national consensus, he said. Moreover, it could not ignore those who had power on the ground, such as the Libya Dawn militias in the west of the country, and in the east, not just members of the Benghazi and Derna shoura councils but the Khalifa Hafter’s Operation Dignity as well. Tribal and political leaders equally had to be involved along with elders from across the country and representatives of Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani’s Dar Al-Ifta, and even supporters of the former regime.
Any attempt to build peace around the HoR [House of Representatives] and the GNC [General National Congress] would fail, he warned. They were deeply unpopular with the Libyan public and could not contribute to stability in Libya.
This is pretty fair given that both rival governments’ democratic mandates have now entirely expired and the last UN negotiator turned out to be secretly on the payroll of the United Arab Emirates, which was bombing one of the sides. It’s also worth noting that his list of participants specifically includes the people most virulently opposed to his own faction, as well as various ideological rivals and quasi-allies.
Map of three coastal cities in Libya. Adapted from Wikimedia.
If you want to know why the Syria conflict can’t be ended by willpower or the snap of a fingers, this is a good analysis by Gareth Porter. The latest peace talks don’t include any significant armed combatant party in Syria – not any stripe of rebels, not the government, and certainly not ISIS. Practically speaking, on the side of the anti-regime forces, there is nobody that the rest of the world is comfortable negotiating with who could actually control any armed fighters if a deal was reached. The Syrian government (or even just the Army) doesn’t want to negotiate a deal either because they have no interest in signing a deal that brings al Qaeda/Nusra to power, and they are currently the primary non-ISIS opponent.
The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, aka Dayton Accords, were preliminarily signed on November 21, 1995 in Ohio. With that accord reaching its 20th anniversary — and Bosnia continuing to be wildly dysfunctional and notoriously stagnant, albeit not openly at war with itself — it’s time to reflect on how the solution reached to end the war did not do much beyond that.
Dayton created a byzantine governance system that constitutionally entrenched, rather than resolved, the divisions that emerged from the war. Bosnia was divided into two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. Bosnia was further split into 10 cantons, and the contested city of Brčko was given special district status, while the state presidency rotates between the representatives of the three constituent peoples—Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. With a population of 3.8 million people, Bosnia has three presidents, 13 prime ministers and as many governments, more than 180 ministers, and over 700 members of parliament. The outcome is an ungovernable mess. Two years after the 2013 census was completed, the results haven’t yet been announced, because Bosnia and Republika Srpska each carried out its own census, with different methodologies.
This doubling-up of everything can seem comic. But the system entrenched by Dayton has done serious damage to Bosnia’s development. “The political caste uses Dayton to stay in power,” explained Nermina Mujagić, a political-science professor at Sarajevo University. “Dayton is a convenient scapegoat to justify why nothing is being done to address the plunder of the state’s assets and pervasive corruption.”
And on the other hand, the dilemma remains: This is bad, but at least it stopped the horrific, genocidal fighting.
President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, President Alija Izetbegovic of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and President Franjo Tudjman of the Republic of Croatia initial the Dayton Peace Accords at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Nov. 21, 1995. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force.)
Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.
I reacted very negatively to Secretary Clinton’s bizarre debate anecdote about the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, but I couldn’t quite remember all the details, other than my generalized and deep disappointment about the results of those talks at the time. This post filled my memory gap in…
About midway through the [first 2016 Democratic presidential] debate, Clinton staked her climate record on what’s widely perceived to have been one of the biggest diplomatic failures in recent history — the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. After years of anticipation, the meeting of world leaders ended in disarray, with Obama and his aides famously wandering around the convention center, looking for the leaders of China, India, Brazil, and other key nations. The toothless deal struck at the last minute was called a “grudging accord” by the New York Times the next day. Yes, Obama—and Clinton, then his secretary of state—were instrumental to that deal, but it’s hardly something Hillary should be proud of.
So it was pretty strange to hear her comments on Tuesday night. In her first answer on climate change, Clinton said, “I have been on the forefront of dealing with climate change starting in 2009 when President Obama and I crashed a meeting with the Chinese and got them to sign up to the first international agreement to combat climate change that they’d ever joined.”
In reality, the sour legacy of Copenhagen has haunted international climate negotiations ever since. It’s now widely believed that the U.S. never wanted a legally binding climate deal in Copenhagen at all—even though the Democrats controlled the Congress at the time and may have been able to successfully ratify the treaty—opting instead for a mostly empty pledge of billions of dollars in aid to developing nations. Among environmentalists, Clinton has retained only a mediocre reputation on climate change as a result.
Her Copenhagen comment wasn’t just a poor choice of wording, because she brought it up again later in the debate.
In her expanded version of the story, Clinton and Obama were roaming Copenhagen “literally … hunting for the Chinese.” Once they found them, she said, “We marched up, broke in, and said, ‘We’ve been looking all over for you. Let’s sit down and come up with what we need to do.’” That all sounds very Jason Bourne, but it’s not a good substitute for effective climate policy.