Democracy is in trouble and Biden summit will not fix it – POLITICO


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Aleksandar Hemon is an author, essayist, and professor of creative writing at Princeton University. Aida A. Hozic is Associate Professor of International Relations and Associate Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida. Srdjan Vucetic is Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

At this time of year, Sarajevo is usually shrouded in hellish smog. The city is located in a valley, surrounded by mountains, and the smoke and pollution from heating oil and car exhaust simply has nowhere to go. And when smog hits the capital, visibility is minimal. The airport closes, driving is difficult after dark, residents stay inside as if they were locked out. The minarets and spiers of Sarajevo’s churches, its famous clock tower and the illuminated town hall glow eerily in the dark, seemingly set in an alternate universe and not in the heart of Europe.

This year, however, smog is not stopping a range of foreign emissaries go and come. There are growing concerns that Bosnia’s protracted political crisis – a product of a debilitating institutional structure created by the Dayton Peace Agreement and continued aggressive nationalism on the part of the country’s leadership – lead to its break-up or another war. Concerned emissaries try to reason with Bosnian natives, offering them carrots and sticks to stay the course on the same dysfunctional ethno-nationalist path, and postpone their petty bickering until the next electoral cycle hits the metropolitan centers of the world.

Yet as these representatives all know, Bosnia is not alone in this case – unrest is brewing all over the Balkans. Tensions are high in Montenegro and North Macedonia, the last two NATO members. Kosovo and Serbia are far from agreeing on the sovereign status of the former. Even the neighboring countries of the European Union – Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and, of course, Hungary – are increasingly abandoning the pretense of becoming the reliable democratic partners that Brussels and Washington say they want in the region.

Thus, emissaries pinch their noses in Sarajevo, fearing that the smog they face may be a formidable miasm from the Balkans, which has already created enough problems for the civilized world of which they imagine themselves to be a part.

But the Balkans are not the source of today’s global problems. Everywhere, ethnocentric and racist calls for nationalism simmer beneath the surface of democracies.

Countries virtually meeting today for the premiere of US President Joe Biden Summit for Democracy are no exception. There, participants from more or less 100 democracies will deliver mostly predictable speeches about “the worst form of government except all the rest”, and the need for Democratic allies to listen to each other and to come together. to please.

Endorsed early on by Biden’s presidential campaign managers, the Democracy Summit was meant to be a relatively safe undertaking. Once upon a time, Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that democratic nations should work together to deliver international public goods. Former President Bill Clinton, Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton as well as Senator John McCain had expressed his interest in aleague” Where “community”Democracies, as some foreign policy advisers to former President Barack Obama had done. Even Senator Bernie Sanders pleaded for a “global democratic movement”.

Yet the Biden summit is now facing criticism from all sides, especially when it comes to who is invited. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not included in this summit. It’s the only state in the Western Balkans not to be on the list, while countries like Serbia and Croatia that fought fiercely for segregation in Bosnia were welcomed. Perhaps their delegates, as well as those of the “backsliders” Poland and the Philippines, will now tell us what democracy really means.

Mostly, even the host of the summit has a lot of problems at home. After all, the rally comes at a time when the American right itself is deeply divided over the benefits of liberal democracy. Many conservatives believe that America’s multiracial, multicultural national identity is just one more illusion to dispel, and the Constitution an optical hurdle to overcome.

In the face of the growing global wave of authoritarianism, Biden’s usual tactical approach – avoiding confrontation for the purpose of false unity – is not only morally reprehensible, but also politically counterproductive. Unless he changes course and realizes that he must fight for the survival of democratic governance, his second Democracy Summit will take place in a much more difficult environment, both at home and everywhere else.

Thirty years ago, the United States and Europe had a chance to prevent and then stop the war in Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Instead, they chose practical containment, and the price to pay was genocide. If the United States and the EU care about democracy and their own future, they must realize that the world is preparing for a major conflict – a conflict including the arrival of the peoples of the Balkans, peripheral to the fantasies of democracy. Eternal, learned to recognize long before Western diplomats who excel in sloppy conflict management.

If the United States and the EU, and all those willing to praise democracy for the small audience of President Biden and his advisers, are serious, they must aggressively support progressive democratic forces in America, Bosnia and everywhere – for today is almost over, and tomorrow will be too late.