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From Balkans to Syria: Unvarying Peace-making Processes and Similar Post-emotional Stances

Ümit Öztürk

As a concept or a phenomenon, ‘postemotionalism’ was proposed by Sociologist Stepjan Meštrović in his famous book ‘Post Emotional Society’ in 1997. According to Mestrovic, for the ideal action there should be a connection between the emotions and intellect and this necessary connection has been lost in ‘post-emotional society’. Therefore, it is possible to manipulate genocides as natural disasters in today’s world. Mestrovic claimed that “The response to genocide in Bosnia was not an attempt to stop it, but involved the sending of humanitarian aid to the victims of genocide who survived, as if they had survived a hurricane”. 

In the last decade of the twentieth century after the breakup of Yugoslavia; Bosnians, Croats and Albanians were exterminated for the sake of Serbian irredentist nationalism, however so called peace makers just watched for a long time and hesitated intervening and ending the extermination. They watched the process as if it was an ordinary practice of the natural life running in its daily routine. However it was not an earthquake, tsunami or any other forms of natural disasters. Although it is very late, fresh news about the genocide in Srebrenica after two decades later is that Radovan Karadzic called as the “Butcher of Bosnia” was found responsible for the genocide and sentenced to 40-year imprisonment. In some degree, news may ease the pain in the hearts; however was Karadzic the only person responsible for the genocide or is he the scape goat of the delayed Western justice and peace-making which worked in the similar way for Milosevic? 

Not much time passed after the genocide in Balkans, for the resolution process in Syria, we have been witnessing the similar post-emotional stance of the great powers which we were already acquainted with. For five years, they waited to see the balkanization of Syria in Mid-East. As a result of the war, millions of Syrians were displaced and today millions of refugees are outside of their country. What about the casualties? Hundreds of thousands of Syrians died. Now, after the so called ceasefire confirmed by the peace makers, Russia and The USA, Syrian Parliamentary election was held on April 13, 2016. Election results are not surprising. Ba’ath Party which means Bashar Al-Assad regime won the 80 percent of the seats. Can we now talk about a stable state of Syria? Syrian conflict will remain uncertain for a long time since the ceasefire is nothing but an illusion and the election was not a real and fair one. Who voted when millions of Syrians are outside Syria? After all, will we forget about hundreds of thousands of casualties? And despite the allegedly ceasefire, Russia and Assad regime still kept on killing civilians, children and women, especially the Sunni Arabs and Syrian Turkmens.

In the long run, it is not possible to tell about a durable peace regionally in Mid-East and especially in Syria. Furthermore, there are a lot of ‘failed states’ in Mid-East having the potential of conflicts in the future. Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Žižek defines the ‘failed states’ in Mid-East as the ones which were created artificially and their borders were drawn arbitrarily after World War I by the UK and France [2]. Besides, as Brezinski emphasizes this region as a part of Euro-Asia has its own specific Balkans because of its more populated, ethnically and religiously heterogeneous circumstances [3]. These are very important realities to be able to understand the historical dynamics and actors of the conflict in the region. These situations make the region more fragile/potential for new conflicts. Additionally, what we should be scared for is that the more we witness such exterminations the more we will loose from our emotional part.

At the present time, in post-emotional society, for the funeral of the massacres in Syria, great actors -so called peace makers- are wearing glasses as black as coal in order to hide their eyes since they don’t have even crocodile tears. They don’t have intention to stop the miseries of the humankind. They are insensitive, blind and mute to the miseries when the problems are out of their national borders. Through official meetings, they are just repeating the similar post-emotional rituals and also postponing the urgent steps for solutions. Rather than finding a solution to the conflict in Syria, European actors are trying to find solution to keep Syrian refugees out of their borders. Russia and The USA are interested in geopolitical-geostrategic issues in Syria and in this race Russia seems much more dominant than the USA at least in the recent times. In Syrian case, common point is that rational stance leaves no place for emotions and post-emotional stance is repeated.

I was a little kid when I witnessed people crying for the miseries in Balkans at the end of the twentieth century. I still remember some Turkish poems mourning for the children and parents killed in Srebrenica. Twenty years later, I compare the reactions of the great powers to the conflicts in Balkans with the reactions to the ongoing crisis in Syria and ask “what has changed after two decades later?” Similar stances are being acted on the scene. Actors and ways of peace making processes are same. Borrowing the “chessboard” metaphor from Brzezinski, it can be said that we are watching the game played by the peace makers on the globe. How long will we wait for the promises of the civilization? How long will it take to learn living without losing the connection between emotions and intellect? 


[1] Meštrović, S. G. (1997). Postemotional Society. London, Great Britain: Sage Publications.

[2] Žižek, S. (2015). We Can’t Address the EU Refugee Crisis Without Confronting Global Capitalism (SEPTEMBER 9, 2015), retrieved from: http://inthesetimes.com/article/18385/slavoj-zizek-european-refugee-crisis-and-global-capitalism

[3] Brzezinski, Z. (1997). The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives. New York, USA: Basic Books.