One down, one to go. Poet, psychologist and war criminal Radovan Karadžić was arrested today after 13 years on the run from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The rumor, which came from the newspaper Blic (via Eric Gordy's awesome Balkan blog, East Ethnia) is that Karadžić was nabbed in Vračar -- which is in downtown Belgrade!
I spent a couple minutes IMing with a friend of mine who lives in Vračar, wondering whether he was taken near the non-stop grocery just off Molerova street, drinking a Jelen pivo outside the shop.
So what's this all about? A couple quick thoughts.
First, the new reform government is officially in -- and this is one of the first fruits of their ascension. They know that half measures to allay intransigent hardliners' wrath are not getting them anywhere. They need to show improvements in ordinary Serbs' lives and quickly -- loosening of visa regimes, flow of capital and investment, etcetera.
So today's arrest is one step. The quick call to send ambassadors back to countries that have recognized Kosovo is another. In return, the international community has to show some good will very quickly.
Second, today's arrest is also a decisive blow to former prime minister and chief Serbian pedant Vojislav Koštunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) -- which controlled the keys to government as the key party in the ruling coalition until recently. The rapid arrest of Karadžić by the new government makes it very clear that Koštunica could have easily done it. Thus, Koštunica and his cronies are humiliated in front of two key audiences. Ordinary Serbs may see them impotent fools. And the international community sees Vojo and Company as the stupid and dishonest creeps that everyone thought them to be all this time.
Third, why didn't the reformers' new partners, Milosevic's old Socialist Party, hold this up or block it? First, there is plausible deniability for them. The ministry that the Socialists control -- the Interior Ministry -- disavowed any role in the capture. Plus, the Socialists have some good old-fashioned grudgeful reasons to despise Karadžić -- including his intransigence at key moments in the Bosnia debacle when Milosevic decided that placating the international community was a better tack than defiance.
This, too, is a fruit of the uneasy new coalition that everyone was so worried about. Now that the reformers have split off the Socialists from the hardline Radical Party and Koštunica's party, the powerful bloc that protected Karadžić was fractured.
Fourth, what about the war criminal behind the massacres at Srebrenica -- Ratko Mladić? Well, this arrest has got to be scaring him. But he remains much more popular than Karadžić. I'd rather see him in the Hague, but I would not be surprised if Mladić he chooses another -- rather less attractive -- option instead of surrender or capture.
Fifth, the arrest of Karadžić is is a chance for the tribunal, which has been much maligned -- and not without cause -- to get it right. Let's hope they are up to it.
Photo: The Beotrag department store in downtown Belgrade. Taken by the blogger.
Add (11:41am): Yes, "Beotrag" was a joke. Do I need to start using emoticons on this blog?