Saturday, March 04, 2006

Welcome to 'Americans For Bosnia'

I will freely admit that the name might come across as more than a little pretentious. There is no group or organization called "Americans for Bosnia"; or, if there is, I and this blog are in no way affiliated with it. Not only is there no organization behind this name, there is no unorganized group, either. It's just me, an American citizen who has never set foot anywhere in the former Yugoslavia.

My reasons for picking the name (other than, I admit, some wishful thinking that I might be able to attract like-minded Americans to a cause that is still important a decade-plus after the war ended) are a little vague even to myself. Hopefully, as I continue working on this blog, I will begin to articulate and clarify exactly why I believe Bosnia's war was America's as well.

Bosnia was a battleground between civic nationalism, embodied (however imperfectly) by the Muslim-led government in Sarajevo, and ethnic nationalism, embodied by the illegal Bosnian Serb rebel government in Pale. It was a battle between individual rights, and collective identity (and the idea of collective guilt). The war in Bosnia was a challenge to the secular West and its values. At the time, we failed that test. We refused to accept the challenge, to acknoweledge that the cause of Bosnia was our own. Most Americans watched scenes of unarmed civilians in Sarajevo under seige--human beings being used for target practice by a pitiful excuse of an army fed on mythic dreams of quasi-religious glory and misunderstood, imperfect history--and wondered what it would be like to be in their shoes. It was a tragedy, and an outrage, that the connection between their plight and our own values was not fully understood.

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