Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Fools' Crusade": Chapter One [1]


This is the title of Chapter One, where Johnstone purports to examine the "responsibility for the wars of distintegration." The title reiterates the belief that is fundamental to left revisionism--that the West was hostile to the existance of Yugoslavia, and it was Western intervention that was crucial to destroying that nation. There is very little reason to believe the latter; there is, essentially, no evidence at all for the former. If you think that gives Ms. Johnstone any pause, think again--this chapter is 50 pages long.

Here is the beginning of this chapter:

"Why Yugoslavia? How did the Serbs go from being the heroic little people who stood up to empires and Nazis in defense of freedom, to being the "new Nazis," pariahs of the Western world?"

This is a good question. It raises a couple of important issues; the oversimplification of the Yugoslav wars in the Western media, and the slanted history of Yugoslavia and the role played by Serbs and other ethnic groups in that history, particularly since World War II. Unfortunately, Johnstone doesn't seem to realize what issues it raises; instead, she apparantly means for the reader to consider this question at face value. Rather than question the grossly simplified, pro-Serb history of World War II, the Partisan resistance, the Ustasha regime, and the civil war that wracked Yugoslavia, Johnstone accepts this oft-repeated myth as gospel truth. She may scoff at the second oversimplification--that the Serbs are somehow an evil people committing Nazi-level crimes--but not because she rejects broadly-drawn caricatures of entire ethnic groups. She simply doesn't accept this particular generalization.


Katja R. said...

I don't understand why ANYONE believes the West wanted to bring down Yugoslavia, the West was instrumental in CREATING Yugoslavia in the first place. Even given all the cultural comanalities and the linguistic closeness, it was not a natural set up.
It required a LOT of outside support.
The hard right and the hard left in the U.S. at least believe so much nonsense about Yugoslavia and the break-up that it's almost impossible to have a sane discussion with any of them.

Kirk Johnson said...

That's the thing--Owen's explanation a couple of posts back summarizes Johnstone's belief fairly well. The problem isn't that she and others like her don't have a thesis; it's that they don't have any credible evidence to support it. More to the point, there is plenty of evidence to contradict it--keeping Yugoslavia together was the goal of Western diplomacy even after the war broke out.

Needless to say, I'm not critiquing this book because I expect to have a dialogue with Johnstone or other like-minded people.

Shaina said...


Warren Zimmerman's "Orgins of a catastrophe" explains not only Milosevic's role as the primary instigator of the destruction of Yugslavia, but of the effort of the US from preventing the break up of Yugoslavia-thereby refuting the thesis that the US wanted the socialist state to be destroyed for ideological reasons or whatever.