Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [11]


This second section of Part 5 looks at the ill-fated commission set up by the EU to determine criteria for recognizing former Yugoslav republics as independent nations.

This commission's work has been widely criticized, and the aggressive role Germany played in hastening the process of premature recognition is well-documented. It is Johnstone's evident wish to assign a disproportionate degree of responsibility to the Commission and the EU; however, since these bodies do share a considerable burden the differences in emphasis might not be worth the effort in confronting (despite all evidence to the contrary, I am trying to keep this as brief as possible!).

It is worth noting, however, that even here Johnstone explicitly sides with the Serbian leadership, detailing their case that the republics did not have the right of self-determination not only because they were mere administrative units rather than 'nations', but also because units of a federal state did not have the right of secession from the federal government. The idea that the Serbian leadership was actually fighting for a smaller Yugoslavia, rather than Greater Serbia, is therefore more than a matter of semantics.

Thus Johnstone has explicitly embraced the logic that a federal government has the right to claim authority over the determination of the redrawing of new international boundries, becasuse the old boundries were meaningless, even though those same boundries are adminstrative borders of that very same federal government. Needless to say, she does seem troubled by the contradiction. Nor, it seems, does she stop to consider what, exactly, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was if its borders were being explicitly redrawn along ethnic borders determined by Serb demographics.

I am not arguing that borders, international or otherwise, can never be redrawn, or that they should be imposed in defiance of the will and well-being of the people directly affected. But Johnstone's legalistic arguement is not concerned with such larger issues. She wants to convince the reader that the same Yugoslav system that suppressed a healthy dialogue about national differences and the bloody history of the country even while subverting individual identity to an increasingly ossified collective national identity was somehow the solution, rather than an important contributing factor, to the breakdown of civil order and peace in the early 1990s.

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