Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [6]


This section contiues to rely on Woodward's analysis of the economic situation in Yugoslavia in the 1980s and 90s. The economic stresses on society pushed people into blaming other national groups, and Yugoslavia certainly had deeply rooted ethnic prejudices.

But while Woodward's analysis is sober, informed, and illuminating, it should come as no surprise that Johnstone is selective in her utilization of the facts. She dismisses the 'myth' of Serbian dominance of Yugoslavia by pointing out that this had not been true "for well over a generation." This is the same Johnstone who holds present-day Croats accountable for the actions of the Ustasha regime in World War II, yet the longstanding fears of Serbian dominance in Yugoslavia are dismissed in one short paragraph. The history of the Serb state from 1804 on has been marked by attempts to expand at the expense of its neighbors; the post-WWI Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes quickly became a Serb-dominated dictatorship. Those fears were well-grounded; but nevermind--Johnstone only cares about historical context when it can be twisted to fit her thesis.

She has nothing good to say about the 1974 Constitution--which, as noted earlier, reined in Serb dominance by giving Kosovo and Vojvodina automomous status. She blames this constitution for crippling the Federal Government by shackling the nation with the rotating 8-man Presidency (one for each of the six republics and the two autonomous regions). In the very next sentence she complains that the two regions wielded veto power over the Serb Republic, making it impossible for Serbia to implement serious reform. An interesting point, but all this is rather pointless when one considers that the problem wasn't the creation of the two autonmous areas--would a rotating SIX-man Presidency have been significantly less cumbersome? The answer is: No, but it would have been more favorable to the Serb Republic.

This is a clever sleight of hand--she begins by discussing the structural weakness of Yugoslavia's central government--which was hobbled NOT by granting the 2 mostly Albanian citizens of Kosovo something approaching the status enjoyed by 600,000 Montenegrins and under 2 million Slovenes, but by Tito's absolute refusal to allow a viable successor, never mind an alternative, to his single-handed rule. Then, without missing a beat, she discusses the strength of Serbia within Yugoslavia as if this is of paramount importance.

In short, Johnstone dismisses the notion that Yugoslavia was dominated by the Serb Republic and its large population (while implicitly admitting that this had been true in the past), and then promptly begins building a flimsy arguement that the Serbs were being exploited and outmaneuvered in a Yugoslavia filled with ethnic groups hostile to Serbs.

And, of course, she ties it all in to the IMF and Western banks. It was their severe austerity measures that were destabilizing the country and inflaming nationalist passions--she even goes further and argues that Serbs were the least nationalist of the major ethnic groups. It is, to be kind, an 'interesting' interpretation of some very selective facts.

Here is the concluding paragraph of this section:

"A chain of causality led from the "debt trap" to the IMF reforms to the economic crisis of the 1980s to the nationalist explosion of the 1990s. But it remained invisible. All the troubles could be blamed on "nationalism," or an evil demon named "Milosevic". This is characteristic of the "globalization" process. Outside powers dictate policies, and local authorities take the blame for the consequences. Worse still, the troubles caused are transformed into further arguments for "globalization". National governments are discredited. Only the "International Community" knows what is best for everyone."

I wonder which 'policies' the IMF dictated in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. This is simply an astonishing statement, explicitly turning context into causation, and setting the reader up to swallow the idea that the well-planned violent dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the acts of genocide there were nothing but tragic events put in motion by Western bankers and organizations. The mind boggles.


As a side note, here's a quote from halfway through this section worth repeating:

"Serbs were equated with communists, [to the outside world in the 1990s]to create the impression that the desire to escape from Yugoslavia was identical with the desire to escape from communism. This wildly misleading equation was well designed to appeal to the anti-communist prejudice of ignorant Western media and politicians."

Certainly some Slovenes, Albanians, and others tried the anti-commie line on Western audiences; wartime propaganda will use whatever works. However, Western reporters, politicians, and even the 'ignorant' Western public at large probably came up with their own conclusions about the war that was broadcast daily on TV news broadcasts. Unless Johnstone thinks that people, watching scenes of concentration camp survivors and breadline massacres, and reading about unspeakable tortures and other atrocities, thought to themselves "Those poor people, forced to live in a centralized economy." Not for the first time, you want to ask Johnstone what color is the sky in her world.

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