Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [2]



Because Johnstone can't wait to get to the good stuff, she starts off her survey of "nationalisms" with an unsurprisingly laudatory history of Serbia and the concept of Serbian nationalism. She sets the tone in the very first sentence:

"The principal difference between the Serbs and the others was their attitude toward the preservation or destruction of Yugoslavia."

Given the 123 pages of implied tribalism and ethnic nationalism preceding this quote, this casual use of the terminology "the Serbs" versus "the others" crosses the line into self-parody. Her slavish defense of Serbian ultra-nationalism and its actors has simply short-circuited any capacity for critical thinking. It's worth nothing before I go any further, that she is, in a way, being more honest than she realizes--this truly is a history of Serbian nationalism, not of actual Serbs. She is only interested in 'Serbs' as members of a tribe defined by late 18th/early 19th Century nationalism and by the Serbian state. The actual, complicated story of the Serbian people, their roots, the history of their interrelation with other Balkan peoples, simply doesn't interest her. I don't think Johnstone really cares about the actual Serbian people; I just think she finds their recent history a convenient stick with which to beat the Western governments she hates so much. That the most extreme manifestations of Serbian nationalism are so accommodating to her post-Stalinist collectivist mentality makes the marriage all the more perfect.

Her selective history of the breakup of Yugoslavia continues in the next sentence:

"The leaders of each of the other nationalist movements needed to break up Yugoslavia in order to create an independent state apparatus of their own."

The amount of well-document information about Yugoslavia in the late 1980s and early 1990s one would need to ignore in order to be able to write that sentence is staggering. This entire book is loaded with footnotes; clearly Johnstone means to impress with her extensive scholarship. Yet what is most impressive here is the deft job of dodging the vast body of evidence and scholarship done by others on the subject. Willful ignorance of this caliber needs to be recognized.

Johnstone returns to the "Smaller Yugoslavia versus Greater Serbia" theme from earlier in the book:

"Serb opposition to dismantling Yugoslavia was inevitable considering the Serbs' population distribution and political history."

We will examine the implications of this statement, and continue with the analysis of the book, tomorrow.

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