Friday, April 13, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [9]



Some parts of this book are nearly impossible to critique because Johnstone's point of reference is so far astray from what we in the reality-based community call "facts." It is extremely difficult to engage an argument when the premises are deeply flawed. In her discussion of Kosovo, the elephant in the middle of the room Johnstone is pointedly ignoring is the absolutely disproportionate and vindictive nature of the Serbian military and police crackdown in Kosovo. Johnstone wants to keep the attention focused on the KLA, and I don't blame her--as mentioned earlier, I don't have much good to say about them, either. But the reality of the matter is that Belgrade's response to specific acts of violence and terror by the KLA was not proportional or rational or just; rather, it was a coordinated and planned campaign of wholesale violence against entire segments of the Kosovar Albanian civilian population.

And that, of course, is to leave aside the entire issue of whether or not the Albanian community had any legitimate grievances; or, more to the point, any understandable motivations to resort to organized violent action. Since Johnstone is not willing to acknowledge or recognize any of this, eventually her discussion drifts so far afield that it would require nearly constant qualification.

For example, she points out that the KLA was branded as a terrorist organization by a US representative. This is not an unimportant point--I have long believed that the NATO leadership made a fatal error during the Kosovo War by essentially acting as the KLAs air force. But the moral ambiguities of the Western alliance with the only viable Albanian opposition on the ground is merely a smoke screen--Johnstone is trying to turn the attention towards KLA atrocities and away from the widespread--and well-organized--human rights violations committed against Albanian civilians.

The other elephant is this--much of NATO and US actions in Kosovo must be understood in the context of the immediate post-Dayton environment. The US had been burned in Bosnia, and the eventual peace was widely understood to be merely the best worst solution to a problem which had been avoided for years before it became far too much of a political liability to remain unaddressed.

I'm speaking in generalities rather than addressing the specifics of this section not because I can't find anything to address in this three-page excerpt but, rather, because I could write a very lengthy essay on it. Not on the merits of her argument, of course, but in order to illustrate the dishonest and flawed premises which underlie and support the argument she is making. When she claims that:

"The West's treatment of the Kosovo situation was heavily influenced by the myth of a "pattern" in Bosnia that might be repeated in Kosovo."

one hardly knows where to start. We already know what Johnstone thinks about the situation in Bosnia. In order to rebut this one sentence would take far more time and effort than this section merits (one might say the same thing about my extended review of this book, but no matter). And no matter how loathsome the actions of the KLA sometimes were, the underlying premise of this section--that the KLA was the primary threat to peaceful coexistence and stability in Kosovo--is simply absurd. The KLA's main strength, like any lightly armed guerrilla force, was the support of the local population. And in Kosovo, this was due to resentment towards the Belgrade regime and its heavy handed tactics and oppressive policies, not--as Johnstone has implied previously and will again before the end of this chapter--because of some pathology in Albanian culture and society.

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