Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Closing Thoughts

Reading "Fools' Crusade" has not been an enjoyable experience, but it has been an enlightening experience--although not, you may be assured, for the reasons author Diana Johnstone intended. I think I understand the motivations behind Bosnian revisionism better than I did before--and they have nothing to do with the truth, or even with defending the cause of Serbian nationalism. As I said before, I don't think Diana Johnstone gives a damn about Serbia or Serbs.

The motivation behind "Fools' Crusade" is simply naked, unrefined anti-Western propaganda. After reading her entire book, painstakingly, and going over each section repeatedly, I detect no other unifying theme. She thinks that her theme is "anti-globalization," yet I have no doubt that Johnstone would be hard-pressed to express what anti-globalization is, other than opposition to alleged American hegemony in the service of global capital.

This is a depressing book, and that is why--Johnstone has no vision of How Things Should Be. Actually, that's not completely accurate, since by reading this book the reader can fairly confidently work out a vision of global order that Ms. Johnstone would approve of.

It would be a world in which the power of the United States and its allies is curtailed at every turn; but various anti-Western rogue nations and petty autocratic regimes are free to act against captive populations at will, and to poison the stability in their regions without fear of reprisal. It is a world in which a vigorous and forceful response by Western-led coalitions to world crises is simply not possible, but instead an ineffective United Nations has a monopoly on the right to intervene in world affairs.

It is a world in which the sovereignty of states is the highest moral good, and trumps the rights and indeed the lives of individuals and populations within a dysfunctional or genocidal nation-state.

It is a world in which the best thing that can be said about a nation's political leadership is that it remains outside of American influence. Where standing up the United States and the West is an automatic good, no matter what atrocities are committed.

It is a world in which competing centers of power are to be applauded, no matter what methods or ruling methods such a challenge to the USA embodies.

We don't have to try very hard to imagine such a world. We don't have to try at all. If you want to see the world as Diana Johnstone thinks it should be, you need only to find images from yesterday's news in Darfur. In the westernmost province of Sudan, a genocide has been carried out under the world's eye; carried out by a regime that knows that the United Nations will always give it one more chance as long as they make token moves and symbolic compromises. A regime that knows that, with Chinese capital behind it, it does not need to kowtow to American pressure or pay lip service to Western sensibilities.

At one point, I believed I would be summarizing this book by saying that it ultimately amounted to no more than a long series of random negatives--that Diana Johnstone knows what she is against, and knows how to take frequent potshots at the West she so clearly despises. But now I see that I was wrong. It was bad enough when I thought this book was simply a reductionist manifesto; a paean to reflexive anti-Americanism. And yet, it's even worse.

"Fools' Crusade" is a book-length attack on secularism, individual rights, and the ambiguities and complexities of truly tolerant and cosmopolitan living. As disheartening and ugly as those sentiments are, the implicit message of the book is even worse. The most damning thing you can say about "Fools' Crusade" is simply to articulate and clarify the implications of her critique. In her turgid chronicle of revisionist lies, we saw all that Johnstone holds in in contempt. In the burning villages of Darfur, we see a terrifying vision of the world ordered as she believes it should be.


Katja R. said...

I remember when Clinton intervened in Bosnia-Hercegovina, I got a call from one of my peace activist friends, he wanted me to attend a demonstration opposing this intervention, and I said, 'I am not coming, because I think that President Clinton is doing what needs to be done, and frankly he should have done it a long time ago. My only hope is it's not too little too late.'
This surprised the guy, because he knew all about Latin America, and was well informed on the Middle East, come to think of it, he had a pretty good idea what was going on with Sudan, and thanks to me, he understood what was going on with Northern Ireland.
The Balkans wars of the 90s was a situation I predicted some years ahead of the fact, especially I predicted the ineffectiveness of the U.N.
I am probably a hundred times more uncomfortable with Western culture as Diane Johnston, but to be against some of the more egregious manifestations of the Western culture, and corporate culture isn't the same as wanting America to never intervene. A wise intervention can make the world safer and better. A bad one can make the world more dangerous. It takes a lot of judgment to know the difference. One cannot be knee-jerk about it, either for or against intervention.
The trouble with Diane Johnston is that she is knee-jerk about it.
There are times when an intervention will solve nothing, and can make matters worse, but then there are times when an intervention at least stops bloodshed. Maybe it doesn't totally end a conflict, but at least it can stop the shooting.
A lot of it is picking and choosing when to intervene, and when not to intervene, and the other part is planning properly for the military action and for what exactly to do once the shooting stops.
The U.N. is hamstrung as far as effective interventions go. The United States has done some good interventions over the years. Unfortunately Iraq isn't one of those cases, but I really hate to think what might have happened to the Bosnian people if Clinton had not intervened.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Katja. Clinton took much too long to intervene but at least he did in the end, and he put the UK to shame. John Major and Douglas Hurd behaved shamefully. One of the few good words I have for Margaret Thatcher is that she could see the difference between right and wrong in Bosnia.

Anonymous said...

First, mu apologies for my English writing which is not so good.

I just must say that war in ex Yugoslavia was very complex and that any side in conflict wasn't 100% right and they all done a various war crimes. At the start there was a fragments of komunist idealism, country was at a economical dificulties and memories from WW 2 (concentration camps like "Jasenovac") were came alive again when nationalists (like croats which acted like members of Pavelić WW2 army of "Ustaše" and serbs acted like "Četnici") started to act alike their grandfathers in that bloody war. There was also a much covered and uncovered foreign influence in starting of that war ("high politics")and in its further going on, to the its very end.

In this world there is no living man who understand all this. This war was a tragedy for nations in ex-YU, and only benefits of it had many war profiters like gun traders and manufacturers and undertakers.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you putting great thought into this and not just 'knee-jerking' what you have been indoctrinated with. Nonetheless, I think your pretexts are wrong and I don't blame you. The intervention did not start militarily in 1995, but politically in 1992. What did not have to become a full blown military conflict or war, became one precisely because the West (i.e. USA) wanted that. Izetbegovic wanted war because that was the only way he could get a chance for 'all of Bosnia'. US wanted war because that was a means to be an indispensable superpower, get permanent military bases in a strategically important region, and to appease the muslim world. America was the pyromaniac that pronounced itself a fireman. The military intervention was just a small part of this. Demonization and unilateral punishment of Serbs (although they represent a disproportionate # of civilian victims in the war) seems as just as the orwellian war=peace. I encourage you to sift through the truckloads of misinformation for truths sake. Otherwise, enjoy your ignorance, i heard it is bliss.