Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Postscript: Perpetual War [1]

POSTSCRIPT: PERPETUAL WAR


1. THE IDEALIZATION OF WAR

In some chapters and sections of this book, it is necessary to read a few sentences before the first fallacy rears its head. No such trouble this time around--the "Postscript" kicks off with this blatant disregard for reality:

"One of the great ironies of the Yugoslav intervention is that this operation, hailed by its ideological champions as uniting Europe around a noble cause, was an episode in the ongoing drive by the United States for supremacy over Europe as well as over the United Nations."

Well, that's just not true. Not at all. The United States, as any reasonable observer of the war knows, was more than happy to stand aside and wait for newly unified Europe to take the lead.

And wait. And wait some more.

As for the United Nations, since Johnstone has had not a word to say about the UN and its shameful record in Bosnia, there is little to say here. Or rather, there is a great deal to say here, but since the UN has been a minor--or even an off-stage--character in her alternate version of events, this is not the place for it. (I do hope to discuss the United Nations and its role in Bosnia in a future review or project).

She is correct to note the the United States helped push Boutros Boutros-Ghali out and Kofi Annan in, but what of it? Does she expect the reader not to realize that the members of the Security Council wield a great deal of clout within the Secretariat? Is this supposed to shock us?

She claims that the United States used the war as a pretext to "assert both U.S. dominance over the European Union through NATO, and NATO's dominance over the United Nations," which would be a fascinating and controversial thesis if she only had a single shred of evidence to support it. So much of this book has been along that same line--Johnstone connects some carefully selected dots and firmly declares that they lead to some apparently self-evident conclusion she never bothers to explain or verify. Again--conspiracy theories.

At least she has a new bogeyman--rather than the Trilateral Commission, we get the "International Community," which she refers to by the initials 'IC'. She compares the 'IC' to an "English gentlemens' club," an exclusive and privileged group of nations able to call the shots without having to spell the rules out. Not a bad metaphor, and maybe not even completely off-base, but what of it? Johnstone is good at finding little inconsistencies in order to criticize the way things work; she's not so good when the time comes to suggest a better (and even remotely feasible or realistic) alternative.

But again, this would be the time to bring up the role of the UN in Bosnia, a subject she has assiduously avoided. NATO has replaced the UN in some roles; it did brush the UN aside in Bosnia. Explaining why would require a closer look at the United Nations in the post-Cold War age of genocide. A perfunctory look would be an improvement.

She closes this brief section by claiming that the US coerced other NATO countries into taking military action in Kosovo in order to simultaneously deceive them into believing they were equal partners in NATO even as diplomacy was "abandoned" against Milosevic, leaving the military option--which, she correctly notes, would be dominated by the United States--as the only one left.

3 comments:

Shaina said...

Congrats on finishing the book! I'm not sure if you want to dive into another book analysis after doing such a thorough job on Johnstone (although I certainly enjoyed reading your reviews!); but in case you want other books to review; might I offer some suggestions:

To Kill A Nation by Michael Parenti: basically Johnstone lite. Ideologically and argument wise; the books theme echoes Johnstone. (You've read one, you've read them all) However, Parenti seems (IMO) to get to the point quicker than Johnstone's occassional roundabout ramblings.

The 2005 Globe and Mail article by Gen MacKenzie or Dubious Mandate by Philip Corwin.
Both of these men have repeated much of the same claims made by those who seek to deny, or reletavize war atrocities; and in particular, the genocide in srebrenica. What is more, as UN officials their false claims have been given a degree of legitimacy by the revisionist crowd. Not to mention MacKenzie's piece was published in the mainstream G&M; and I'm sure that there were probably people who've read the article; and not knowing the facts or MacKenzie's own biases who saw MacKenzie's view as being a legitimate one.

And if you want to focus on something other than revisonist literture...

The Death of Yugoslavia. IMO, this is one of the best books written on the war. Very authoritatively, it explains the break up and destruction of Yugoslava. The book was the basis of the excellent BBC documentary by the same name (which you can view on Youtube). At the sametime, Johnstone has cherry picked a few statements and taken sentences completely out of context from this book, to insert in Fool's Paradise.

Kirk Johnson said...

Thanks, Shaina! I'm breezing through the "Postscript" right now, and then I can bid "Fools' Crusade" a less-than-fond adieu.

Funny you should say that--"To Kill a Nation" happens to be the book I've decided to tackle next. MacKenzie and Corwin are also on the back-burner.

I agree about "Death of Yugoslavia". It's an excellent account. I wish there were a book as thorough, objective, and authoritative just on the Bosnian war.

I'm also contemplating tackling Susan Woodwards "Balkan Tragedy," but that's a heftier tome and I would like to have a little more time than I do this spring.

Thanks, as always, for your encouragement.

Owen said...

Kirk, don't waste your time on more rubbish, you've already gone way beyond the call of duty. There are so many other much more interesting books to look at, like Shaina's suggestion of The Death of Yugoslavia.