Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Washington's War" by Michael Rose [2]

Thanks to Owen, who reminded me in a comment to part 1 about this review of Rose's account of his tenure in Bosnia, "Fighting for Peace: Bosnia in 1994". This incisive and rather devastating review is by Noel Malcolm, author of the excellent Bosnia: A Short History among other excellent work. It is well worth reading, especially since that book was obviously much more directly concerned with Bosnia.

"Washington's War", on the other hand, only touches on Rose's experiences in Bosnia. However, it is clear that his own agenda--which seems to have been highly influenced by his time as head of UNPROFOR--is to undermine the case for humanitarian intervention by the West. Indeed, Rose seems to share the same contradictory views of many critics of Western intervention on behalf of Bosnia; namely, simultaneously decrying any claims to the universality of Western values and their application it the so-called "Muslim World", even while displaying a sometimes implicit, sometimes quite more explicit, contempt for this presumed monolithic "Muslim World."

So, if you have not already read Malcolm's devastating synopsis of Rose's ignorant, skewed views on Bosnia, please do before reading my review of his latest book. As Malcolm shows, it is no secret that Rose failed the grasp the issues in Bosnia and that failure contributed to his poor performance as UN Commander. I have argued in the past that one reason I think the Bosnian War remains relevant to Westerners even 15 years later is because both government and military elites and the general public learned a lot of poorly-informed "lessons" from NATO's first post-Cold War intervention, and these faulty lessons continue to skew foreign policy debates and decisions to this day. In places like Iraq, for example--a war which Rose argued called for the impeachment of Prime Minister Blair. This book is an example of using poor historical analysis and a selective, imprecise, and sometimes just plain incorrect use of facts, in order to formulate a polemic. This, unfortunately, seems to be part of the legacy of the Western debate about Bosnia.

I will not waste everyone's time with a review of this entire book; however, I will devote two more posts, one towards considering Rose's own statements about NATOs' role in the former Yugoslavia, and one considering his claims about the parallels between the American War of Independence and the current occupation of Iraq.

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