Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict" from Greenhaven Press [6]

Chapter 4: Should Nations Intervene in Ethnic Conflicts?

It should be obvious by now that there is a fatal flaw in the premise of this book--the distinction between genocide and "ethnic violence" (which is never clearly defined to my liking) is never made. I'm not sure the editors even recognize that genocide is more than merely "ethnic violence" on a wide scale.

The introductory section of this chapter, "Intervention in the Balkans: An Overview", was not written by the editors themselves but rather excerpted from a publication by the "Friends Committee on National Legislation", a Quaker committee devoted to social and political issues. With all due respect to this organization, it is odd, and a little disheartening, to see the editors avoiding the task of framing the discussion in this chapter and providing background and context for the essays to follow.

One already knows where the "Friends" are coming from within the first paragraph, in which the violence in the Balkans is described as "senseless killing"; a product of "complex situations" in which we can't "categorize those involved in the conflict into victims and executioners or judge them as good or evil." The conclusion is that "[t]aking sides will not make things better. We are challenged to remember that every person is a holy place."

This, of course, is sanctimonious nonsense. The issue isn't really about judging people as evil or not, but their actions--and then holding them accountable for those actions. And sometimes, this will require vigorous and aggressive action.

After this dreadful opening, they really have nowhere to go but up and they mostly do--after a laundry list of "queries for policy makers considering what actions to take in the former Yugoslavia"; a predictably "neutral" list of peace-without-justice measures shot through with a healthy dose of false equivalency. One of the 'queries' is about that Jimmy Carteresque phrase "Conflict Resolution", one of the lamest and most pathetic responses to genocide one can muster.

The next few pages provide a synopsis of events in the region over the preceding few years, and there is little here which is objectionable or controversial. However, the "overview" concludes with a section entitled "Warnings About Intervention", in which we learn that intervention might be bad because it would put UN peacekeepers at risk (Adam Le Bor and David Rieff would get a kick out of that), and in the very last paragraph we learn that "crimes against humanity are apparently occurring on all sides of the battle lines."

The words "genocide" and ethnic cleansing" do not appear in this introductory piece at all.

3 comments:

Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor said...

There is an excellent explanation what genocide really is. It was written by Gregory H. Stanton, President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

For example, "Genocidal acts need not kill or cause the death of members of a group. Causing serious bodily or mental harm, prevention of births and transfer of children are acts of genocide when committed as part of a policy to destroy a group’s existence."

and

"Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts."

http://www.genocidescholars.org/aboutgenocide.html

Anonymous said...

heads up - karadzic trial set for oct 15

Anonymous said...

What took place in Bosnia was an international conflict. Unless the authors take that basic context on board any discussion of nationalism and ethnic violence has its hamstrings cut.

Owen