Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Nationalism and Ethnic Violence" by Greenhaven Press [8]

Chapter 4: Should Nations Intervene in Ethnic Conflicts? [continued]

Nations Should Not Intervene in the Balkans

There are only three essays in this section. The second is actually the transcript of Senator John McCain being interviewed by reporter Major Garrett. The general tone of McCain's argument--and his superficial knowledge of the situation--can be garnered from his answer to the very first question:

"Garrett: You oppose limited U.S. military involvement in the Balkan civil war. Tell us what you hope will be the result of following the policy you support. What do you hope U.S. action or inaction will have accomplished?

McCain: I hope the result would be the civil conflict in what was Yugoslavia that has been going on for at least 700 years will be at a very low point, that the boundaries will have been stabilized, and that sanctions, embargoes and other measures will bring about a dramatic reduction in the slaughter. That's what I hope would happen. I am by no means convinced that that would be the case."

Well, what is there to say? "700 years" Senator McCain? Really? That's your "analysis" of the situation.

But in fairness to McCain, we all know that this line of "ancient hatreds" was the excuse of first resort for so many Western policy makers during the Balkan wars. It was just sad that so many in the media swallowed this line without complaint. 700 years, of course, is the maximum time one could say that Islam has been in the Balkans, so one wonders if the implication is that the Bosniaks brought their troubles onto themselves by becoming the 'other'. Were Croats and Serbs getting along famously before then? And who were the Bosniaks prior to conversion anyway, Senator McCain?

These are rhetorical questions of course, because I presume all regular readers of this blog not only have answers, they also have some understanding of how problematic the premise is--who were "those people" seven centuries ago? These are lazy assumptions, easily dismantled, and it's depressing that for the most part, the media allowed politicians and military "experts" to use such facile reasoning as an excuse to duck our moral and international legal obligations.

The third essay is by Misha Glenny, and is entitled "Foreign Military Intervention Would Fail." While his tone is fairly reasonable through most of the essay, and he approach to the issue is to consider the political and military realities as they existed in May of 1993 (I can't blame him for not being able to see ahead in time to the forced Croat-Bosnian Government alliance, so his claims that the logistics of actually arming the Muslims cannot be dismissed as a cop out), it is hard to shake the nagging sensation that he is simply playing Whack-a-Mole with any possible scenario. He never once suggests a possible remedy for any of the complications he has cobbled together. Nor does he suggest any alternate to military intervention; his only "solution" is to write in favor of the UN "safe areas" which he freely acknowledges is hardly a noble or just solution. But, he seems to say, absolutely nothing can be done; Clinton does not have a coherent policy for intervention, so why try and formulate one? It's hopeless! The neighboring countries are worried about wider instability? It's hopeless! And my favorite--the Serbs are not cowards just because they've been waging war against unarmed civilians with heavy artillery. No, no--they're extremely tough and fearless killing machines; you don't want to mess with those guys!

Which leads up back the first essay, a truly loathsome work of paleoconservative libertarianism from Murray N. Rothbard, in a piece ("Don Non Intervene Against the Serbs") that is not nearly as clever or insightful--or anywhere near as amusing--as the self-regarding author seems to think it is. It is, however, a dandy example of how inadequate Libertarianism is as a guide to foreign policy, and a helpful reminder that paleoconservatism is, at heart, anti-democratic and racist. To the core.

Rothbard is not subtle; he begins his critique of intervention by claiming that modest steps--such as bombing--won't work, so therefore it will only be a matter of time before Clinton nukes Belgrade. If case you're wondering how somebody this dense gets published, I should point out that Mr. Rothbard writes for the Rothbard-Rockwell Report. Why the editors chose to include this piece of drivel is beyond me.

Why will any Western military intervention fail? Because:

"...the Serbs are a magnificently gutsy people, a "primitive" folk who don't give a tinker's dam for "world opinion," the "respect of the international community," and all the rest of the pretentious can that so impresses readers of the New York Times."

With friends like these, the ten million-plus individual human beings in this world who happen to be Serb don't need enemies.

At any rate, one of the things Rothbard admires so much about these mythical primitives he fantasizes about is their disdain for "world opinion." Which is another way of saying they are the farthest thing from being a cosmopolitan people. Which, in Rothbard's dingy little world is a great compliment.

His rant about the situation in Bosnia--and the actions of the "pro-war Left" (the fact that humanitarian liberalism was liberal makes it a de facto evil in the paleoconservative world)--is little more than incoherent rambling laced with a healthy degree of ignorance. I won't insult the readers intelligence by dealing with the specifics, but suffice it to say that the old "Bosnia is an artificial country/Bosniaks are not a real nationality" is front and center.

But Rothbard at least has integrity--he explicitly states that the Greater Serbia project is "perfectly reasonable." And he assures the reader that "ethnic cleansing" just sounds bad in translation--after all, the Serbs don't want to kill the Muslims and other non-Serbs on the land they're taking, they just insist that they leave and never come back--what could be more "perfectly reasonable" than that.

Rothbard also dismisses the atrocities of mass rape by noting that "..I don't want to disillusion any tender souls, but almost all victorious troops through history commit systemic rapin' and lootin' of the vanquished." Yes, the apostrophes are in the original. I guess that's his way of making a "tough point." The systemic nature of the rape camps in Bosnia means nothing to him.

Also, forget trying to understand this situation, fellow Americans:

"American meddling is made even more futile by the fact that it is impossible for Americans to understand, not only those fierce rivalries, but the tremendous sense of history they all possess. How can Americans, who have no historical memory whatever and scarcely remember when Ronald Reagan was president, possibly understand these peoples of the Balkans, to whom the great 15th century battle against the invading Turks is as real, nay more real, than yesterday's dinner?"

One feels dirty just reading this anti-humanist sludge. I feel civilization shaking under my feet when I read such collectivist, tribalist, racist nonsense. And it gets even worse--Rothbard not only repeats the discredited belief that the Bosniaks are descended from the Bogomils, he even claims that the Bogomils were truly evil heretics and--and we're getting into "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" territory here:

"...there is much evidence that the Muslims still practice their Bogomil rites in secret, engraving its symbols on their tombstones."

What, no blood of Christian babies in their cevapcici?

Throw in the usual canards about the Serbs failing to be good Nazis, unlike the Croats and the Bosniaks in World War II, and that about wraps up this despicable piece of proto-fascism. Rothbard concludes by gloating, with bloodthirsty relish:

"Frankly, in any kind of fair fight, my nickel is on the Serbs. Every time. And, by the way, if you were caught in an ambush, wouldn't you love to have a few Serbs on your side?"

Serbs--the Rottweilers of the human race, brought to you by Murray Rothbard.

Shame of the editors of this volume for bringing this piece of filth to a wider audience. Shame on Greenhaven for lending legitimacy to such an obviously hate-filled windup. This was not an essay, it was a provocation, and a poorly written and woefully uninformed one at that.


Anonymous said...

Folksiness tends to be the red flag warning the reader to get out of the way of oncoming great stupidity.


sarah correia said...

It's really depressing that such bad books ever get to be printed.

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well, who'd tell. I used to respect Murray Rothbard for his libertarian leanings right up to the moment of reading this article. As a Bosniak, I must say that the amount of drivel Rothbard has managed to spew in this article is impressive, even by standards of the Serb propaganda machine. I'm off now to carving heretic Manichaean symbols on Muslim tombstones.