Sunday, January 22, 2012

"The Fall of Yugoslavia" by Misha Glenny [10]

Chapter 4 [concluded]

Glenny meets with Slobodan Milosevic for a short interview; the results of which are so devoid of interest that he only gives a brief, one-page account of the entire incident, including the race to find a tie and pair of slacks on short notice. The general impression one gets is that Milosevic really was a sociopath; Glenny notes of his demeanor in the interview that the "most abiding feature, however, was the complete absence of anything resembling feeling or humanity in his attitude." It is also noteworthy that Milosevic was put off by Glenny's ability to speak Serbo-Croat (a true Serb nationalist would have been pleased, but "an autocrat like Milosevic, however, felt uncomfortable").

The rest of the chapter to the end is taken with a trip through the Sandzak, into Montenegro, and then up the war-ravaged Dalmatian coast to besieged Dubrovnik. There is plenty of local color and interesting detail, but the overall effect is simply a collective portrait of localized sociopolitical trauma in every nook and cranny of the old Yugoslavia.

While there is little in Glenny's account to editorialize on--he is largely a sympathetic observer with a good eye for telling detail--there is one comment which, in light of the troubling subtext of equivalency in his entire consideration of the Croatian war, might strike the reader as odd. In his explanation of how the JNA bombardment of the old town of Dubrovnik served as a symbol of how devoid of human considerations the aggressors' tactics were, he also adds that the "Croat defence forces bear a share of this responsibility" because they deliberately housed gun and light artillery positions on the old town walls, "goading the JNA into firing on them." Glenny sees this as a cynical attempt to exploit the resulting destruction for propaganda purposes.

While this is probably largely true, there are two objections one might raise. First; the JNA and their supporter reservists (many from Montenegro; Glenny does an excellent job of describing their craven and gleefully destructive conduct) were going to be shelling the city, regardless; and really, shouldn't the blame be fixed on the forces shooting at a city full of civilians, rather than at the forces of the UN-recognized government defending it? And, secondly--this line of criticism unfortunately parallels the later frequent criticisms of the Bosnian Government for playing to international opinion while their country and citizens were being subjected to extermination.

And so this chapter ends, with Glenny leaving his fellow journalists in Dubrovnik in order to hurry up towards Mostar, where tensions are near the breaking point. In the next chapter, we arrive in Bosnia.


NOTE: My next semester in graduate school begins this week; knowing that I will be much busier, and also aware that I have never honored one of the common suggestions for a really successful blog--regular and consistent posting--I have decided that beginning with this post, I will now seek to post on every Sunday; but probably only on Sunday for at least until summer. This way, I can promise a certain level of regular posting so that readers don't have to keep checking in, and at the same time as I keep this blog active and vital, I am also not over-committing myself.

So, next Sunday, January 29, I will return with a post reviewing at least the first part of Chapter 5.


Anonymous said...

Kirk, post at your convenience. You may not be able to post regularly, but your readers can't always read your posts regularly. We're grateful to you simply for taking us along with you on the journey.


Katja R. said...

1. What Owen said! 2. I haven't been to grad-school but I know it's very demanding. Friends of mine have done it.

I think Mr. Glenny may have an anti-Muslim bias. Many times Europeans and North Anericans with this bias are more repelled by Muslims who look like them than by say Arabs or Blacks or Indinesians who are Muslim. They feel more threatened somehow.

Mr. Glenny is utterly wrong about Tito somehow 'creating' a Muslim nation out of nothing. Muslims have lived in Bosnia and San┼żak for 500 years!

The United States has existed a shorter time as a nation...