Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The Fall of Yugoslavia" by Misha Glenny [8]

Chapter 4: July 1991-January 1992: The Twilight Zone

The first few pages of this chapter briefly describe the naive and optimistic diplomacy of the European Community. Despite some fumbling and miscalculation, the European "Troika" of diplomats were able to obtain an end to the ten-day Slovenian war; the Brioni Accord. This rather neat and uncomplicated end to the fighting (Glenny does not here discuss the possibility that the entire war was a very half-hearted, even disingenuous, effort by the Yugoslav state and Milosevic) gave the European Community (particularly Germany, according to Glenny) a false belief that "it could promote piecemeal solutions to the Yugoslav crisis--a grave error." [page 101]

The next several pages illustrate the growing violence in several regions of Croatia by focusing on one incident--the murder of Osijek Chief of Police Josip Reichl-Kir, a Croat of German-Hungarian ethnic heritage (a perfect example of the artificial nature of "nationality" in the Balkans--and everywhere else, for that matter).

Reichl-Kir was a brave, principled and far-sighted man, who worked tirelessly at great risk to maintain peace between local Croats and the embattled Serb minority. His efforts had been more or less successful; it helped that this area had not seen serious ethnic violence during World War II, although there were many Serbs and Croats who had been settled here in the post-war period by the Tito government in order to remove them from areas which had seen ethnic violence. Thus, tragically, putting some of the most traumatized and radicalized Serb and Croat communities in close proximity to each other, in a region in which the indigenous Serbs and Croats had no quarrel with each other. Glenny notes that in villages made up entirely of "natives," ethnic violence was resisted and in a few places the war never divided these mixed communities.

But, unfortunately, the virus of nationalism found plenty of fertile soil. When Reichl-Kir and other local leaders (both Serb and Croat) were killed by automatic rifle fire in his car, peace largely collapsed. Within a day, violence had broken out.

I still have some reservations about Glenny's perspective, but I will hold off on them for now. I want to pause here, in an admittedly pitiful and belated tribute to Reichl-Kir; those apologists and non-interventionists who believe that the violence in the Balkans was simply an inevitable outbreak of native bloodlust and an endemic culture of revenge and violence need to account for facts like this--in order for the demons of war to be unleashed, it was necessary for armed thugs to murder decent men like Reichl-Kir and intimidate countless other equally decent of less courageous individuals. In the fighting to come, the casualties begin to increase from a handful, to dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands. We can never let these increasing statistics cloud our view of innumerable individual crimes which constituted the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. It would necessary to murder many other decent, principled men and women in order to create the opportunity for ethnic war.

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