Sunday, June 10, 2012

"The Fall of Yugoslavia" by Misha Glenny [20]

Chapter 6 [continued--pages 210-223]

Glenny recounts how the expose of concentration camps in Bosnia drove the international community into some kind of action, along with the infamous bread-line massacre of May, 1992. Glenny argues that nobody knows who was responsible for the mortar attack which killed dozens, almost fatalistically dismissing the incident as more grist for competing Serb and Muslim "mythology of war." Given that his account was written in 1993, I can almost forgive him for ignoring the obvious fact that it was the Bosnian Serbs who had been lobbing thousands of rounds of heavy ordnance into the city for the duration, and that mortars are imprecise weapons. Almost, but not quite.

He then moves on to condemn the United Nations for its resolutions on the situation because of the double-standard--while it ordered all outside forces to leave Bosnia, it treated Croat forces differently than Serb forces. He states that the "Croats were not involved in the wholesale slaughter which the Serb forces indulged in. But that is not the point--they were in violation of the UN resolution and, were the Security Council being consistent, should also have had sanctions imposed on them." This concern for the fairness of sanctions in the face of a one-sided war of genocide is another indication that Glenny has walked too far down the road of "fairness" and "balance." His concern for the ordinary people of Bosnia is admirable, and his reaction to the sometimes hysterical and often grossly oversimplified media distortion of the war is not without merits, but by this point in the narrative he has gone too far towards false equivalency. He completely decouples the sordid details of the war from the larger political and military narrative he seemed to grasp quite well in the opening chapters.

I agree with Glenny that the sanctions were ineffective and cruel to the people who deserved them the least. His account of the diplomatic efforts led by Lord Carrington and later Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen betrays more respect for, and faith in, Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali than a contemporary reader blessed with the benefit of hindsight most likely does. Even here, Glenny is able to simultaneously detail how peace talks involved Milosevic (who was able to neuter and get rid of Milan Panic and also keep Dobrica Cosic on a shorter leash) were key at this point, yet at the same time downplaying the role of Serbia in the war.

There are also some swipes at the Germans for taking less of an interest in Bosnia (there is justice in this accusation), as well as more observations that the Muslim-led government was not averse to playing to world opinion and using the victim card to shield military actions. This concern for honesty, integrity and playing by the rules in the face of a war of annihilation seems a serious case of misplaced priorities.

There are other incidents and observations, many of them poignant. Glenny is reported current events by this point, not recounting recent ones or providing interpretation. As noted in a previous post, this means that his interpretive framework is more predominant, and therefore more problematic.

I will consider the final 12 pages of this chapter in the next post.

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