Monday, July 31, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [4]


Here Johnstone presents her portrait of Milosevic to counter the 'fictional character' of the previous section:

"What was really wrong with Milosevic is indeed closely related to what was wrong with the Serbian people as Yugoslavia began to come apart at the seams in the 1980s: they were extremely divided."

Johnstone does not go on to say that "Only Unity Saves the Serb," but the slogan of Serb nationalism echoes throughout this entire section. Johnstone does not explain why the diffusion of ethnic Serbs throughout the different republics of Yugoslavia, and the various divisions in their society (rural versus urban, political differences, etc.) are somehow more significant than, for example, the Albanian diaspora. Jews are pretty divided, too, as are the Irish, the Arabs, and the Kurds. Just to give a few examples.

Johnstone mentions Milosevic's 'ambiguity' several times in this section, the better to portray him as nothing more than just another ambitious, democratrically elected politician. She uses the fact that Milosevic's Socialist Party got more votes than the Serbian Radical Party as proof that the voters in Serbia rejected nationalism, unlike voters in Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia. That Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party was an ally of Milosevic, or the fact that the Serbian Socialist Party appealed to nationalist sentiment while led by Milosevic, simply doesn't figure in to her picture of the situation.

It is true that Milosevic was not a true believer in nationalism; he didn't really believe in anything but achieving and holding on to power. The issue in Yugoslavia was not the sincerity of Milosevic's nationalist beliefs, but rather the actions he took; nationalist sentiment was the source of his rise to power, and he used nationalist leaders like Seselj and Cosic until they became inconvenient the same way he used his old friend Stambolic back when it was more practical to be a dutiful Communist functionary and party member.

It is true that the Communist leadership in Yugoslavia sought to muffle and supress nationalist sentiment. Milosevic's record is clear--he kept his mouth shut in the late 1980s as the Kosovo crisis flared, so that he was the highest ranking Serbian leader who had not publicly condemned nationalist sentiment; and when he had the opportunity in 1987 at Kosovo Polje (an occassion that, unlike the facetiously tolerant 1989 speech, Johnstone pointedly ignores) to seize the moment and present himself as the leader of the Serb people (as opposed to the Republic), he did so.

Of course, years later--when the war was going badly, the Serbs were beginning to lose what they had gained, the Bosnian Serb leadershop stopped taking orders, and the US and NATO made it clear they'd finally had enough--Milosevic would ditch nationalism and even the Serb people outside of Serbia proper who'd been misfortunate enough to believe him.


Shaina said...

The more I read about Milosevic; the more I am convinced he was either a political genius or the luckiest dictator in the world.

Like you said; he was not a racist, nationalist etc. But he sure knew how to jump on the nationalist bandwagon when it suited his cause. He reminds me a lot of the Southern politicians throughout the 20th; century; the ones who would go from being populists in the 1930s; to white supreamists in the 1950s and 1960s; to becoming more "inclusive" in the 1970s and 1980s. They did whatever they can to stay in power.

Secondly, unlike other dictators: Saddam, Amin, etc. Milosevic knew how to be a benign dictator. Hussein allowed absolutely no opposition, or even the thoughts of an opposition in Iraq. His brutality and cruelity are well known; he has become almost a parody of an "evil dictator."

Milosevic on the other hand, was brilliant. He allowed a certain semblence of "debate" in Serbia. For example, the Women in Black group existed during the Milosevic regime. This gave Serbia and Milosevic the appearance of having an open society. Of course, anyone who was a true threat to Milosevic or his power, faced much more serious consequences. But under the Milosevic way, he was able to make himself seem as if he was not that bad of a guy AND end any sort of legitimate opposition to his rule.

For too long the US and the West relied on him as an ally, and not as a war criminal who running the puppet strings throughout this entire Yugoslav tragedy.

By the way: On my blog I have linked an article to the Bosnia Report, which includes several articles on Milosevic's legacy.

I also have a VERY brief article on Cuba & Castro (nothing there but just basic facts)

And an article on Israeli and Palestinian peace organizations. The news out of the middle east is depressing, and I want to do anything I can to help; even if it only means providing websites to show human rights activists in the area.

(Thanks for allowing me this brief moment of self promotion. ;) )

Kirk Johnson said...

Self-promote yourself anytime! I wouldn't link to your blog if I didn't think it was worth other people's time (not to mention my own).

One thing about Milosevic--compared to many other infamous dictators, he seems to have had a rather provincial outlook. Generally, the Saddams and Qaddafis of the world often have delusions of global, or at least regional, importance. Saddam wanted absolute power in Iraq, sure--but he also wanted to be a major 'player' in the Mideast, a foil to the US, and a leader in the Arab world.

Milosevic seemed to have nothing on his mind but being the top dog in Serbo-slavia. The world outside didn't seem to interest him much. He was more like a Lukashenko, only with a much 'messier' domestic situation.