Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" part iv

The third paragraph begins:

"The bombing of Yugoslavia marked a turning point in the expansion of U.S. military hegemony. For the first time, a European country was subjected to the type of U.S. intervention usually reserved for Central America."

Given that the history of U.S. involvement in Central America is not something our nation should feel particularly proud of, this is potentially a damning charge. Outside of military intervention, however, one strains to see the parallels which Johnstone might be drawing here. Where were the right-wing death paramilitaries in Bosnia? Which act of genocide was the U.S. 'ostensibly' (I'll pull a "Johnstone" and use quote marks for no good reason) claiming to prevent in, say, Nicaragua?

Oh, right--there are no real parallels. It's just convenient to bring up past foreign policy blunders and atrocities in order to slime any contemporary interventions. Like all left revisionists on the subject of Bosnia, Johnstone prefers to use as broad a brush as possible.

In the same paragraph, next sentence, Johnstone really pulls out the stops. If we're going to live by the creed of collective identity and collective guilt, why not go to quintessential example? I know we're talking about Yugoslavia in the 1990's, but wouldn't it be great if, like a never-made fourth Indiana Jones movie, we could cast Nazis as the bad guys?

Well guess what--we can! Check out sentence three:

"It also marked the end of Germany's postwar inhibition about foreign military intervention, and saw Germans returning to the scene of Nazi crimes with a clear conscience."

Read that sentence again, very carefully. If you apply any honest analysis to this rather bland statement, you should come up with a few questions.

Such as: Given what we know about current German public opinion regarding the war in Iraq, as well as the relations between the recently departed Schroeder government and the Bush Administration, how credible is this stark claim of renewed German militarism?

Or: How much actual military intervention by Germany did we see in the former Yugoslavia?

And this: Why shouldn't modern Germans return to the scenes of Nazi crimes with a clear conscience?

Johnstone choice of words here is crucial, and telling. In 1991, it had been 46 years since the end of WWII. The Nazi generation was already old; the vast majority of Germany's population were either children during the war or were born afterwords. Certainly Germany's history weighs on its citizens even today. World War II and the Holocaust still cast a long shadow over the world, and it would be nearly impossible for any German not to grapple with their nations heavy historical burden from that period.

Such a troubling legacy most certainly could--and probably should--have a profound effect on a society, and would inform and influence contemporary decisions and actions. A sober, reflective, historically aware German public would most likely feel a strong sense of obligation; both to acknowledge a horrible legacy, and to engage the outside world in a responsible, respectful manner.

But obligation is not guilt. Germans today cannot be held repsonsible for the actions of previous generations. It is no accident that Johnstone has framed the issue this way--notice that it is not 'the German government' or 'the German military' which is returning to the scene; "Germans" were returning to the scene of their ancestors crimes. Germans who, apparantly, need to feel personally guilty for crimes committed, most often, before they were born.

Collective identity. Collective guilt. Ethnic identity stripped of citizenship. Is it any wonder that Johnstone is such an enthusiastic supporter of Serbian nationalism?

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