Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [28]



The previous section concluded by noting that the Ustashe went into exile after World War II ended. Johnstone picks up the story of the right-wing Croatian emigre network of well-funded extremists, terrorists, and activists from there. It's hardly an uplifting story, but neither is it as completely obscure as Johnstone makes it out to be.

Which is typical of her approach throughout the book--the audience Johnstone is writing for is certainly not comprised of specialists or even people with a prior interest in the region. Her entire strategy boils down to this--she assumes (hopefully, I would think) that she knows more about the region than her region. Much, much more. This might explain some of her unwarranted arrogance and self-proclaimed grasp of nuance and context which most of us ignorant Westerners presumably lack. If one were a young, idealistic leftist of a certain type, predisposed to think the worst of Western actions and rhetoric, this book might very well seem impressive, with a broad scope of knowledge and a detailed analysis of issues. If some ideal reader like that wanted to know more about the wars in Yugoslavia, something beyond the coverage done by major Western broadcasters and publications, this book might very well appear to be authoritative, or at least worthy of respect.

Alas, Ms. Johnstone. Most anyone reading this blog knows a little more about the region than would be ideal for your purposes.


Which is my way of saying I'm really tempted to skip this part. It's yet more 'Ustashe-as-epitome-of-Croatian-nationalism' history by selective anecdote; a strategy she seems to have settled quite comfortably into. If you don't know about Tudjman's Ustashe leanings, his connections to the nationalist emigre communities which nurtured dreams of resurgent Croat nationalism, his background as a nationalist agitator in the 1970s, or of the distasteful--when not downright despicable--rhetoric of his government once he came into power in Croatia...well, if you don't know that, I'd be very surprised that you're reading this blog.

It's not that she gets the facts wrong in this section, even though there are the usual distortions and disproportional presentations of isolated incidents. Nor do I believe that it is not important to understand the role played by extreme Croat nationalism in Bosnia, especially in Hercegovina.

Diana Johnstone is in no way interested in putting the war in Bosnia in context; this section was not written to enlighten or instruct, but rather to distract and shift blame. And once again, she ignores chronology completely--the ideal naive reader she hopes for knows all about the resurgence of nationalism in Croatia, but has no idea about the rise of Serbian nationalism coming from Belgrade, and infecting the ethnic Serb communities in Croatian and Bosnia.

I trust that any reasonably informed reader already knows all this. If so, you're overqualified to read this book.

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