CHAPTER THREE: COMPARATIVE NATIONALISMS
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE INTERVENTION
Johnstone delivers what she imagines is her final coup de grace to Bosnia's legitimacy. She has already claimed that Bosnia and Hercegovina was an artificial entity, nothing but an administrative region from the Communist period. She has also poo-poohed the notion that there was any such thing as Bosnian nationalism; nor can there be, in her opinion, any such thing as "Bosnians" at all. There were merely Croats and Serbs, and Muslim converts mistakenly given a national identity in recent memory. Now, she claims that Bosnia could not exist outside of Yugoslavia at all.
She makes this claim in order to set up a paragraph explaining the premise (and title) of this section.
"In this situation, [see above] there were two dimensions of "outside" interference: interference from other parts of disintegrating Yugoslavia, and interference from further away."
Finally! At last! Johnstone has brought up the taboo subject of Belgrade's role in the Bosnian war. She might try and explain away some of Milosevic's responsibility, but surely she cannot avoid this uncomfortable subject, now that she herself has brought it up.
"The interference from Yugoslavia has been benign and unifying."
I did a double-take as well; but to be fair, she goes on to say this:
"As Yugoslavia disintegrated, the conflict pitting Croats against Serbs immediately affected Bosnia in a negative way."
Yet even here where she seems to be acknowledging reality, she hedges her telling so that she manages to avoid explicitly saying what any reader of this blog knows:
"The Serbs of the Croatian Krajina were politically close to the Serbs of the Bosnian Krajina, forming a single nationalist political party to the right of the Serbian Socialist Party of Milosevic in Serbia itself. Rejecting the break-up of Yugoslavia as illegal, Serbs saw nothing wrong with aiding fellow Serbs within Yugoslavia."
Well, that might seem reasonable enough to an uninformed reader (i.e. Johnstone's ideal audience), and there is of course some basis in fact; Milosevic's Socialist Party was, after all, Socialist and therefore was to the left of an avowedly nationalist, even racist, party. Credit Johnstone--she's a little more artful than usual in taking liberties with reality--"Serbs saw nothing wrong with aiding fellow Serbs" indeed. Milosevic, one might almost conclude, just happened to be the guy in charge of Serbia at the time.
As for other interference within Yugoslavia, she naturally mentions Croatia and Croat designs on Western Hercegovina. She also stresses the connection Slavic Muslims outside Bosnia felt towards the republic, especially Muslims from the Sandzak. Which is accurate enough, except that Johnstone clearly intends to imply some sort of equivalence between the three groups. This is nonsense, of course--not only were Slavic Muslims outside Bosnia few in number compared to Serbs in Serbia and Croats in Croatia, they lacked the support of the state they lived in. Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia had the covert support of the Serbian state, which had inherited much institutional power from Yugoslavia, including the JNA, of course. This not only demonstrates her dishonesty about the role played in Bosnia by the Milosevic regime, it also underlines her groupthink mentality.
As for outside interference, it should come as no surprise that she means, firstly, the US and Europe. As I alluded in the post regarding the creation of the Croat-Muslim Federation, Johntone fantasizes about a US involvement which was much more active and intrusive from the beginning. The first Bush administration wanted nothing to do with Bosnia, and the Clinton administration was more than happy to leave the mess on Europe's plate for as long as possible. But that is a reality that simply does not reinforce Johnstone's anti-imperialist thesis, so like all inconvenient truths, she ignores it.
This is where she really tries to cash in on the implied Islamic menace she's been building up throughout this section; outside interference from the various Muslim countries which provided aid and support (and a few hundred mujahideen) to Bosnia. Her attempts to exaggerate the size and impact of Islamist support for Bosnia's Muslim-led government is just a page out of the Serb nationalist playbook. Since she provides no data, no examples, no statistics--no evidence whatsoever--it would be giving her too much credit to discuss the genuine concern that secular supporters of the Bosnian cause had with the mujahideen presence in Bosnia. Johnstone doesn't have enough regard for the complexities of reality to merit a sincere rebuttal. She is not presenting an argument, but rather a vague implication fueled by thinly veiled bigotry.
The conclusion of this section--and of Chapter Three--will be discussed in the next post.