Sunday, January 20, 2008

"How Bosnia Armed" by Marko Attila Hoare [1]

Marko Attila Hoare has written extensively on Bosnia and the Balkan wars; you can access many of his recent articles through his own blog: Great Surbiton. Of special note, given the emphasis of this blog, is this article (linked from Balkan Witness):

The Left Revisionists

which I have read and re-read many times over the past couple of years while struggling to articulate my own critique of left-wing Balkan revisionism.

I am now reading How Bosnia Armed, his study of the development, history and, and institutional structure of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH). Hoare's knowledge and the depth of his research is impressive, and he certainly benefits from being fluent in Serbo-Croat. The book is briskly written and concise--Hoare keeps to the subject at hand, and as a result this book is both focused and brief.

In the Forward, Brendan Simms--author of Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia--notes that the book sheds light on the months and years leading up to the outbreak of war, when the Serb nationalist leadership was deliberately and systematically preparing for ethnic war while the Muslim and pro-Bosnian population had no inkling of what was in store. This is a strong refutation of Diana Johnstone's gross exaggerations about the SDA's preparations for war, if nothing else.

Simms also notes that the book examines the effect of Western policy on the development of the ARBiH; specifically, on the ultimate failure of the army to live up to its early--if somewhat (but not entirely) symbolic--secular, multicultural ideal. The depressing reality is that as the ARBiH became a more organized and formidable fighting force, it became less and less a truly Bosnian army, morphing into more explicitly nationalist-Muslim institution. However, it never became as "Islamist" army; an important distinction, and if Hoare does nothing other than decisively refute this revisionist claim, his book will have preformed an important service.

In his Introduction, Hoare touches on some of the same points Simms made, while more precisely defining the parameters of his study; while he will touch on the development of the Army of the Serb Republic (VRS) and the Croat Defense Council (HVO), this is not a study of the military history of the war or a detailed study of all the actors in that struggle. He is interested in the dual institutional history of the ARBiH, which was developed both from the Tito-era Territorial Defense militias and the Patriotic League cells developed after the ascent of the SDA. He is also interested in how the SDA leadership dealt with the conflicting aims of being a Muslim nationalist party in charge of a secular, multifaith/multiethnic republic, and how that tension affected the development and institutional structure of the ARBiH.

He also discusses "the role of foreign mujahedin [his spelling] and the truth about bin Laden's alleged involvement." Given some other recent developments in the region, having a well-researched, definitive study of Al Qaeda in Bosnia is of vital importance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am glad you found Marko's research on Left Revisionists inspiring.

Dr Marko Attila Hoare was the first scholar to raise awareness about Srebrenica genocide denial; in scholarly terms, he coined that word.

We are proud of Marko's scholarly work and we look forward for more of his books.