Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Divide and Quit?" by Radha Kumar--Chapter Three


"Though the European Union Action Plan appeared to mark the lowest point of European policy towards Bosnia, in which the divide and rule aims of Milosevic and Tudjman were accepted despite the terrible war of attrition each had waged to achieve them, 1994, in fact, constituted a turning point in Western policy which was marked by a gradual shift from divide and rule to divide and quit policies: that is, it marked a move away from letting domestic actors set the terms of negotiation and a move towards enlarging the role of European institutions in establishing a peace based on partition."

This opening section neatly summarizes the gist of Kumar's analysis of Western intervention in Bosnia from the winter of 1994 through to the Dayton Agreement. This review has dragged out longer than I had hoped; since the book has turned out to be more of a history of events within a framework (namely, her "divide and rule" versus "divide and quit" colonialist pattern of ethnic partition), and since I have been terribly short of time recently, I am not going to review this chapter in any detail. I make this decision only because I assume most readers of this blog are already familiar with the military and diplomatic events in Bosnia from 1994 through to the Dayton Agreement, and I see little need to postpone the other projects I have planned any further just for the sake of running us all through a familiar narrative one more time.

In other words, I am assuming that anyone reading this review already knows about US diplomacy to end the Muslim-Croat war by establishing the Federation; of the continued fighting in and around Bihac; of the growing military prowess of the Croatian armed foreces; of Milosevic's gradual distancing of his government first from the Krajina Serbs and then the Bosnian Serb leadership as well; of Bosnian Serb duplicity and UN hostage-taking; the genocide at Srebrenica and Zepa; and so on.

I am not making this decision because I find fault with this book, or because I find it lacking; Kumar's grasp of events and her knowledge of facts are impressive, and I am enjoying the book so far. But I have already discussed the framework within which she is considering events; if I had the luxury of more time I might very well take the time to demonstrate how she continues to develop her thesis in more detail, but I would very much like to keep the time frame on this review as brief as possible.

I hope the reader will understand, and I hope that I have done Ms. Kumar's work some measure of due credit to this point.


Anonymous said...

No academic can trully be called "academic" as long as they keep referring to Bosniaks as "Muslims." We are not religious group; we're ethnic group - just like Serbs and Croats. Bosniaks have existed for over a thousand years in the Balkans. The first dictionary of Bosnian language was published 200 years before the first dictionary of Serb language. It seems that the libraries and books are full of Serbian quoted historical literature which has practically ignored the sole existence of Bosniaks in the last century. I hope that will change.

Off topic: Check out my latest post, I posted a foreword of a very important book.

Kirk Johnson said...

Daniel, it's been pretty common practice here in the West to refer to Bosniaks as Muslims; after all, it hasn't been that long since "Muslim" was an official nationality in Yugoslavia, correct?

I am certain that over the next few years, more and more Western academics will adopt the more correct "Bosniak" but you can't fault a book published a few years ago for this.

And I saw your new post today, although I haven't had time to read it yet. Hopefully tonight.

Anonymous said...

Dan, in referring to the wartime situation the UN and the ICTY and the ICJ continued to use the expression "Bosnian Muslims" where consistency with the usage in contemporary documents was important. It's not unreasonable for an academic to follow that convention as long as they acknowledge that they are simply using the expression to designate one of the "national groups" of the FRY, not a religious group.