Monday, April 07, 2008

"Pro-Western Versus Anti-Western": Marko Attila Hoare articulates what I've been thinking

This recent post from Dr. Marko Attila Hoare's excellent Greater Surbiton blog comes closer than I have yet managed to articulating the ideological shift I myself experienced in the wake of the Balkan wars.

I very rarely give personal information about myself in this blog, partly because my life isn't very interesting and partly because I bring no particular experience or expertise to the subject. In fact, I like to think that if my blog has made any positive contribution at all to the continuing debate over the Balkan wars, it has been as a refutation of the Balkan revisionist/Serb nationalist apologist claims that the reality of the Yugoslav wars was complex and inscrutable to Western outsiders. If a layperson such as myself could so easily--and thoroughly--expose the flawed reasoning and faulty logic of books like "Fools' Crusade" or "To Kill A Nation," what does that say about the intellectual honesty and moral integrity of Diana Johnstone and Michael Parenti?

So suffice it to say that I, too, come from a left-wing background. During the runup to the First Gulf War, I protested the US military buildup in Kuwait and the planned invasion Iraq because opposing US military intervention was what good leftists did.

Then Bosnia happened, and without thinking too much about it--at first--I found myself arguing with friends and acquaintances that the US, or NATO, or the UN, or someone--HAD to use vigorous military force to put an end to what was clearly an act of fascist aggression. And more and more, I realized my good liberal/leftist friends weren't hearing a word I said. Whether they were hardline anti-imperialism types dismissing outright the notion that the United States could possibly hold the moral high ground when discussing a small countries from the Socialist world; or Religious Leftist/pacifist types who were simply opposed to "adding to the violence," I heard some of my own rhetoric coming back to me. I realized that, for too many of us, we had adopted the forms of anti-interventionist rhetoric while ignoring the content of that rhetoric, or--more troubling--failing to examine the context of that rhetoric.

I doubt that I am the only person in our circle of Bosnian sympathizers who experienced such an ideological gut-check. I am still processing the lessons I learned from Bosnia; my political and ideological journey is nowhere near over. In the meantime, Dr. Hoare's excellent post is not a bad place from which to begin staking out the ground we stand on.


Katja R. said...

I went through a similar shift, except that I am not as anti- physical force as most liberals of my acquaintance, I ended up going through the reality check over Northern Ireland actually, and while Northern Ireland was bad, I would not say it was even in the same league as what happened here in Bosnia.
I was one of the early intervention people.
Probably I got that way because I actually encountered Bosnians here in the 1960s during a visit to Chicago, and I had a teacher who was originally from Sarajevo when I was in junior-high, so I early knew about the region. Later on I found out I actually am part Bosnian on my mom's side and there is Serbian on my dad's side. My feelings about the whole thing were visceral. I could not watch the news and maintain the cheerful attitude required for my job in sales. I only watched news on weekends and followed the war through print media, this was to protect my mental health and my job. The local liberal types in Yakima wanted to demonstrate against the war, and I said 'I can't demonstrate against THIS war, and argued with several dear friends of mine over it.
Since coming here, the first time and seeing progress over the years I believe that the U.S. did the right thing to intervene. Could it have been done better? Hell Yeah! We should have gone in after Vukovar! I though so then, and I KNOW so now!
Ordinary people sometimes do know better than the State Department.
Unfortunately the class structure and education system of our country keep ordinary people out of places like the State Department.
Great post Kirk!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for finally putting a name on my political awakening. I too went through that political and spiritual shift once I started to follow the events in Bosnia in 1992. I too have gone from "bleeding heart" liberal to almost republican (not quite yet) but now I know I am not the only one. My obsession with the Balkans has consumed me for the last 15 years and I am glad to know that I am not the only one.