Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Bosnia and Beyond" by Jeanne Haskin [2]

I'm going to preface this post with two short apologies:

1) Sorry it took me over a week from the first post to continue this review; and

2) Sorry I selected this book without knowing more about it. Haskin does not seem to have anything particularly original to add to the debate on Bosnia. This is not necessarily a bad thing--I don't I have much to add to the debate on Bosnia, either, but I'm an amateur blogger. I freely admit to being a non-specialist and a non-speaker/reader of Serbo-Croat who relies entirely on secondary sources in English for his information. As such, I try to focus more on book reviews and historiography rather than any pretense to original research or analysis. Of course, this requires that I exercise some judgement and a willingness to make critical evaluations of the sources I rely on.

I am not convinced that Haskin is sufficiently aware that she works under the same limitations I do. This book is little more than a summary of other works, seemingly shoehorned into an ideologically pre-determined conceptual framework. A quick visit to the website of the publisher, Algora Publishing, reinforces that perception.

I will stick with this review, if only to give Haskin the chance to redeem herself, but so far I am not impressed.

Part 1
Chapter One: The Pre-War Situation

This chapter explicitly rehashes the argument made by Susan Woodward and Michael Chossudovsky--that the breakup of Yugoslavia was a direct result of a Western-imposed financial crisis at the end of the Cold War. The argument here is nuanced to the extent that she doesn't believe that the West intended to destroy Yugoslavia, but rather merely intended to overthrow the Communist government. The theory here is that disparities between the different republics created fault lines that nationalists were able to exploit; Milosevic most adroitly.

Her 'evidence' is slim, and the weakness of her book is evident within the first few pages; she states her positions briefly, includes a handful of footnotes from the same few sources, and considers her case made. If this were merely an aside to the larger issues to come, the reader could forgive her--but the premise of the entire book is that the West, particularly the United States, were primarily responsible for the breakup of the country and therefore bear a great deal of the blame for the violence which followed. Because of that, it is important that the author should establish this crucial point as best she can before moving on. She fails to do so.

Chapter 2

And yet--often is seems that Haskin's heart is in the right place. Although she accepts one of the key premises of Balkan revisionism, she seems not to have followed Woodward and Chossudovsky into the arms of Johnstone, Parenti, and company.

In this chapter, she briefly summarizes some of the context for the rise of nationalism in post-Tito Yugoslavia; specifically among Serbs and Croats. Nothing here will surprise any readers of this blog, but frankly they will surprise a reader who has just finished Chapter 1 and thinks he or she knows where Haskin is going.

Chapter 3

This chapter briefly summarizes the preparation for war among Serb nationalists, within the Milosevic regime and its proxies, to a lesser extent among nationalist Croats and the Tudjman regime, and the lack of preparation by Izetbegovic and the nascent Bosnian state. Again, there is nothing new here.

One interesting note: While Haskin accepts Woodward's thesis that Western-imposed economic hardship was the primary cause of the eventual breakdown of the Yugoslav state, she explicitly rejects Woodward's claim that the RAM--the Serb paramilitary forces created either by Milosevic or his allies--was created to defend against Western aggression. While I suppose it is good that she rejects Woodward's ridiculous claim, it is curious that she doesn't recognize that this is a warning sign that Woodward's thesis is an ideologically driven project to make the facts fit the theory rather than the other way around. Haskin picks and chooses which trees she likes without any awareness that someone is trying to get her lost in a forest.


I will probably continue to review Part 1 in a perfunctory manner; Part 2 might merit slightly more measured consideration and attention.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Bosnia and Beyond" by Jeanne Haskin [1]

I realize that this blog has been semi-dormant for the past several weeks; I will make an effort to get things moving again. Beginning with a review of Bosnia and Beyond: The "Quiet" Revolution that Wouldn't Go Quietly by Jeanne M. Haskin, a book which seems to straddle between different competing Western narratives about the Bosnian war. After paging through it, I've decided simply to read it a chapter at a time and report what I find as I go. I am doing this after sitting on a copy for a couple of weeks, unable to decide whether or not the book warranted a full review. Ultimately, I decided that it's been so long since I've blogged at all, I needed to just jump head first into the book and hope the review ends up being worth the trouble, regardless of whether or not the book is worth the trouble of reviewing. So I'm blogging without a net, so to speak.

I checked it out without knowing anything about it; I do not promise anything other than a straightforward accounting of the text as I go through it on a chapter-by-chapter basis.


This book consists of many short chapters divided into very short sections. It seems that many of the section titles are quite self-explanatory, which makes it pretty easy for the curious reader to quicly ascertain where the author is coming from. Although the confusion doesn't quite end there, as we shall see.

The breakup of the country is placed at the feet of the West, who had imposed draconian financial restructuring terms on the country at the end of the Cold War; this argument is a familiar refrain of left-wing revisionists; Haskin even goes as far as to say that the rise of nationalist political factions (and the dearth of moderate non-nationalist political) leadership was a direct result of the "economic and political climate that the West had contrived to achieve"; a claim which goes even further than such revisionists as Diana Johnstone, who at least acknowledges the indigenous origins of the post-Tito political culture.

Yet at the same time, Haskin bluntly states that there was a genocide against the Muslims of Bosnia, carried out by the Serb leadership, and that the international community essentially tolerated it because with the exception of the United States, they either supported the incorporation of Bosnia into a Serb-dominated rump Yugoslavia, they simply preferred the Serb leadership, or they were anti-Muslim. You would never hear any of this from Diana Johnstone or any of her fellow revisionists, to put it mildly.

The book is in two parts--Part One argues that the international community established the terms by which the country was pulled apart, and then managed the destruction of the country in such a way that the Muslims of Bosnia were used as sacrificial lambs in order to create a postwar order in accordance with the new international consensus. Part Two focuses on what might have been done to prevent or stop the genocide in Bosnia, and what lessons we can learn to stop future genocide.

This could be interesting.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Press Release: BAACBH Condemns the Arrest of General Divjak

[It seems that the government in Belgrade is still playing this tired game; apparently the government there still feels that there is political traction is these stunts. Thanks to the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina for this press release.]

General Jovan Divjak, former Deputy Commander of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), was detained on March 3, 2011, by the Austrian authorities on an international arrest warrant issued by the government of Serbia. General Divjak was arrested at the Vienna International Airport at approximately 8:00 pm local time. The Austrian judicial authorities have indicated that they intend to keep General Divjak detained for two weeks until a determination is made regarding Serbia's extradition request.

The Serbian government issued a warrant for Mr. Divjak's arrest on the grounds that he was involved in war crimes during the siege of Sarajevo which lasted from April 5, 1992 to February 29, 1996. Specifically, Mr. Divjak is accused of war crimes during an incident that occurred on Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo on May 3, 1992.

Mr. Divjak's arrest is not an isolated case and is part of a continued pattern by the government of Serbia to intimidate all those who stood in defense of BiH. Last year, on March 1, 2010, the Serbian government issued a similar arrest warrant for Mr. Ejup Ganic, the former member of the wartime presidency of the Republic of BiH. Mr. Ganic was arrested on March 1, 2010, at London's Heathrow Airport for the alleged crimes committed during the same Dobrovoljacka Street incident. Four months after the arrest, Mr. Ganic was released because there was no evidence against him, proving that Serbia's arrest warrant was politically motivated.

BAACBH strongly condemns the arrest of General Jovan Divjak and believes that once again, Serbia's action is an assault on Bosnia's inherent and inalienable right to defend its population against the Serbian aggression. It is an assault on the reconciliation process, and it is an attempt to undermine the atrocities committed in BiH from 1992 to 1995 by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) and Serbian paramilitary troops under Belgrade's command. Serbia has demonstrated by this politicized action that it does not respect Bosnia's sovereignty and that it is not yet prepared to be a trusted neighbor in the Balkans.

BAACBH urges for the appropriate authorities to swiftly carry out the necessary investigation so that General Jovan Divjak is released.