Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 31, 2009

The Lessons of Yugoslavia

Filed under: Yugoslavia — louisproyect @ 12:32 pm

(This appeared originally at http://monthlyreview.org/mrzine/proyect300309.html)

The Lessons of Yugoslavia
by Louis Proyect

David GibbsFirst Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia(Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, forthcoming, June 2009).

As a rule of thumb, there is an inverse relationship between the success of American foreign policy adventures and the amount of scholarly critiques they generate.  When they fail, as they did in Vietnam and Iraq, a mass market will be created for books like David Halberstam’s The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam during the Kennedy Era or Thomas Ricks’s Fiasco.  But when they succeed, publishers will not rush to the door of a scholar who questions such victories, especially if the main criterion of questioning is the impact on the lives of those whose lands were attacked.

Perhaps the most obvious recent example of this is the wars in Yugoslavia, which have generated very little in the way of serious analysis except from Diana Johnstone or Edward Herman.   As a measure of their isolation, both have been attacked as “holocaust revisionists” for making essentially the same kinds of points that have been made with respect to Iraq.

First Do No HarmThus, it is of some importance that David Gibbs, a respected professor of history and political science at the University of Arizona, has weighed in on the Balkan wars through the publication of First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia.  Using his background in the two disciplines, Gibbs has written one of the few chronicles of the wars in Yugoslavia designed simply to tell the truth about what happened.  Since so many mainstream accounts are content to recycle propaganda, it is no small accomplishment to present the facts without fear or favor.  With a twenty-five page bibliography, First Do No Harm is a substantive contribution to the scholarly literature, one that will have to be engaged with whatever your perspective on the Balkan wars.

Just as importantly, Gibbs has provided one of the few book-length analyses of the political economy of the wars’ origins.  With the exception of Sean Gervasi’s “Why Is NATO in Yugoslavia?” a paper delivered to a conference in Prague in 1996, there have been very few attempts to understand the implosion of Yugoslavia except in terms of a “great man” theory of history, in which an Evil Slobodan Milosevic gets blamed for everything that went wrong.  In that paper, Gervasi raised the question:

Why are the Western powers pressing for the expansion of NATO?  Why is NATO being renewed and extended when the “Soviet threat” has disappeared?  There is clearly much more to it than we have so far been told.  The enforcement of a precarious peace in Bosnia is only the immediate reason for sending NATO forces into the Balkans.

Gervasi died only six months after this paper was delivered, so he never really had a chance to give a fully elaborated, book-length treatment on U.S. ambitions clashing with one of the few remaining socialist strongholds in Eastern Europe.  In describing American foreign policy as a “Great Game,” not that much different from imperial ventures in the past, Gervasi dared to go against the liberal consensus.

David Gibbs’s study answers the questions first raised in Gervasi’s article, while contributing a new explanation that might appear controversial to those who regard inter-imperialist rivalries as ancient history.  In general, even among Marxists, including me, there is a tendency to regard the First and Second World Wars as confirmations of Lenin’s writings on imperialism but to look at the post-Second World War period as fundamentally different.  While there were obviously clashing interests between the United States and Europe or Japan over this or that trade agreement or foreign policy dispute, the consensus view tended to overlap with either “globalization” theories that posited a disappearance of the nation-state or a view that most nation-states were content to operate as subhegemons in the U.S. orbit.

For Gibbs, the key to understanding the trajectory of the Balkan wars was rivalry over what was considered a ripe plum.  Germany had its own imperial interests and was actually the first capitalist power to begin the process of tearing apart a social system that had proven quite viable until economic contradictions began to make it vulnerable to outside powers in the 1970s.  In chapter four, titled, appropriately enough, “Germany Drops a Match,” Gibbs reveals the extent of German support for Croatian and Slovenian secessions:

German support for the secessionists is noted by several other sources.  French Air Force general Pierre M. Gallois asserts that Germany began supplying arms to Croatia, including antitank and antiaircraft rockets, in early 1991 — before the war began.  Off the record, US officials also acknowledged German intervention.  An investigative article in the New Yorker cites an anonymous US diplomat who alleged that German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher “was encouraging the Croats to leave the federation and declare independence.”  It is difficult to fully assess this allegation, given the anonymity of the source.  However, the New Yorker allegation is supported by the memoirs of US ambassador Warren Zimmermann, which note “Genscher’s tenacious decision to rush the independence of Slovenia and Croatia” (emphasis added).

Although the United States and Germany shared hostility toward Milosevic, who was perceived as a Titoist holdover standing in the way of converting the Yugoslav economy into one more favorable to Western economic ambitions, they by no means saw their own interests as coinciding.  Like dogs fighting over a bone, the United States sought to push its rivals aside and viewed NATO in particular as a means toward that end.  Sharing Gervasi’s emphasis on the role of NATO, Gibbs makes a strong case for seeing this military alliance as a bid to enhance the US hegemonic power at the expense of what became known as “Old Europe” in the early stages of the war in Iraq.

As a latecomer to the new areas for investment in the former Titoist republics, the United States understood the need for armed might, arguably the sine qua non for its continuing role as a hegemonic power in a period of economic decline.  As Thomas Friedman once put it, “the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist.  McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15.”  While it was clearly beyond the bounds of U.S. hegemony to impose its will directly on Yugoslavia as it has now attempted in Iraq, it saw NATO as a useful surrogate.  Indeed, the pretext for a full-scale NATO intervention was the slaughter of Muslim men at Srebrenica, an event that, horrible as it was, should not have provided an excuse for even greater bloodletting.  Under the rubric of “Operation Deliberate Force,” U.S. power was put on full display as Gibbs relates:

Deliberate Force was technically a multinational NATO campaign, but it was conceived and conducted largely by the United States.  Shortly before the strikes were launched, US officials met with their European counterparts and, in essence, demanded their support.  According to Chollet, who interviewed many key figures: “The Americans would go to explain what they were doing, not ask for permission.  The message would be ‘part invitation, part ultimatum.'”  Though European leaders resented this US diktat, they reluctantly went along with the plan.  After the Srebrenica massacre, the Europeans were under pressure to take action, and they did not wish to appear obstructionist.  NATO member states thus supported Operation Deliberate Force.

Gibbs fully intended First Do No Harm as a critique of both successful interventions such as the one that took place in Yugoslavia and the one that still lurches unsteadily in Iraq.  Despite the perception (albeit growing dimmer day by day) that Obama is anxious to pull out of Iraq, it should have been clear to everybody committed to world peace that his opposition to war was based on pragmatism rather than principle.  Even during the period when he was perceived as a courageous opponent of an unpopular war, Obama maintained that he was not opposed to all wars, only those that were “dumb” or “rash.”

Therefore, it is a cause for great worry that Obama has retained the services of a number of foreign policy operatives who do not believe that NATO’s wars in the Balkans were “dumb” or “rash,” especially journalist Samantha Powers who became persona non grata with the Obama team during the primaries when she blurted out that his plans for withdrawal were only a “best case scenario.”   She was subsequently reinstated, apparently because Obama shared her cynical attitude all along, despite his dovish reputation.

It is essential for those committed to world peace to become familiar with the sorry history of so-called humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia, since the same characters who orchestrated American strategy in the period are now in the driver’s seat.  Not only do we face escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we are likely to hear the same kinds of “human rights” rhetoric that accompanied the Balkan wars.  This is not to speak of Darfur, a region that Powers has likened repeatedly to Yugoslavia as a candidate for a NATO-style rescue.

Gibbs indicates what the movement must be prepared for in his conclusion:

[T]he Iraq war has gone badly indeed, and the humanitarian effects of this particular intervention must be regarded as negative.  In this context, some recall the earlier interventions in Yugoslavia with nostalgia.  To state the matter simply, Yugoslavia is remembered as the “good war” — which achieved genuinely humanitarian outcomes — and it thus offers a welcome contrast with the Iraq fiasco.  The Balkan nostalgia also results from electoral politics: Democratic politicians are drawing attention to the “successful” US bombing campaigns in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina as examples of how intervention should be undertaken.  By emphasizing the positive aspects of these campaigns, Democrats are trying to show that they too are capable of using military force (with the implied additional claim that they can do so more effectively, more competently, and more humanely than their Republican opponents).  But the benign image of the Balkan interventions extends well beyond Democratic circles, and it is bipartisan to a significant degree.  The main purpose of this book has been to debunk this benign image, and to argue that it relies on a series of myths.


  1. So many nations of the world impoverished (because of the exploitative policies of the developed nations), and incapable of providing basic services or security to their own citizens, more “humanitarian interventions” are likely in the years ahead. Especially under the Democrats, who see themselves as capable of a more sophisticated and humane foreign policy than Bush’s GWOT.

    Comment by senecal — March 31, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

  2. Yes, indeed, Senecal, and it’s certainly some enlightenment here at home as well. This morning the news is squealing about the legislature’s proposed Washington State budget, which includes cutbacks in all of the education and public health packages that the voters of this state have tried to put in over the objections of the legislature. Reaganism in Birkenstocks. “There is no money”, etc. Phah.

    Comment by MIchael Hureaux — March 31, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  3. How do we make revolution today? We need to seriously consider our work.
    The workers movement has been lost for decades. We have lost our orientation. We need to figure out where we are going.

    I have considered myself a communist for over 40 years. I plugged along for a while doing ‘communist work’ in a few organizations and unions before recently realizing that what we were doing wasn’t providing the desired result or even coming close.

    I have been struggling with these issues for the last two years. I have learned a lot but run into even more questions than answers.

    I am in America so I operate within that framework. But I have traveled the globe and worked with comrades in Latin America and Asia in the past. I look at things internationally. I look at the interests of the proletariat as an international class.

    I think we are lost until we confront these questions and figure out the way forward. While we need to think this all out we also need to do this immediately. Capitalism is in its worst crisis since the Great Depression. Only the workers movement can lead the way out of this. The question is how we do so before open savagery breaks out.

    I hope everyone will engage in this.

    What (if any) organizations in the world today are capable or even trying to lead revolution?

    There are countless groups around the world from mass parties to sects. Most carry out the same work today that they did at their founding. Do they expect that all of a sudden workers will come over to them en masse and carry out a revolution? Are they correct?

    Are any existing groups capable of leading a revolution in the foreseeable future?

    What are revolutionaries supposed to do? Is it all about newspapers, meetings, election contests, protests?

    What work should revolutionaries be carrying out? Forget all the abstract stuff about “agitation, organizing, educating.” What concretely are we supposed to do every day?

    Does what you do everyday contribute toward bringing about revolution or are you wasting time?

    Should we just publish newspapers and sell and distribute them, print leaflets and hand them out at strikes and protests, hold public meetings about current issues, run in elections, organize protests as we have since the days of Marx? Is this what will lead to revolution? How? When?

    What else should we be doing or what should we be doing instead?

    What did Marx do? Lenin? Castro? What lessons from the past are we ignoring? What innovations do we need to make?

    Why newspapers?

    Lenin organized his party around a newspaper to keep it together during its underground existence in a time of repression by a Czarist government 100 years ago.

    Should we still organize around a newspaper?

    Do we need newspapers today, when readership is at an all time low? Why or why not?

    If not newspapers than what?

    How are parties formed?

    Does a group of people come together and proclaim a party and then recruit people to it? Does that work?

    Does a group of people circulate a call for a certain type of party until a wider group of people agrees to meet and found such a party, hashing everything out in a founding congress? Does that work?

    How did the existing groups come to be?

    What is the historical precedent? What’s worked and hasn’t? What did Marx do? Lenin? Bernstein? Luxemburg? Kun? Trotsky? Mao? Castro? Ho Chi Minh? Bishop? Borge? Newton?

    How were the unions organized? What can we learn from them?

    Where are people right now? How do we get them to where they need to be?

    Where are workers right now? Who is ready for revolution? How do they become ready for revolution? What can we do to hasten that process?

    What are workers ready to fight for RIGHT NOW? What could they be mobilized around this Saturday? How do we get them from there to where we are?

    What do we tell people that agree with us?

    When we meet people that agree with us what do tell them to do? Do we say that should join our group, pay dues and distribute our newspapers and leaflets and that eventually enough people will do the same and we can then take over?

    If that’s all it takes why do we still live in a capitalist world? Have we just not handed out newspapers and held meeting long enough?

    Should parties be monolithic?

    The difference between many parties/sects is their stance on certain historic issues. We look at each other as opponents based on what we think of the USSR or Cuba or Trotsky or whatever.

    Is this how parties should be organized? Should people have to except the analysis worked out in advance by the party on each and every historical issue? Is this how Marx, Lenin, Castro, Luxemburg and others organized their groups?

    If not what should be different? If so why hasn’t this worked so far?

    How should we organize?

    Are parties the best structure? Are they what we should be aiming for now? If not then what?

    What do we need to do right now to group together our sisters and brothers and overthrow capitalism internationally and how do we achieve it?

    How did the bourgeoisie organize and carry out the overthrow of feudalism?

    What did the capitalists do to usher in capitalism? Are there any lessons for us there?

    What did Marx say?

    Marx taught us a lot. Did he give us any instructions on how to organize ourselves? Did anyone else? What were we taught that we missed or ignore today?

    Why does capitalism still predominate?

    What’s the explanation for this?

    What’s should we look at and what should we forget?

    What models do we have to look at? What’s the closest we’ve come to revolution in an advanced / imperialist country? What’s the closest we’ve come in backward countries? What should we try to emulate? What should we not try to emulate?

    What has changed since Marx? Since Spain? Since Lenin? Since Cuba 1959? Since Nicaragua 1979?

    What has changed and how should we adjust ourselves?

    What else?

    What are your other thoughts?

    I hope to get some serious and involved replies. For my sake and all of our sakes.

    Comment by spritely — March 31, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

  4. For Marxists this book unfortunately appears to provide only lackluster conclusions — which is not surprising coming from the Humanities Dept. at the UofA where I graduated in the 80s with a BA in Sociology.

    Despite the impressive bibliograpy Gibbs’ approach seems rather lazy. Instead of tackling the class character of the Yugolav state constructed under Tito and how their socialized property relations ameliorated for decades the supposedly “intractable” & “inevitable” historic “ethnic tensions” & how after decades of dormancy they only resurfaced in the midst of Perestroika reaction and counterrevolution in the USSR — the lesson instead appears to be simply that imperialist policy is predatory & predators don’t like rivals.

    Despite the commercial media’s manufactured acrimony between the 2 party kleptocracy, revealing that this sort of liberalism has always been US foreign policy regardless of the party in power is as analytically unsatisfying as the “ripe plum” theory.

    An interesting book review to be sure (especially the German connection) but with such a dearth of literature on this subject I was hoping for much more.

    On PBS in 1996 (or so) a CIA employee was a guest of McNeil’s on his newshour and sensing the “Humanitarian” aspect was all a bullshit propaganda pretext for the war old McNeil asked him “what exactly are the US interests in the Balkans?”

    The CIA analyst replied quite bluntly (I paraphrase some here) that Uncle Sam’s “main interest was to crush the last remnants” of a workers’ state “on the European Continent.”

    “I see” said McNeil edified but still looking a bit confused and then promptly changed the topic.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 1, 2009 @ 4:00 am

  5. Louis, I know you wrote this some time ago, but I must confess I’m somewhat bewildered by the propensity of many on the left to absolve the Milosevic regime of much of the blame in the disastrous Yugoslav wars of the nineties. I’m also, by the way, bewildered by the flight of a number of lefties who were supportive of Bosnia and Croatia to the neo-conservative right (but this does tend to confirm my experience of ex-Trotskyist lefties – some I’ve known who have turned to god and others who’ve turned ultra-conservative). I just don’t understand how we are to accept the Milosevic regime as ‘socialist’. Looking back – it seems to me to have inexorably turned to Serbian nationalism and myth to cling to power, not to mention its use of paramilitaries led by people that the Yugoslav government would have (and did) jail years earlier. Anyway, very interested in debate on this matter, not trying to troll. Cheers.

    Comment by Mal — December 1, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  6. The restorationist Stalinists of Serbia blocked with Bosnian-Serb fascists in a murderous land grab as they collapsed Yugoslavia (Milosevic was doing privatisation deals on behalf of Serbia with Western corporations behind the back of Yugoslavia). Proyect’s rationalisation of this fascist butchery which took place as the UN disarmed Bosnia and strangled it with sanctions is the product of his unprincipled efforts to unifty American Trotskyism (or rather lapsed American Trotskyists) with American Stalinism. Result: uncritical support for Stalinist villainy posing as principled anti-imperialism, the further, if that were possible, moral degeneration of `radical’ US socialism and the befouling of the Marxist banner in the eyes of right thinking people everywhere. The NATO intervention served only to legitimise the `facts on the ground’ that had been established by pro-Serbian and pro-Croation fascist militias.

    Comment by Peter J — December 2, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

  7. Proyect’s rationalisation of this fascist butchery which took place as the UN disarmed Bosnia and strangled it with sanctions is the product of his unprincipled efforts to unifty American Trotskyism (or rather lapsed American Trotskyists) with American Stalinism.


    Comment by louisproyect — December 2, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

  8. Peter J: You are clearly a motherless fuck who no doubt voted for that war criminal Clinton twice, even though his first act in office was to lob cruise missiles into Baghdad apartment complexes, thyen went on to force welfare mothers into shit jobs that cost more in bus fare than they made, then swindled bi-partisan votes for NAFTA, then slaughtered dozens of Black children at Waco, TX, then wrote 90% of the Patriot Act after McVeigh, then let scumbags like Murdoch thrive after the 1996 Telecommunications Act, then let Nazi sympathizers in Germany allow NATO to fabricate stories of mass rape in the Balkans against Milosevich who beat all those charges.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 3, 2010 @ 1:27 am

  9. Hey Peter J (the J is for JagOff) — the NeoCons in the Pentagon have got your “fascist butchery” hangin’, boy, as they wrote the book on that shit, then passed out copies and took names.

    How’s it feel to be a shill for the biggest world historic transference of wealth from poor to rich in the history of the universe? Do you actually get sleep at night or are you one of those consciousless mercenary sociopaths that get paid enough from the State Dept. to thrive in your your cesspoool of DSA nonsense?

    You gutless turds have never withstood the scrutiny of history and never will.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 3, 2010 @ 2:09 am

  10. Hmmmmn – well none of that is particularly useful. Nothing like reasoned debate, is there? I would still like to get a response from Louis if I could – preferably without degenerating into insults regarding Trotskyist/Stalinist or Clinton supporting plots. Here in Australia I have heard identical pro-Milosevic regime arguments from Serb acquaintances who describe themselves as socialist or as anti-socialist – usually designating everyone else as war criminals. Similar arguments from Croat acquaintances. I don’t particularly care what you thought of Clinton, Bush, Blair, etc. I am very interested in what you thought of the Milosevic regime – given its descent (from 1989 onwards)into ultra-nationalism, support of paramilitary thugs using torture and rape as weapons, and its use of ethnic cleansing. Also, I’m quite aware of the odiousness of Tudjman’s regime as well – it having often using the same political/military strategies. I would like to know – do you really think that the Milosevic regime was socialist – and if so, in what way?

    Comment by Mal — December 3, 2010 @ 6:08 am

  11. My apologies, Louis, I see from reading your other posts on this subject that you’ve already addressed my question. I don’t happen to agree with you, but you have at least stated your position. Thank you.

    Comment by Mal — December 3, 2010 @ 6:51 am

  12. Friedrich: you are a mal adjusted apologist for stalinism and fascist mass murder. Seek help.

    Comment by Peter J — December 3, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

  13. Sorry peter but “fascist mass murder” is what Wikileaks has proven is carried out by the Pentagon year after miserable year against Brown people in places like the Mid-East, particularly, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghanis and now Pakistanis and Yemenis.

    Marxists in particular & sociologits in general make distinctions on what constitutes fascism. Stalinism is objectively & politically different than Hitlerism. Therefore Milosevich is hardly the same as a Mussolini.

    A CIA agent made clear on McNeil-Leherer that the Pentagon’s “main objective in the Balkans was to topple the last vestiges of Soviet-style planned economy on the Continent.”

    He explained that Human Rights issues were irrelevant and even implied that they were ginned up as a pretext for invasion & bombing. Turns out they were ginned up by real fascists, like the Bourgeois legacy of Nazis in Germany’s modern gestapo with long rusty axes to grind against the Serbs.

    Peter. I know it’s anathema to you Cruise Missile Leftists to comprehend but the fact is the Pentagon is organically incapable of implementing any progressively significant foreign policy, and trying to come up with a counterexample may just send YOU on a quest for psychiatric help.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 4, 2010 @ 1:08 am

  14. “Marxists in particular & sociologits in general make distinctions on what constitutes fascism. Stalinism is objectively & politically different than Hitlerism. Therefore Milosevich is hardly the same as a Mussolini.” Sociologists also make distinctions between varieties of fascism and nationalist movements. You seem here to agree with Peter J in calling Milosevic a Stalinist. Objectively he was a fascist precisely in the way that Mussolini was – aligning his regime to business interests and using racist politics to galvanise Serbian support for it. Second – I don’t care what a CIA agent had to say about the Clinton Government’s motivations for intervention in Kosovo were. I would rather go to Amnesty International for my information about human rights abuses rather than some CIA hack. Third – I think I agree with you in the main about “Cruise Missile” problem solving on the part of many across the spectrum of the left (I was opposed to both Gulf Wars but not to the interventions in Kosovo and East Timor)- but what do you suggest instead? I’m also cognisant of the plight of the Serbian minority in Kosova – were you not aware of Milosevic regime policies toward the Kosvovar minority when it was part of Yugoslavia? What would your solution have been? – the driving of the majority Albanian population of Kosovo into the poorest country in Europe?

    Comment by Mal — December 4, 2010 @ 4:23 am

  15. `Sorry peter but “fascist mass murder” is what Wikileaks has proven is carried out by the Pentagon year after miserable year against Brown people in places like the Mid-East, particularly, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghanis and now Pakistanis and Yemenis.’

    Did I not state in my first comment that NATO’s intervention was designed to confirm the facts on the ground. Not to oppose ethnic cleansing and fascist murder but to confirm its results and to confirm the restoration of capitalism and the break up of Yugoslavia and this at the point when Bosnia was starting to turn things around. Stop being such an emotional idiot and follow the debate.

    As for Stalinism it may have a different socio economic base but it is barely less cruel than its fascist cousin. Stalin had no problem giving political cover to Hitler moving his concentration camps into Poland and Milosevic had no qualms recruiting fascists to a vile land grab and his greater Serbia project. You don’t have to be pro-NATO intervention to oppose the disgusting Milosevic and his fascist murdering allies in Bosnia or to support the right of the Bosnians to self defence something denied them by the West’s arms embargo and the disarming antics of the UN.

    Comment by Peter J — December 4, 2010 @ 6:24 am

  16. Mal said: (I was opposed to both Gulf Wars but not to the interventions in Kosovo and East Timor)-

    If you haven’t yet read “Catch 22” you ought to read “The Myth Of The Good War.” I was against Uncle Sam’s intervention in WWII, nevermind Kosovo & E. Timor.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 4, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  17. Peter J said: “NATO’s intervention was designed to confirm the facts on the ground.”

    If NATO had a monopoly of “facts on the ground” it wouldn’t have taken the Hague 5 years to try Milosevich and end without a verdict.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 4, 2010 @ 9:39 am

  18. Thank you, Karl Friedrich – author?

    Comment by Mal — December 4, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

  19. 17 They weren’t that bothered and you shouldn’t forget that they left Sarajevo under fascist siege for three years before lifting a finger. Their intervention came when the siege began to weaken and they imposed the Owen plan which sought to carve Bosnia into a thousand little enclaves. You should think about what you are rationalising. Do you really want to look back and realise one day, if you are capable of it i.e. if this is simplu a misguided mistake and not your world outlook, that you rationalised fascist tyranny, mass rape, torture and despicable murder?

    Comment by Peter J — December 4, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

  20. Sorry Pete but history will prove that the blood of the Balkans is on the hands of the Imperialists determined to overthrow the last remnents of socialized property from the Yugoslav Revolution, which managed for over 50 years to ameliorate centuries old ethnic strife on the basis of socialist cooperation. The imperialists in Bonn and the IMF were always the ones driving relentlessly for privatization and the destruction of the peaceful socialist federation.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 5, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  21. `which managed for over 50 years to ameliorate centuries old ethnic strife on the basis of socialist cooperation;

    Stalinist apologist and worse. What does it matter if ethnic strife is centuries old, if the conditions for it are removed it disappears if not it continues or re-emerges. If by socialist co-operation you mean population manipulation and Great Serbian chauvinism you might have a point.

    Comment by Peter J — December 7, 2010 @ 6:54 am

  22. December 15, 2010

    Question of the Day…
    Holbrooke or Milosevic: Who is the Greater Murderer?

    It is usually considered good form to avoid sharp criticism of someone who has just died. But Richard Holbrooke himself set a striking example of the breach of such etiquette. On learning of the death in prison of Slobodan Milosevic, Holbrooke did not hesitate to describe him as a “monster” comparable to Hitler and Stalin.

    This was rank ingratitude, considering that Holbrooke owed his greatest career success – the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina – almost entirely to Milosevic. This was made quite clear in his memoir To End a War (Random House, 1998).

    But Holbrooke’s greatest skill, made possible by media complicity, was to dress up reality in a costume favorable to himself.

    The Dayton Peace Accords were presented as a heroic victory for peace extracted by the brilliant Holbrooke from a reluctant Milosevic, who had to be “bombed to the negotiating table” by the United States. In reality, the U.S. government was fully aware that Milosevic was eager for peace in Bosnia to free Serbia from crippling economic sanctions. It was the Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic who wanted to keep the war going, with U.S. military help.

    In reality, the U.S. bombed the Serbs in order to get Izetbegovic to the negotiating table. And the agreement reached in the autumn of 1995 was not very different from the agreement reached in March 1992 by the three ethnic groups under European Community auspices, which could have prevented the entire civil war, if it had not been sabotaged by Izetbegovic, who withdrew his agreement with the encouragement of the then U.S. ambassador Warren Zimmermann. In short, far from being the great peacemaker in the Balkans, the United States first encouraged the Muslim side to fight for its goal of a centralized Bosnia, and then sponsored a weakened federated Bosnia – after nearly four years of bloodshed which left the populations bereft and embittered.

    (click below to read the rest)


    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 16, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  23. An Open Letter to Noam Chomsky

    Initially, Nazi crimes were taught as contrary to humanity in general, but as identification of victims has been increasingly centered on Jews, the effect is to implicitly divide school children between potential victims, namely the Jews, and everyone else, whose innocence is less assured. This amounts to a reversal of the much-decried Medieval stigmatization of Jews as “Christ-killers”. Today, non-Jews are in the uncomfortable position of being the descendants of “Jew-killers” (or perhaps of those who failed to save Jewish children from deportation to Auschwitz).

    For much of the younger generation, the Shoah cult, with annual obligatory commemorations and constant reminders of the “duty of memory”, is getting to be as boring as any other imposed religion. It cannot inhibit criticism of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. The guilt trip may be coming to an end.


    Comment by David — January 21, 2011 @ 6:46 am

  24. […] the Balkan Wars to be informed, cogent and well-researched as I indicated in a 2009 review of his First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. Indeed at the time I was still subject to taking the Serb side against people like Hoare in a way […]

    Pingback by David Gibbs on Srebrenica | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — January 13, 2016 @ 11:25 pm

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