Calm Before the Storm?

In Bosnia, there are no easy answers. Any question naively put forth by outsiders prompts a history lesson that usually begins at the time of Constantine if directed at a Croat, the 1389 Battle of Kosovo if toward a Serb, and the fall of the Ottoman Empire if speaking with a Muslim. For Americans who can't remember what they watched on television last night, this can be a bit disconcerting. However, while history does not predetermine a country's direction, it does highlight possible futures.

In the aftermath of genocide in Bosnia, the fundamental question is, Did this have to happen? The answer is no. Here at the end of the 20th century we have participated in a global dramatization of the adage, "All that evil needs to triumph is for good [people] to do nothing."

Contrary to the propaganda of the U.S. media, the former Yugoslavia is not genetically encoded for violence; nor did the collapse of communism preordain civil war. The mass graves that NATO forces are opening in Srebrenica, Jajce, and Tuzla are not only filled with sons, fathers, daughters, and friends, but with the coldly pragmatic, morally vacuous remnants of empires' attempts to save themselves.

Serbian President Milosevi´c, a very intelligent Communist hardliner, had no future in the age of democracy, so he initiated a violent land grab, particularly for Bosnia's military-industrial factories. Croatian President Tudjman had a small-minded Nixonesque craving for power. After Croatia's relatively successful secession from Yugoslavia, he took advantage of the chaos created by the Serb aggression to indulge his greed and extend the Croatian borders.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1996
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