Several commentaries by readers, some well thought out and others knee-jerk denials, on author Patrick Glynn’s “The Age of Balkanization”. The author then eviscerates the anti-Balkanization protests of the most whiny objectors, many of whom, unsurprisingly, are Jewish. Jews know that Balkanization will destroy the multiracial cacophony they have created as camouflage for themselves, and there will be no place for them in the world which is coming.
“To the Editor:
Patrick Glynn’s “The Age of Balkanization” [July] is a dangerously superficial assessment of one of the most significant problems facing us. The process of Balkanization within multiethnic nations like Yugoslavia often has some of its roots in the political dynamics and ambitions of other countries. Mr. Glynn totally misses this point. Specifically, in the case of Yugoslavia, the role of Germany cannot be discounted. Germany’s almost immediate recognition of Croatia and Slovenia—two of its client-states in World War II—and the pressure it put upon the French and others in the European Community (EC) to support recognition both emboldened the tyrants and further undercut those who held to the notion of a multiethnic Yugoslav state. Even today, Germany exerts substantial pressure within the UN and elsewhere to see that sanctions are not applied to Croatia for its ever-growing murderous role in the destruction of Bosnia and the Bosnians. This only intensifies the paranoia of many Serbs and nourishes those who can then use Serbia’s growing isolation and an apparent double standard for their own purposes. The new Russian state is playing a similar role in destabilizing Georgia and the Baltic republics by feeding the fires and political egos of ethnic and linguistic radicals. Much the same can be said of many other places and many other nations.
As long as nations and peoples are useful pawns of larger, more aggressive nations and communities with dynastic impulses of one sort or another, ethnic and religious divisions will be all-too-useful points of cleavage and fragmentation. The tortured history of the Kurds leaps immediately to mind as being archetypical of this situation. The key question, which Mr. Glynn also evades, is why this remains so. Instead of providing an answer, he blames postmodernist literature professors, blacks who want to be African-Americans in the same way that others are permitted to be Irish-Americans, Italo-Americans, or Finnish-Americans, etc., etc.
I do not mean to suggest for a moment that Yugoslavia could or should have been “saved.” It was throughout its history a place where the power and authority of the center, often using terrorism and the suppression of legitimate ethnic and regional grievances, coerced behavior in the periphery. But others bear culpability, too. We all let those who believed in a genuinely multiethnic, multireligious, and democratic Yugoslavian republic down miserably. We could not wait until the nation came apart to demonstrate our wisdom that such a place could not possibly survive the death of Tito. And some of us, like Germany, helped to make it happen, at least more quickly if, indeed, it was inevitable.
Mr. Glynn is also far too self-congratulatory about the American experience. Ask Native Americans—oops, I should say “Indians” for his benefit—about how we in the United States have dealt with significant ethnic differences. But here many of our cleavages have been ones of class, though in the case of blacks, class and race have been inexorably linked in our indigenous brand of racism as perhaps nowhere else. And still other significant divisions have been regional.
It is our great fortune that our transcending notion of nationhood and “civis”—which sadly seems to be eroding—and perhaps a lot of luck and land have permitted us a different history. I agree that we seem to be headed in a dreadful direction and that is precisely why the serious nature of the problems that confront us requires careful, insightful, and sensitive analysis. Gratuitous slaps at multiculturalism simply will not suffice. But then Mr. Glynn’s piece is extraordinarily thin and adds very little to our understanding.
Mark B. Lapping
Lawrenceville, New Jersey
To the Editor:
Patrick Glynn, in “The Age of Balkanization,” makes an excellent contribution so long as he sticks to generalities, but fails miserably when he gets down to specifics. I have in mind his references to what used to be Yugoslavia. He lumps two Serbian leaders with Saddam Hussein and calls them “new tyrants” motivated “by nothing more complicated than primitive ethnic fanaticism.” To anyone who knows the Yugoslav situation, this demonstrates that Mr. Glynn does not have a grasp of the basic facts about that tragic country or its history.
Moreover, it is passing strange that he fails to mention the Croats, Muslims, or Slovenes—who were in the forefront of what he bemoans as “fragmentation” and “splintering.”
And he is less than honest when he says that the EC leaders “have worked to forge a unitary Europe,” but fails to say one word about what those leaders did to aid in the demise of Yugoslavia, a charter member of the League of Nations and the United Nations.
Alex N. Dragnich
To the Editor:
In his article, Patrick Glynn takes the first step in recognizing just how dangerous the world has become since the demise of the Soviet superpower and the eclipse of global bipolarity. As he notes, “everywhere one sees well-established nation-states threatened with disunion, and even in countries without explicit separatist movements, the unifying themes of political life are increasingly under attack.” According to Mr. Glynn, Balkanization threatens to devour all Western nations. In Canada, England, Italy, France, and Germany, Mr. Glynn reports that the process of disunification is already under way. And even in the United States, he argues, our national political unity seems to be threatened by the absence of an international political opponent. . . .
So much for the first step. Amazingly, Mr. Glynn fails to see that the effort by George Bush and others to unify humanity into a “new world order” based on what he calls “democratic universalism” is every bit as threatening to the long-term survival of the modern nation-state as is the particularism of ethno-racial separatism. National political unity cannot withstand ultimate progression to a single “nation of nations” any more than infinite regression to multiple ethnic or racial semi-sovereignties. If multiculturalism represents the fragmentation and decay of the nation’s moral authority, then internationalism, or, to use Mr. Glynn’s term, cosmopolitanism, heralds the collapse or eclipse of the nation’s sovereign authority. In both cases, the same result is achieved; the dooming of the nation-state.
It was in the world of nation-states that the high ideals of Western civilization truly flourished. Freedom, democracy, equality, the primacy of reason, and, perhaps most importantly, the rights of citizenship may have originated in the “master idea” of Greek philosophy and may have been sustained in some way by imperial Rome. But these values ripened only in the modern world; that is, only when man substituted an international system of multiple territorial nation-states for a single universal institution of imperial reach.
In our times, as Mr. Glynn knows well, nation-states proved to be the most effective bulwark against the barbarism which lurks in all universalist ideologies, such as Communism, Nazism, and, as we shall regretfully discover, the new world order. What defeated Hitler and later Stalin’s inheritors was not merely the moral superiority of democratic ideals but the patriotism of the soldiers who killed and died on behalf of their countries. Without the patriotic fervor which only a sovereign nation-state can generate, it is highly doubtful that the freedom and liberty which we all cherish would have perforated the “tissue of lies” spawned by both Nazi and Communist ideology. Sadly, if the deteriorating fortunes of the modern nation-state are not reversed, it is certain that the master ideas of Western civilization will suffocate in the “tissue of lies” which the new world order is bound to spawn.
Mr. Glynn is wrong when he contends that civilization is born of the struggle for unity, universality, and ecumenism alone. Civilization does not spring forth from concord and commonality. . . . Rather, civilization develops from the tension between internationalism and particularism, and it flourishes only when the latter is legitimated within a framework that can be applied to all peoples, such as the modern territorial nation-state. After all, there is another common feature to the Roman empire, medieval Christendom, Nazism, and Communism which Mr. Glynn overlooks—their anti-Semitism. And this feature of Western history may be explained by the fact that the Jews are the most particular of all people who must first disappear in order for humanity to unite into a single world order.
New York City
To the Editor:
Reading Patrick Glynn’s “The Age of Balkanization” reminds me of a memorandum I wrote seventeen years ago on the coming era of ethnic conflict in the world. I was working at the Ford Foundation in those days, and this largest of the world’s philanthropic institutions was allocating tens of millions of dollars a year to the development of third-world societies.
The memo, dated October 5, 1976, and addressed to the then-president of the Ford Foundation, McGeorge Bundy, has come back to mind with rising insistence these past few years. As ethnic battling mounts in Bosnia, the Caucasus, several African countries, India, and many other parts of the world, rereading that 1976 memo sheds some light on causes and possible courses of action.
Here are excerpts:
There is no letup in the sharpening of tensions and open conflicts between ethnic groups all over the world. In Europe, Northern Ireland is the cruelest case, but there are also serious tensions and some bloodletting in Spain and Belgium. In Africa, we have witnessed particularly cruel developments in Nigeria, Burundi, and Uganda. . . . In Asia (e.g. Malaysia), there are recurrent efforts to press on Chinese minorities. And Lebanon’s suffering speaks for itself.
In all these cases, an issue appears to be present that has not received much attention and on which there is . . . a good deal of confusion. It is the convergence of class with race or ethnic background or religion.
To illustrate: many Christians in America see the struggle in Lebanon as a social conflict in which a majority, who happen to be Muslims, seeks to get a larger share of the pie of which a minority, who happen to be Christians, has an inordinately large portion.
While the social side of the conflict certainly deserves full and fair consideration, the question is whether one can in its name view as secondary the ethnic or racial side. For in a civil war among ethnic, racial, and religious groups, the victory of the majority is virtually certain if there is no intervention, and the bloodbath may drown and render irrelevant the resolution of social inequities. . . .
Clearly, there is a difference between countries where minorities have reached “disproportionate” shares of economic and social power on the basis of their own efforts and skills, and those societies where suppression of a majority by a minority is official government policy (South Africa). Yet even in the latter situation, policies to right a deep moral wrong should seek not only to prevent violence against the hitherto ruling minority, but to preserve . . . resources and skills that the emerging majority-ruled society is bound to need badly.
In sum, it seems to me that the current tendency to see “proportionalism” as the governing objective, and to be unaware of or insufficiently concerned with the new (or old?) kinds of injustice that inhere in such a simplistic approach to social policy is terribly dangerous.
The memorandum then proposed an institution in the third world, where most of Ford’s international allocations were being applied, to support “a small center . . . to pursue research and responsible public discussion of the subject.”
This center was established in 1981, five years later, after a wearying policy-and-bureaucratic process. It became the International Center for Ethnic Studies (ICES) in Sri Lanka, governed and operating to this day under its mixed Sinhalese/Tamil leadership team. Its advice is now being sought not only within Sri Lanka, South and Southeast Asia, but also by Russia, Canada, and other areas where ethnic conflict is active or threatens.
The most important lesson I drew from the experience was that the top people at Ford just could not warm to the idea the memo had proposed, approving it only after dogged persistence by a small band of concerned program officers. They were “excited” (a word that always depicted the mood of the giver rather than the receiver of grants) by white/nonwhite conflicts within the U.S. and abroad (South Africa). They could identify with issues in which whites like them were involved and where they could try to absolve themselves of their inherited guilt.
When it came to the equally dangerous, often far bloodier, wars among nonwhites (Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi; vast conflicts in eastern India, etc.), with tens of thousands of victims, there was no “excitement.” To this day, when ethnic conflict is the stuff of banner headlines, our foundations and many other nonprofit institutions still have not faced up to the issue with the resources and the priority it merits. . . .
Had we been only a fraction as assiduous in our intervention in the emerging ethnic conflicts in Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union as we have been for more than a decade in South Africa, we might have been more helpful in Yugoslavia, Georgia, and elsewhere. . . .
Robert B. Goldmann
Patrick Glynn writes:
“The Age of Balkanization” was not primarily about the situation in the former Yugoslavia but was indeed inspired by it, and was written after a two-year period during which, somewhat to my surprise, the Yugoslavian crisis and war gradually became my main preoccupation as a foreign-policy analyst. During that time—which included a visit to the Croatian war zones in December 1991—I have followed events in the region daily, written and commented extensively on the war, met and talked at length with regional and Western officials involved in the situation, and learned more about the history of Yugoslavia than most people would care to know. So the judgments that I offer about Yugoslavia in the article, though necessarily brief, are not, as Mark B. Lapping suggests, “superficial.”
The ins and outs of the Yugoslavia problem are notoriously difficult to explain, and I won’t bore readers with all of them here. Suffice it to say that before one forms a judgment, it is useful to master at least the basic facts of the situation, which Mr. Lapping has evidently failed to do. His notion that Germany inspired this war is nonsense. The German recognition of Slovenia and Croatia was not “almost immediate,” but came nearly six months after Serbia attacked its two neighbors. It coincided with—and probably contributed to—the (albeit temporary) end of the war in Croatia. I said then, and continue to believe today, that if the German and EC recognition—the first real “punishment” Belgrade received for its aggression—had been followed up by a concerted Western policy to contain and deter Serbia from further depredations, the subsequent war against Bosnia, with all its horrors, might have been averted. Instead, Washington dithered, and the appalling results are there for all to see.
I cannot imagine why Mr. Lapping, evidently no expert on the Balkans, puts forward an utterly unfounded picture of external “dynastic impulses” struggling to tear Yugoslavia apart, except perhaps to justify his apparently strong support for “multiculturalism” and—could it be?—to rewrite history to fit the peculiar anti-authoritarian imperatives of that doctrine.
Alex N. Dragnich’s position is more informed and more understandable, given his Serbian perspective, but still unsustainable in the face of the facts. As the CIA itself pointed out as early as fall 1990, and as the vast majority of analysts familiar with this situation agree, the break-up of Yugoslavia was driven from the start by the virulent and violence-prone nationalism of Slobodan Milosevic’s dictatorial regime in Belgrade. To be sure, the turn toward democracy in Slovenia and (more certainly) in Croatia did coincide with a reemergence of nationalism in those two republics, but in both cases national feeling was tempered by an aspiration to democracy and a desire for a modern European identity. Even Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman, no paragon of tolerance, opened Croatia to Western human-rights monitors in the early 1990’s (in sharp contrast to Milosevic’s policy in Kosovo) and yielded to Western pressure for measures to reassure Croatia’s alienated Serb minority. His efforts were subverted by Belgrade’s deliberate program—involving weapons transfers and intense propaganda—to incite Croatia’s Serbian minority to violence. Since the late 1980’s, Serbia has either persecuted or made war on every other national group in Yugoslavia—Albanians in Kosovo, Hungarians in Vojvodina, Slovenes, Croats, and now Bosnian Muslims. Milosevic drove secessionist forces in the other republics in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s by deliberately subverting constitutional arrangements designed to protect the rights of all republics within the federation, acting in the name of a nominal “Yugoslavianism” that everybody understood to be angry Serbian nationalism in thin disguise. There is every reason to suppose that, within the context of a transition to democracy, Yugoslavia’s ethnic problems could have been solved by negotiation and the democratic process, especially with more intelligent Western help. Milosevic, a Communist-turned-fascist dictator, had no intention of letting this happen. One of the depressing aspects of this situation is the relatively small number of Serbian intellectuals who have been willing to condemn Milosevic’s policies unconditionally—as, for example, I, as an Irish-American, would unhesitatingly condemn the IRA. They have not even said anything against the “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia, where Serbs enjoyed an atmosphere of nearly perfect tolerance before many of them, under Milosevic’s diabolical guidance, began to turn violently on their Muslim and Croatian neighbors next door. Some tensions were to be expected in postcold-war Yugoslavia, but thanks mainly to Milosevic, it has become the war of every man against every man.
Abraham Berkowitz, who has obviously also been reflecting on the Balkanization phenomenon, offers a thoughtful qualification to my argument, concerning the importance of the nation-state, even if I think he may go too far. I agree with him (and, for that matter, with Margaret Thatcher) that the “universalism” of, for example, the EC could itself pose a danger, by unnaturally denying and eroding national authority. As Thatcher has pointed out, it is nations, and not international organizations like the EC or the UN, that are built to resist tyranny. But one does not have to go too far back into history to find nation-states themselves causing mischief—think of World War I. The key, as Mr. Berkowitz himself seems to suggest, is to find the right balance between strong nations and supranational principles such as those embodied in the UN charter. The Clinton administration’s multilateralism, like the Maastricht treaty on European unity, goes too far toward weak universalism. The old concept of the “free world” was probably the best balance, but that, as I noted, was dependent upon the presence of an enemy, and we will have difficulty replicating such an arrangement in the present environment.”