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The history of the Balkan states, like that of so much of the world, has for centuries been marked by ethnocidal fracases, savage wars of conquest, and periods of eerie calm. The mountainous region's shifting alliances and divisions have long puzzled outside observers, writes journalist Misha Glenny, the author of The Fall of Yugoslavia: "For many decades, Westerners gazed on these lands as if [they were] an ill-charted zone separating Europe's well-ordered civilization from the chaos of the Orient."
Those outsiders, Glenny suggests, have been the source of much of the Balkans' misery. In only the last two centuries, the territory has been contested by the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires, the Third Reich, and the Allies, all of whom exploited and exacerbated existing ethnic conflict. (The Nazi occupiers of Croatia, he writes, even had to rein in the fascist Ustase militia for fear that their campaign against Serbs and Muslims would only strengthen resistance to their puppet government.) And, he continues, attempts to quell the recent conflict in Bosnia have created problems of their own. He argues that war will break out anew the moment international troops are withdrawn and that the Dayton Agreement is too "full of anomalies and frictions" to stand. The intervention in Kosovo has been no better, he adds, and the Allies' misguided efforts are sure to yield only further bloodshed if the only objective is to remove Slobodan Milosevic from power. "Should the West fail to address the effects, not merely of a three-month air war in 1999, but of 120 years of miscalculation and indifference since the Congress of Berlin, then there will be little to distinguish NATO's actions from any of its great-power predecessors," Glenny concludes.
Glenny's provocative book sheds much light on recent Balkan history--and on the region's likely future. --Gregory McNamee [via]