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Mediterranean Quarterly 14.1 (2003) 100-104
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Takis Michas: Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic's Serbia . College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002. 176 pages. ISBN 1-58544-183-X. $29.95.
This is a very strange book, indeed. Among other things, it seems to have experimented with the introduction of yellowish journalistic techniques in the handling of deadly serious subject matter, dressed in a postmodern, pseudo-academic garment, in order to facilitate the advancement of a crypto-weird agenda. This agenda contains only one item of genuine interest, albeit an item quite exhausted by now: that since Greek society had exhibited some sui generis reactions to recent events in the Balkans (in Bosnia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia [FYROM], and Serbia), competent hypotheses were needed to account for these facts.
The most serious troubles with this book seem to be four. First, the "explanation" it purports to offer for Greece's social reactions is unoriginal and, given its blatantly partial formulation, palpably invalid. It amounts in the main to a compilation of assertions by a handful of like-minded scholars. Second, the book's variegated agenda was overly ambitious and, as such, requires a solid and well-thought-out methodology. But instead of methodology, this book is marked by a hit-and-run quality and a postmodern levity. Third, apart from his unqualified admiration for Samuel Huntington, the author seems enamored with haphazard comments by a strange string of disparate authors, from Karl [End Page 100] Marx to Derrida, from Castoriades to Finkielkraut, and from Friedrich Hayek to Adamantia Pollis. Finally, the book's sustained tone of provocative arrogance is offensive beyond the pale to Serbs and Greeks, while its pompous manner of moral perfectionism is bound to irritate most readers.
Turning to the book' s major aims, it is supposed, first, to lament the Greeks' alleged slide into the arms of the "sirens" of intolerance and their alleged moral indifference to the plight of the Balkan "other." Second, it purports to explain what it claims to be pathological Greek nationalist explosions of the 1990s, an uncritical support by nearly all Greeks of anything Slobodan Milosevic stood for, the newly found "fundamentalism" of Greek Orthodoxy, and the blind anti-American and "anti-Western" sentiments of Greek society.
In addition, numerous associated targets keep cropping up, a narrative strategy presumably aimed at generating a psychological penumbra that might have strengthened, by suggestiveness or by implication, what the methodological weakness of the book could not achieve. Thus we are treated to the author's unmitigated hatred for the Greek Orthodox Church, his contempt or near contempt for all leading Greek politicians of the 1980s and 1990s (including Constantine Karamanlis, Andreas Papandreou, Constantine Mitsotakis, and Costas Simitis), his conviction that Serbian society has suffered from a variety of forms of barbarism while Greece is in the throes of the worst malaise of all—"ethnonationalism"—and his prediction that even worse things are in store for Greece, since this last ism is rather hard to get rid of in a country where the church is the source of most evil.
It follows already that to be able to handle such a tall order, Takis Michas, a fifty-four-year-old Greek journalist (and not a household name in Greece), apparently decided to assume, simultaneously, numerous new roles. That is to say, he had to become, inter alia, social psychologist, political sociologist, strategic analyst, expert on "ethnonationalism," moral evaluator, and public prosecutor. Hence, it cannot be surprising that the work is a methodological disaster.
Now, does this array of critical observations intend to deny the idiosyncrasies of Greece's demeanor either vis-à-vis Bosnia and FYROM or toward the Kosovo-related North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombings of Serbia? Of course not. But it is easy to show that Michas's attempted explanations—partial, prejudiced, incomplete, and subjective—cannot but fail to make his case. A series of less fancy, alternative hypotheses, which are discounted or entirely ignored by that author, is necessary and sufficient to account for the idiosyncrasies. Most of these hypotheses do...