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Mediterranean Quarterly 15.1 (2004) 123-127

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Raju G. C. Thomas, Editor: Yugoslavia Unraveled: Sovereignty, Self-Determination, Intervention. New York: Lexington Books, 2003. 400 pages. ISBN 0-7391-0517-5. $85.00.

Yugoslavia Unraveled is a welcome and important work that reviews the international community's policies toward Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It is welcome because dispassionate analysis of these policies has been superseded in the West by triumphalism, and especially, in editor Raju G. C. Thomas's words, the "triumph of a new moral liberalism, which emphasized global humanitarianism over the old, cynical, state-centered realism." This book is important both for what it teaches us about the conduct of foreign policy during the 1990s and for what it tells us about policy in the twenty-first century, because the authors understand that a fundamental transformation in the conduct of international relations has taken place. On balance, the authors believe that this new system will lead to more violence and ethnic strife. [End Page 123]

As is often the case with edited collections, the essays in this volume vary widely in language and approach. Credit goes to Thomas, Allis Chalmers Professor of International Affairs at Marquette University, for setting the overall tone as well as the direction for the volume in his prologue and introductory chapter. The contest between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, led by the United States, and the Serbs, led symbolically at least by Slobodan Milosevic, was often conceived as a struggle between good and evil, between enlightened Westerners committed to protecting human rights and a man portrayed as a hateful bigot who practiced ethnic cleansing against (especially Muslim) populations in Bosnia and Kosovo. In fact, as Thomas and nearly all of the other contributors to this volume show, both sides—both the West and its allies in Yugoslavia (including the Croats, the Bosnian Muslims, and the Kosovar Albanians), and Milosevic and the Serbs—are to blame for the horrific violence and massive population shifts that took place in the ten years following the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

Several of the authors go one step further. "The fundamental problem was not what the Serbs did," Thomas writes, "but what the Western powers did: namely, the violation of Yugoslavia's territorial sovereignty, the rush to advance the principle of self-determination, and the reckless use of massive force in violation of the UN Charter on humanitarian grounds." Similarly, Gordon Bardos concludes that the "international community" is to blame for much that is wrong in southeastern Europe. The West's "perfect failure" (a phrase coined by Michael Mandelbaum) derived from "a fundamental misdiagnosis of the prerequisites for stabilizing" the region, and he likens "international (and especially American) policy in the region" to "using sledgehammers to kill mosquitoes."

Other essays in the volume include P. H. Liotta's study of the religious components that contributed to Yugoslavia's disintegration. Milica Bookman's economic analysis of the situation in Yugoslavia is both refreshing and original in providing a unifying approach to understanding the entire region. Edward Herman notes the systemic bias of the media's coverage and charges that the media itself played a crucial propaganda role. Meanwhile, Satish Nambiar's experiences as the first military commander of the United Nations Protection Force deployed in Yugoslavia may help to assess operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maya Chadda's chapter on intervention in ethnic civil wars and exit strategies is also relevant for Iraq, where there is no clear exit plan, and where the risks of an ethnic civil war persist.

The most important chapters are those that transcend a narrow focus on southeastern Europe in the 1990s and include important lessons for current policies throughout the world. For example, borrowing a phrase from Geoffrey Blainey, Alan Kuperman argues that the West's policies are the main source of "optimistic miscalculation" in the post-Cold War world, creating the expectation that the international community will aid ethnic minorities in secessionist struggles. Kuperman concludes that "a declared [End Page 124] policy of nonintervention could discourage uprisings by weak subordinate groups and thereby—counterintuitively—reduce ethnic...


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