Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crossroads

Michael Totten reports from Sarajevo. Sarajevo has largely recovered from the physical scars of the 1990s battles. The one thing that has changed -- ripped apart by ethnic powerplays -- is the easy sort of intercommunal tolerance of 30 years ago. In its place is a simplified map consisting of more or less homogenous ethnic groups. It's as if the ingredients in a stew suddenly agglomerated themselves together until you had lumps instead of a mix. Totten writes:

I have no idea if Bosnia will ever actually split into three. Dividing it up peacefully, equitably, and in a way that would satisfy everyone wouldn’t be possible. Partitioning unevenly mixed countries, especially those with so many mixed families like Bosnia and Iraq, is a nasty business.

Some individuals are, not surprisingly, refusing to go along with the political formula that has been foisted on them.

“We are all friends,” Delibasic said. “We don't care about ethnicity. But others, people around here…it's hard. The radish is too deep. It cannot be uprooted.” ...

“My best friend now is a Serb who married a Bosnian woman,” Delibasic said. “Jovan Divyak, the Serb defender of the city of Sarajevo.”

What is truly scary about the experience of the former Yugoslavia is how quickly a multicultural society could turn in an historical instant from harmony to savage intercommunal violence. Niall Ferguson, in his study of the conflicts of the 20th century, the War of the World describes the terrible ethnic carnage that surrounded the First and Second World Wars. Listening to what it was like before the battles of the 1990s makes sobering reading.

“When I was a kid in Sarajevo,” Delibasic said, “some visiting Montenegrin nationalists asked me, who are you? I had no idea, and I didn't care. So I made up an answer. I am Jewish! I said. My mother said no, no no. But I didn't know or care. My friends were Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. After I was told I wasn't Jewish, I said I was a Muslim. But that wasn't right either. So after that I've always just said I am a Yugoslav. If I could, I would take citizenship in Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro, as well as in Bosnia and Serbia. But I can't. I still call myself a Yugoslav, but the census-takers won't accept that as an answer.”

Maybe the real threat to multiculturalism are the demagogues who see identity politics as the road to power, even if that process involves the destruction of the larger polity. Under the color of multiculturalism, the ship of separatism steams majestically on.

And yet the post-war Balkans seems to have a kind of stability of its own. It may have engendered warfare and hatred, but it was of a local kind. Imported varieties were unwelcome. It's interesting to learn that despite the vast effort expended in the Middle East to deploy Wahabi fighters and missionaries there, they were largely treated with disdain by the local Muslims themselves. Still they are trying, though without much success -- so far.

Bosnia has a bit of an Islamist problem, but they aren't its biggest cause. Saudis and others from the extremist Wahhabi school of Islam swooped in after the war ended to rebuild damaged mosques in their own severe style and to impose their rigid interpretation of religion, as much as they can, on culturally liberal Europeans. ...

“They say We have to Islamize you,” he said. “That's the notion they are using, to Islamize. They think that even the practicing Muslims – that means going to mosque, praying – they think they are not good enough, they have to be better. And also that our perception of Islam is wrong.” ...

“What is it about your version of Islam that they don’t like specifically?” I said.

“Every segment of it,” he said. “Meaning our clothes, we are dressing like Europeans, the way we look, we don’t say you have to wear a beard, or that it doesn’t have to be long. It’s also the literature we are using because mostly we are leaning on the traditional scholars of Islam while they are leaning on the so-called reformers. There are lots of things. The logical aspects of Islam, the interior and exterior of the mosques, everything. Almost everything we do is wrong. It's very hard to recognize why and from where they get this kind of attitude.”

Where do the Wahabis get this attitude? Maybe from four dollar a gallon gas.




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23 Comments:

Blogger Derek Kite said...

If I remember correctly, Bosnia didn't have a multicultural problem. It came from elsewhere, Belgrade. It isn't hard to divide a society when you kill one group. Everyone else will separate naturally.

I forgot the details. The siege lasted for 3 years. Seeing it on TV every night was the modern replica of the Coliseum. Pornographic violence you could enjoy all the while feeling awful.

Derek

6/10/2008 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Please note that if this situation exists in Iraq ten years hence it will be hailed as an example of the failure of Bush’s War by certain people - the same people who say that our involvement in the former Yugoslavia was a wonderful and wholly altruistic success.

I still recall some Democrat party flack gushing on TV in the spring of 1999, when asked why should we worry about that region given our lack of national interests there “But we have to do something! This is ethnic!”

Yep, it’s Ethnic. And it still is, more than ever.

6/10/2008 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

Long run, the compulsory re-settlements post 1945 in central Europe may have been the way to go, however awful at the time. The Sudeten Germans had to leave Czechoslovakia, the Prussians, Pomeranians and Silesians lost their homes, and the Poles had to give up eastern (or western) Ukraine. Königsberg became Kaliningrad, and the Posen/Poznan controversy was resolved pretty definitively, at least pending another world war.

But all this took truly awful misery and oceans of blood. Eons of Eastern European history and tradition were wiped out forever. But I wonder if raising your kids, year after year, in polarized Sarajevo, wondering if today is when some riot unglues everything -- is any better or even worse ?

6/10/2008 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger j- said...

*Where do the Wahabis get this attitude? Maybe from four dollar a gallon gas.*

Let's not be cute. They had this attitude long before gas got to 4 dollars a gallon and the latter only happened like, last year.

6/10/2008 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

The Wahabi mentality is not limited
to Muslims/Arabs/towelheads/other common pejoratives.

Approximately 50% of the Ron Paul supporters fit the profile. An equal or higher percentage of Buchanan acolytes do the same.

And we hardly need to mention moonbats, humanists, militant atheists, and a host of other usual suspects.

It all stems from fear of the hereafter. Dread that you will suffer some form of eternal damnation unless you do very nasty things to anybody and everybody that ever so slightly deviates from your notion of propriety. (And said notions tend to change very rapidly.)

To expose my own beliefs: I call this Luciferian in orgin. The imposition of behavior that if universal would result in species extinction. And promoting same as the only morality in existence.

The towelheaded Wahabis are currently the most prominent variety. That is because they can utilize illegal behavior and enjoy the strongest cash flow. However the Gorebots are not too far behind.

6/10/2008 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

j- he's not being cute. It's called "irony" to make a point in literate locales. And what you're being is a short-sighted egocentric with not enough imagination to be anything except close-as-dirt literate.

Bet you don't have any sense of humor either.

* * *

Re: the Totten piece. Actually this is part 2. I managed to wade all the way through part 1, but just couldn't do it for part 2. Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbs, etc., just don't grab my attention like his posts from Israel and Iraq. I'm not sure why because I think they're equally god-forsaken lands and people. Totten has spoken very glowingly of Lebanon and now he's praising Belgrade which makes me wonder (a lot) about his notion of a good time and fun people to be around.

The one story in this piece that did stick with me was the one about Tito's general and not holding grudges. I can't wrap my mind around that attitude, although I guess if you're going to go in for generations of genocide, it's probably a healthy way of looking at the world.

6/10/2008 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Yet another example of the broadest pattern:

When confronted with radical Islam, moderate Islam rejects it out of hand.

I wonder what the Bosnian would make of the people on this blog who insist the Wahabis are correct?

6/10/2008 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Maybe the real threat to multiculturalism are the demagogues who see identity politics as the road to power, even if that process involves the destruction of the larger polity. Under the color of multiculturalism, the ship of separatism steams majestically on.
//////////////
This also true of american multiculturalists.

6/10/2008 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger deepinjuncountry said...

Totten writes about Goli Otok Tito's mini-Devil's Island in the Adriatic. Naked Island happens to be another small isle I've been to. Hellish place, nothing but rocks, rocks and more rocks. I disembarked in the same inlet that they used to unload prisoners (no dock, at least now). There's a huge hill where the guards forced newcomers to climb through a gauntlet of prisoners beating them with sticks, rocks, whatever. I climbed that hill unmolested and can't imagine how anyone survived. Many didn't.

I also watched a short propaganda film about Tito in his private outdoor theater. All in all, a surreal experience.

I'll spare you the details of my trip, but would like to note that I was told at the time (2004) that the national song was "Don't worry, be happy", in an effort to lighten the trauma from the previous 15 years. Slightly Kafkaesque.

6/10/2008 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

McDaddyo -- more like a few exceptions, briefly prove the rule.

Indonesia has outlawed a "moderate" Muslim group under pressure from "mainstream" Islamists. European Muslims face violence to adhere to Islamist ideals, and submit willingly for the most part, the young especially. Turkey is becoming more and more Islamist, as is Egypt, and of course nuclear Pakistan.

In Pakistan for example, Christian churches are regularly burned, usually with parishoners inside, and Shia and Sunni attack each other with regularity. AK-47's are preferred.

Bosniaks have every reason to present a peaceful, "moderate" face to preserve the Western NATO/US shield against Serbia and the Russian patrons. You will find a different example in Islamist Albania however.

Violence always beats non-Violence, if the violent are sufficiently determined. Neither the British after 1945 nor suburbs-bound whites in the South post 1965 cared enough to fight the largely non-violent movements of Ghandi and King. However, when faced with determined violence and no way to fight back, people surrender.

6/11/2008 12:22:00 AM  
Blogger Charles Crawford said...

Not so simple. I visited Bosnia frequently as a Belgrade=based British diplomat in the mid-1980s. See my take on this post here: http://charlescrawford.biz/blog.php?single=292

6/11/2008 05:33:00 AM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

Context, whiskey, context:

Muslim Sect Told to Return to Mainstream Islam

Hard-liners have attacked Ahmadiyah members and torched their mosques since the government said in April it was considering banning the faith. Several dozen religious tolerance activists were beaten at a rally in Jakarta just over a week ago while police stood by.

A spokesman for the radical Islamic Defenders' Front — which has a long record of arson, stoning and vandalism against opponents and Western targets — said the decree falls short of its demands.

"It is not enough. We will keep up the struggle until the president orders the disbandment of Ahmadiyah," he said in a telephone interview.

Earlier Monday, several thousands protesters wearing white Islamic robes and caps gathered outside the presidential palace to demand that the organization be outlawed.


Indonesia is a moderate Islamic nation -- and the largest Islamic nation -- and they are fighting the good fight to keep the radicals in check.

That has to be done delicately, for obvious reasons. At least acknowledge the challenge they are confronting. I think they're doing a fairly good job -- they surely fall far short of what I would like but that can't be the standard when modernity is defecating on so much of what they hold dear (just as it is in our country).

Dinesh D'Souza, ridiculed on the left and right in America for his book "The Enemy at Home," was absolutely correct on this point.

We have to help the great middle in Islam, from a position of respecting their faith, deal with their death cults.

6/11/2008 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger always right said...

Under the color of multiculturalism, the ship of separatism steams majestically on.

How true. If only more people can see through that exploitation scheme.

6/11/2008 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger Insufficiently Sensitive said...

If I remember correctly, Bosnia didn't have a multicultural problem. It came from elsewhere, Belgrade.

In the short term, that's sort of true. And there's an example from not too much earlier, 1941, which reinforces the point: Germany jumped into the Yugoslav stew on the side of the Croatians, or specifically on the side of Ante Pavelic's authoritarian regime. That time, the targets were Serbs and Gypsies, and thousands died clearing the way in favor of Pavelic power in Croatian or contested areas.

1941 and 1989 illuminate a principle: that a 'multicultural' regime of 'Brotherhood and Unity' (the Yugoslav principle) is frighteningly vulnerable to the influence of an outsider owning enough power to tip the balance in favor of one internal faction against the other. It only takes a few massacres against tribe B before its members develop the practical notion that we better get those tribe A neighbors before they get us. Then the whole lovey-dovey 'community' goes up in suspicion and fear and smoke and flames.

A lesson we ourselves might learn, facing the PC notion that a 'salad bowl' is oh so superior to a melting pot.

Tito did restore brotherhood and unity at the end of the war. His outside support had come from Russia and England and their allies. First he 'got even' with the Croatians through some fearsome slaughters (a claim that during the war you had been Domobrans, home guard, instead of Ustasha, the murderous activists, was no defense), and to drive home his point strung up from poles many formerly prominent citizens who gave him the least suspicion that they'd support the return of the King, or oppose his Communist government. After the deaths of about 300,000, and the secretive use of the Goli Otok punishment camp, the country was beaten into submission and King Tito had a fairly successful run at presiding over enforced brotherhood and unity.

Only he failed to provide for a workable succession in the government, and it was left wide open for the first thug to figure out how to demagogue up enough support. In this case Milosevic.

6/11/2008 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

"the people on this blog who insist the Wahabis are correct"

Sorry for violating DNFTT, but: this is a null set, so neither the Bosnians nor anyone else will think anything at all about them.

What we do encounter, here and elsewhere, are people who insist the Wahabis are powerful, and in the ascendency. That's a completely different proposition, though admittedly it doesn't offer the same room for trollery.

6/11/2008 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Michael T said...

Nahncee: Totten has spoken very glowingly of Lebanon and now he's praising Belgrade which makes me wonder (a lot) about his notion of a good time and fun people to be around.

I laughed out loud at this. I might be offended, but most of my friends and family agree with you. All I can say is that these places aren't as bad as they look from far away. Travel magazines also give these places high marks, so I'm not crazy.

Iraq is different. It really is just as difficult (impossible, actually) to have a good time there as you would expect.

Michael J. Totten

6/11/2008 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Michael T said...

whiskey_199: Bosniaks have every reason to present a peaceful, "moderate" face to preserve the Western NATO/US shield against Serbia and the Russian patrons. You will find a different example in Islamist Albania however.

Whoah, you've obviously never been to Albania. First of all, Albania is 40 percent Christian. But in truth, it's majority atheist.

6/11/2008 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

Nahncee,

"Totten has spoken very glowingly of Lebanon and now he's praising Belgrade"

Uh, yeah--in the very same article where he talks about how bad off Lebanon is going to be, and how he's glad he's not living in Beirut at the moment! You see, there's this thing called time, and sometimes some of its aspects, such as before and after, actually matter.

6/11/2008 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Lilith said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/11/2008 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Lilith said...

Under the color of multiculturalism, the ship of separatism steams majestically on.

If you have nothing more than an opinion, you can make any similar claim. I could sit here and say:

"Under the color of environmentalism, the ship of mega development steams majestically on"

"Under the color of progressive populism, the ship of Rubenomics steams majestically on"

"Under the color of campaign finance reform, the K Street Lobbyist ship steams majestically on"

It all sounds very clever, but it's devoid of content. You equivocate on the word "multicultural", substituting it for "tribal", and you can buy your way because of the negative connotations of the word. Multiculturalism is the new communism. But it all boils down to realpolitik in the end. We fought to divide the artificial construct of Yugoslavia, and we fight to unite the artificial construct of Iraq.

6/11/2008 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Wim Roffel said...

I have to disagree with El Jefe Maximo.

The allocation of Sudetenland to Czechia and the allocation of Gdansk to Poland were major errors in the Versailles Treaty as both had an overwhelmingly German population. I consider those allocations crimes that destabilised the region. But at the same time Silesia was peacefully partitioned according to ethnic composition of the population and some plebecites were held for that.

Left to itself the majorities in both sides of the new border would have grown larger over time and one would have ended in the end with nearly mono-ethnic regions. Multi-lingual societies have it difficult in the modern world. But that would have been a peaceful process that took many generations.

Czecheslovakia similarly peacefully partitioned along ethnic lines in 1992 (those were not the existing internal borders).

The main problem with ethnic complex countries is that it is easy for outsiders to set up the groups against each other. There are always some little grudges that you can build upon. The Habsburg Empire fell apart after their adversaries in World War I had found it a useful war strategy to support secessionists. Western support for the secessionists from Yugoslavia that ignored the fate of the Serb populations there was the main destabilising factor that brought the wars.

6/13/2008 04:39:00 AM  
Blogger j- said...

* NahnCee said...
j- he's not being cute. It's called "irony" to make a point in literate locales. And what you're being is a short-sighted egocentric with not enough imagination to be anything except close-as-dirt literate.

Bet you don't have any sense of humor either.*

I'm sorry, but I don't feel as though there's much to laugh at these days.

As for my short-sighted egocentrism, yep, boy you sure know me inside and out. Must have been all those years you and I spent together, huh?

6/13/2008 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Wim is correct that forcing the German Sudetenland to be under the Czechs was a mistake.

But when he says: "Czecheslovakia similarly peacefully partitioned along ethnic lines in 1992 (those were not the existing internal borders)." He's wrong.

Part of the Prague Spring, with Slovak President Dubcak trying to create "communism with a human face", was the change from CSSR to CSSFR, Czechoslovak Socialist Federal Republic, with a Czech and Slovak border. That became the border after the 1992 election.

The 5 mil. Slovaks wanted the Slovak Republic to be equal in Federal power to the 10 mil. Czechs, as well as a hyphen-- Czecho-Slovakia! Neither side "wanted to split", but the majority Czechs refused equality of republics, and the minority Slovaks refused a subordinate position.

I think these refusals are always present in any multicultural mix, but especially focused upon when gov't spoils are big -- they're much less important when gov't is less important.

And the revived post-communist nationalism was a simple way for Ex-Communists to get back into leadership/ popular positions.

(Former Advisor to the Slovak Prime Minister, dissident Jan Carnogursky, 1991-1992; lost election to ex-commie semi-nationalist V. Meciar.)

6/14/2008 07:40:00 PM  

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