Yugoslavia in Retrospect

By Drnovsek, Janez | Harvard International Review, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Yugoslavia in Retrospect


Drnovsek, Janez, Harvard International Review


Lessons from the War

By now, it is almost a truism to say that, during the 1990s, developments in Europe and the world were significantly influenced by the Balkans--more precisely, by the Yugoslav wars. These corrosive crises not only tested but also forced a rethinking of Western security policies in the post-Cold War era. Attempts to resolve the crises led to many misjudgments and mistakes, but also to some positive achievements.

One of the most important questions that has lingered concerns the ability of the international community to have prevented the Yugoslav conflicts. Could some combination of decisive moves have averted these wars, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives? A close examination of the conflict reveals that while a window of opportunity existed for the international community to take action, the likelihood of its actually doing so was slim.

Caught off Guard

From 1989 to 1990 the attention of the West was largely focused on an immense drama unfolding within the Soviet Union and its satellite states, a system that was quite literally coming apart. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the communist Warsaw Pact regimes absorbed most of the policy-making abilities and political energies of the Western democracies. At the same time, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in late 1990 sapped the political energy and attention of the West even further. Against this background, Yugoslavia was largely ignored. Although some warned of the possibility of civil war--most notably the US Central Intelligence Agency--the demise of Soviet power and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait eliminated the opportunity for Western politicians to seriously contemplate the consequences of a Yugoslav implosion, let alone the need for preventive actions.

Of course, some lip service was paid to the conflict: for example, the West called for the territorial integrity and further democratization of the Yugoslav Republic. Although the Yugoslav Federation was an artificial formation, encompassing nations with very different cultures and historical experiences, its dissolution was obviously not a very convenient or desirable option within the context of rigid, post-Cold War European structures.

With other international distractions going on, the West accepted the so-called defenders of the territorial integrity of the Yugoslav federation. The most outspoken defender was Slobodan Milosevic. It took many years before the West finally realized that Milosevic's rhetoric about Yugoslav unity strategically cloaked the real nature of the Serbian regime and its true objectives. Thus, for many years, Slovenes and Croats heard accusations that their secession from the Republic had ignited the Yugoslav wars.

The truth is just the opposite. If there was any chance at all to prevent the Yugoslav wars (a slim prospect indeed), it would have been by checking the aggressive nationalistic policies of the Milosevic regime early on or by preventing his military machine from going into action under the pretext of defending Yugoslavia. In reality, Milosevic was attempting to create a Greater Serbia, and many people died before that attempt ultimately failed.

1989: A Turning Point

I happened to be the president of the Yugoslav Presidency from May 1989 through May 1990--a year critical to the future of Tito's socialist Yugoslavia. In my many meetings with Western leaders during this period, I warned of the real possibility of civil war. An impending collision between the forces of aggressive nationalism and peaceful democratization was clearly imminent. Despite these warnings, few expected a credible response from the West. Since Yugoslavia was at that time a sovereign state with fully functioning federal institutions, it would have been unrealistic to hope for some kind of external intervention to stop Milosevic. What was desired, however, was something less tangible, but potentially just as critical: publicly stated political and moral support from the Western powers backing our endeavors to democratize the country. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Yugoslavia in Retrospect
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.