Genocide in Bosnia: The Policy of "Ethnic Cleansing"

By Norman Cigar | Go to book overview
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2. The Historical Context
Analytical Tool or Straitjacket?

History has provided a powerful, and often determining, reference point for dealing with the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. Commonly, observers have promoted the view that the conflict is little more than a continuation of endemic communal strife in the area, and that history has been the principal, if not exclusive, genesis of today's events. Typically, one analyst commented that the situation consisted "only [of] rekindled generations of hatred and atrocities the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims have inflicted on each other since the beginning of history.1 Even scholars have often adopted this framework for analysis, with one concluding that "today's horrors are woven from strands of nothing less than the entire tapestry of history since the sixth century Slavic invasion of the Balkans." As a solution, based on this emphasis on historical causality, he proposed a fanciful academic healing mechanism, consisting of the "establishment of a unique, continuous conference of Serbian, Croatian, Muslim, and other historians," with the vital mediation of "Western experts."2

Of perhaps greater import is that many influential civilian and military decision makers also accepted this historicist paradigm, and by doing so, they contributed to shaping their approach as if dealing with a millennium of unremitting ethnic strife. Those who used this premise as a starting point included most of the top civilian policy makers in the West, as well as many military leaders involved in the problem. Once the European Union's mediator, Lord David Owen, had this assumption fixed in his mind, it remained his overriding paradigm. Asked even in mid-1994 why finding a solution in

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