The Yugoslav Wars were a series of separate but related ethnic conflicts, wars of independence, and insurgencies fought in the former Yugoslavia (present day: Kosovo, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina) from 1991 to 2001, which led to the breakup of the Yugoslav federation in 1992. Its constituent republics declared independence, despite unresolved tensions between ethnic minorities in the new countries, fueling the wars.
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- Unfortunately, for a variety of specific reasons - in Romania, in Bulgaria, in Albania, and in a very different sense, in Yugoslavia - the struggle with the past and the political front is still the dominant reality. It is not the shaping of the future that now determines what is going on. It is the struggle with the past.
- Zbigniew Brzezinski, "On Socio-Political and Economic Change in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe," delivered 21 March 1991, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
- Nationalism’s gravitational pull made extremists even of politicians who cared little for the nation. The seemingly urbane international banker and technocrat Slobodan Milošević or the idiosyncratic scientist Radovan Karadžić—both later convicted war criminals—are well-known cases. In Srebrenica, far beyond the headlines, people of different ethnicities had lived harmoniously for generations, but in the early 1990s, moderate politicians were gradually pushed aside by hardliners from their own parties.
- John Connelly, From Peoples to Nations: A History of Eastern Europe (2020), p. 795
- We might add now that we do have an authoritative account of why the United States bombed Serbia in 1999. It comes from Strobe Talbott, now the director of the Brookings Institution, but in 1999 he was in charge of the State Department-Pentagon team that supervised the diplomacy in the affair. He wrote the introduction to a recent book by his Director of Communications, John Norris, which presents the position of the Clinton administration at the time of the bombing. Norris writes that "it was Yugoslavia's resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform - not the plight of Kosovar Albanians - that best explains NATO's war". In brief, they were resisting absorption into the U.S. dominated international socioeconomic system. Talbott adds that thanks to John Norris, anyone interested in the war in Kosovo "will know … how events looked and felt at the time to those of us who were involved" in the war, actually directing it. This authoritative explanation will come as no surprise at all to students of international affairs who are more interested in fact than rhetoric. And it will also come as no surprise, to those familiar with intellectual life, that the attack continues to be hailed as a grand achievement of humanitarian intervention, despite massive Western documentation to the contrary, and now an explicit denial at the highest level; which will change nothing, it's not the way intellectual life works.
- We stood with those taking risks for peace: in Northern Ireland, where Catholic and Protestant children now tell their parents violence must never return; in the Middle East, where Arabs and Jews who once seemed destined to fight forever now share knowledge and resources and even dreams. And we stood up for peace in Bosnia. Remember the skeletal prisoners, the mass graves, the campaign to rape and torture, the endless lines of refugees, the threat of a spreading war. All these threats, all these horrors have now begun to give way to the promise of peace. Now our troops and a strong NATO, together with our new partners from central Europe and elsewhere, are helping that peace to take hold. As all of you know, I was just there with a bipartisan congressional group, and I was so proud not only of what our troops were doing but of the pride they evidenced in what they were doing. They knew what America's mission in this world is, and they were proud to be carrying it out.
- We should be proud of our role in bringing the Middle East closer to a lasting peace, building peace in Northern Ireland, working for peace in East Timor and Africa, promoting reconciliation between Greece and Turkey and in Cyprus, working to defuse these crises between India and Pakistan, in defending human rights and religious freedom. And we should be proud of the men and women of our Armed Forces and those of our allies who stopped the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, enabling a million people to return to their homes. When Slobodan Milosevic unleashed his terror on Kosovo, Captain John Cherrey was one of the brave airmen who turned the tide. And when another American plane was shot down over Serbia, he flew into the teeth of enemy air defenses to bring his fellow pilot home. Thanks to our Armed Forces' skill and bravery, we prevailed in Kosovo without losing a single American in combat. I want to introduce Captain Cherrey to you. We honor Captain Cherrey, and we promise you, Captain, we'll finish the job you began. Stand up so we can see you.
- In his first Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson warned of entangling alliances. But in our times, America cannot and must not disentangle itself from the world. If we want the world to embody our shared values, then we must assume a shared responsibility. If the wars of the 20th century, especially the recent ones in Kosovo and Bosnia, have taught us anything, it is that we achieve our aims by defending our values and leading the forces of freedom and peace. We must embrace boldly and resolutely that duty to lead—to stand with our allies in word and deed and to put a human face on the global economy, so that expanded trade benefits all peoples in all nations, lifting lives and hopes all across the world.
- Milosevic realized that he could not rule Yugoslavia. Instead, he decided to build a powerful Serbia that would include all Serbs living in the other republics. To that end, he launched a war against Croatia, destroying frontier cities, occupying territory and supporting the large block of Serbs in the Krajina region. The biggest problem was Bosnia, which declared its independence in March 1992. It had a hopelessly mixed population of Serbs, Croatians, and Moslems but Milosevic wanted to dominate it. Rather than sending in the army, he operated behind the scenes by organizing and supplying paramilitary units who embarked on a programme of 'ethnic cleansing', which involved expelling or killing Moslems and establishing concentration camps. Hundreds of thousands fled as the Serbs occupied 70 per cent of the country and mercilessly shelled its capital Sarajevo. The violence culminated in the massacre of 6000 men and boys in the Moslem enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995. The Bosnian war turned the West against the Serbs. The UN imposed an economic blockade, the costs of the war led to hyperinflation, and the Serbian economy faced collapse. Despite constant demonstrations against his policies, and erratic attempts to achieve stability - most notably choosing a rich American Yugoslav as Prime Minister - Milosevic was re-elected in 1992, with the help of vote rigging. He realized it was time to make peace - the situation was growing desperate. By 1995 NATO was backing the Moslems and Croats who pushed the Serbs out of Krajina and much of Bosnia. Milosevic ditched the Bosnian Serbs and went to Dayton in Ohio for discussions that produced an agreement to divide Bosnia among the three communities. He was praised abroad as a peacemaker, but the Serbs saw the agreement as a defeat.
- Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2,500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption (2006), p. 205
- An important and perhaps growing feature of official and strong-interest-group propaganda is the resort to personal attacks and flak to keep dissidents at bay and inconvenient thoughts out of sight and mind. […] We were very conscious of this when studying the Western dismantlement of Yugoslavia, where the Western media quickly fell into line and treated with aggressive condemnation any departures from the accepted truth and de facto party-line.
- Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The Oliver Kamm School of Falsification: Imperial Truth-Enforcement, British Branch”, MR Online, January 22, 2010.
- That war in the early 1990s changed a lot for me. I never thought I would see, in Europe, a full-dress reprise of internment camps, the mass murder of civilians, the reinstitution of torture and rape as acts of policy. And I didn't expect so many of my comrades to be indifferent – or even take the side of the fascists. It was a time when many people on the left were saying 'Don't intervene, we'll only make things worse' or, 'Don't intervene, it might destabilise the region. And I thought – destabilisation of fascist regimes is a good thing. Why should the left care about the stability of undemocratic regimes? Wasn't it a good thing to destabilise the regime of General Franco? It was a time when the left was mostly taking the conservative, status quo position – leave the Balkans alone, leave Milosevic alone, do nothing. And that kind of conservatism can easily mutate into actual support for the aggressors. Weimar-style conservatism can easily mutate into National Socialism. So you had people like Noam Chomsky's co-author Ed Herman go from saying 'Do nothing in the Balkans', to actually supporting Milosevic, the most reactionary force in the region. That's when I began to first find myself on the same side as the neocons. I was signing petitions in favour of action in Bosnia, and I would look down the list of names and I kept finding, there's Richard Perle. There's Paul Wolfowitz. That seemed interesting to me. These people were saying that we had to act. Before, I had avoided them like the plague, especially because of what they said about General Sharon and about Nicaragua. But nobody could say they were interested in oil in the Balkans, or in strategic needs, and the people who tried to say that – like Chomsky – looked ridiculous. So now I was interested.
- Christopher Hitchens, "In enemy territory? An interview with Christopher Hitchens.", Interview with Johann Hari (2004-09-23): On the Bosnian War
- My quarrel with Chomsky goes back to the Balkan wars of the 1990s, where he more or less openly represented the "Serbian Socialist Party" (actually the national-socialist and expansionist dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic) as the victim. Many of us are proud of having helped organize to prevent the slaughter and deportation of Europe's oldest and largest and most tolerant Muslim minority, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo. But at that time, when they were real, Chomsky wasn't apparently interested in Muslim grievances. He only became a voice for that when the Taliban and Al Qaeda needed to be represented in their turn as the victims of a "silent genocide" in Afghanistan. Let me put it like this, if a supposed scholar takes the Christian-Orthodox side when it is the aggressor, and then switches to taking the "Muslim" side when Muslims commit mass murder, I think that there is something very nasty going on. And yes, I don't think it is exaggerated to describe that nastiness as "anti-American" when the power that stops and punishes both aggressions is the United States … In some awful way, his regard for the underdog has mutated into support for mad dogs. This is not at all like watching the implosion of an obvious huckster and jerk like Michael Moore, who would have made a perfectly good Brownshirt populist. The collapse of Chomsky feels to me more like tragedy.
- Common wisdom today has it that Yugoslavia was a doomed experiment. In the 1990s, ill-informed Western journalists reporting on the Yugoslav implosion wars wrote of the “centuries-old conflict between Serbs and Croats" — when the real genesis of Serb-Croat hostility really only reached back to the rise of nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Tomek Jankowski, Eastern Europe!: Everything You Need to Know About the History (and More) of a Region that Shaped Our World and Still Does (2013)
- In fact, many of the old conflicts and tensions remained, frozen into place just under the surface of the Cold War. The end of that great struggle brought a thaw, and long-suppressed dreams and hatreds bubbled to the surface again. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, basing its claims on dubious history. We discovered that it mattered that Serbs and Croats had many historical reasons to fear and hate each other, and that there were peoples within the Soviet Union who had their own proud histories and who wanted their independence. Many of us had to learn who the Serbs and Croats were and where Armenia or Georgia lay on the map. In the words of the title of Misha Glenny’s book on Central Europe, we witnessed the rebirth of history. Of course, as so often happens, some of us went too far the other way and blamed everything that was going wrong in the Balkans in the 1990s, to take one of the most egregious cases, on “age- old hatreds.” That conveniently overlooked the wickedness of Slobodan Milosevic, then the president, and his ilk who were doing their best to destroy Yugoslavia and dismember Bosnia. Such an attitude allowed outside powers to stand by wringing their hands helplessly for far too long.
- Margaret MacMillan, The Uses and Abuses of History (2008)
- The emergence of the strong state went hand in hand with its increasing monopoly over the use of force and violence within its borders. If you refuse to pay taxes, set your neighbour’s house on fire or ignore the summons to do military service, a strong state will lay hands on you and often your property as well and you will be punished and even, sometimes, executed. The peoples of Yugoslavia lived together peacefully if not always happily under Tito’s firm rule because, as a Croat put it, ‘every hundred yards we had a policeman to make sure we loved each other very much’. When Tito died and his Communist Party fell to pieces, the different ethnicities in Yugoslavia, urged on by unscrupulous demagogues, turned on each other. We may see the state as oppression incarnate, but we should think for a moment what it is like to live where there is no state power. The Samoans and the New Guinea highlanders once knew that and the unfortunate people of the failed states of Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan know it today.
- Margaret MacMillan, War: How Conflict Shapes Us (2020)
- On the shelves of the globalized market, the Powers are offering humanity only different versions of the same wrap: they come in all colors, flavors, sizes and shapes. They are for all tastes and all pocket books. There is only one thing that makes them the same, the results. Always destruction, always anguish, always death. And death, anguish, and destruction are always for the other, for the different, for that which is unnecessary, for that which is in the way, for that which is below.
- Subcomandante Marcos, ""No!" To the War in the Balkans" (June 1999).
- Setting his goal as the creation of a ‘Greater Serbia’, Milošević deployed the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) — then the fourth largest army in Europe — against would-be secessionist republics. Meanwhile, Serb separatist forces within such republics were encouraged to rise up. Lacking a large Serb population, Slovenia was allowed by Milosevic, after a ‘ten-day war’, to go its own way after declaring independence in June 1991. Not so with Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina: he was determined that their sizeable Serb minority populations would remain within Yugoslavia. Milosevic loyalists helped carve out Serb autonomous enclaves in each: first Milan Babic in the Serb-dominated Krajina region of Croatia, and then General Ratko Mladić and the psychiatrist-turned-demagogue Radovan Karadžić, within Bosnia. Paramilitary gangs bearing outlandish names — Arkan’s Tigers, the White Eagles, the Chetniks — rampaged through Serb-run Croatia and Bosnia, bringing death and destruction wherever they went. In the process they endowed the lexicon of conflict with a new term, ethnicko cis cenje terena — literally the ‘ethnic cleansing of the earth’, or simply ethnic cleansing.
- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Monsters: History's Most Evil Men and Women (2009), pp. 361-362
- The conflict revealed to the world images it thought it had left behind: emaciated men and women trapped behind barbed wire in concentration camps in the heart of Europe; mass rape; the deliberate shelling of cities such as Vukovar, Sarajevo, Dubrovnik and Mostar; and the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians. Finally, genocide returned to the continent when 8000 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered by Serb forces under General Mladić in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995. The conflict finally ended in 1995, after NATO and Croatian offensives turned the tide decisively against Milošević's forces. Milošević negotiated the Dayton Peace Accords and was allowed to remain in power — even to claim credit as the man who brought peace to the Balkans. It did not last. Having secured the position of president of Yugoslavia (reduced to just Serbia and Montenegro) when his tenure as president of Serbia ended in 1997, he soon embroiled his forces in a new war, this time over the province of Kosovo. An armed uprising there for independence in 1999 met with vicious Serbian repression, and ethnic cleansing once more returned to Europe. This time, though, it prompted a 74-day NATO bombing campaign, ordered by US President Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, which forced Milosevic to back down.
- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Monsters: History's Most Evil Men and Women (2009), pp. 363-364
- Borders are always dictated by the strong, never by the weak.… We simply consider it as a legitimate right and interest of the Serb nation to live in one state. This is the beginning and the end.… If we have to fight, by God we are going to fight. I hope that they will not be so crazy as to fight against us. If we do not know how to work properly or run an economy, at least we know how to fight properly.
- Slobodan Milošević, Remarks at a meeting with Serb leaders (16 March 1991), as quoted in Doder and Branson (1999) ''Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant''
- We must tell our children. But more than that, we must teach them. Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing. In this sense, "never again" is a challenge to us all -- to pause and to look within. For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women. And we have seen it again -- madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself. The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur -- they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human. These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.
- Barack Obama, National Holocaust Memorial Museum Address, delivered 23 April 2012, Washington, D.C.
- The question concerning the role of the state in preserving territorial integrity is raised by the recent events in the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia: why do some multinational states survive the collapse of the authoritarian regime while others do not? Except in Spain, democratization occurred until recently in countries where the integrity of the state was not problematic. The breakup of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia raises a new set of issues because there democratization unleashed movements for national independence; indeed, for some political forces, democratization is synonymous with national self-determination and the breakdown of the multinational state that was maintained by authoritarian rule. Under such conditions, Hobbes's first problem - how to avoid being killed by others - is logically and historically prior to his second problem - how to prevent people within the same community from killing one another.
- Adam Przeworski, Sustainable Democracy (1995), "Introduction".
- What are the problems of the present-day world order? Let us be frank about it, we are all experts here. We talk and talk, we are like diplomats. What happened in the world? There used to be a bipolar system. The Soviet Union collapsed, the power called the Soviet Union ceased to exist. All the rules governing international relations after World War II were designed for a bipolar world. True, the Soviet Union was referred to as "the Upper Volta with missiles." Maybe so, and there were loads of missiles. Besides, we had such brilliant politicians like Nikita Khrushchev, who hammered the desk with his shoe at the UN. And the whole world, primarily the United States, and NATO thought: this Nikita is best left alone, he might just go and fire a missile, they have lots of them, we should better show some respect for them. Now that the Soviet Union is gone, what is the situation and what are the temptations? There is no need to take into account Russia's views, it is very dependent, it has gone through transformation during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and we can do whatever we like, disregarding all rules and regulations. This is exactly what is happening. Dominique here mentioned Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia before that. Was this really all handled within the framework of international law? Do not tell us those fairy-tales.
- Vladimir Putin, Remarks at the Final Plenary Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club's XI Session, delivered 24 October 2014, Sochi, The Russian Federation
- Although there was peaceful abandonment of communism in most states of the former Soviet Union, some terrible exceptions occurred. Russian and Moldovan elites fought for supremacy in Moldova (which had dropped its Soviet name of Moldavia). Tribal and religious rivalries produced a vicious civil war in Tajikistan on the Afghan border. Chechnya rose in revolt against the Russian Federation. A bloody war sputtered on between Armenia and Azerbaijan about the Armenian-inhabited enclave in Karabagh. But it could have been so much worse and most of the countries of the former USSR at least achieved independence without bloodshed. The same was true across the Kremlin’s ‘outer empire’. Eastern Europe’s peoples coped calmly with life after communism without ‘Russian’ interference. There was a political emergency in Czechoslovakia when the Slovaks, after years of resenting the Czechs, demanded the right to secede. But the dispute was resolved. Not a shot was fired as the Czech Republic and Slovakia went their separate ways in January 1993. The great exception was Yugoslavia (which had anyway never submitted to Soviet Imperial control). Conflicts broke out across the borders of many republics after Milošević’s rise to power in Serbia. Ethnic strife convulsed the internal affairs of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Suddenly in mid-1991 Yugoslavia broke apart when Slovenia and Croatia unilaterally declared their independence. Macedonia followed in September 1991, Bosnia-Herzegovina in March 1992. Inflamed by Milošević's speeches, Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina demanded broad self-rule. This was reasonably interpreted by resident Moslems and Croats as the first steps towards annexation by Serbia. The Croatian government under Franjo Tudjman poured finance and arms into Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of its conationals. The whole federal state collapsed in concurrent processes of secessions, civil wars, inter-republican invasions and ethnic expulsions.
- Robert Service, Comrades: A History of World Communism (2009)
- The barbarous violence was brought to an end in 1995 by an agreement signed in Dayton, Ohio; and Milošević was momentarily hailed around the world as a peacemaker. But he had suspended action in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina only because he currently lacked the necessary military power. Kosovo, morever, was another matter and in 1998 he carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing which forced Albanians to flee for their lives over the border into Albania. President Clinton convinced the UN to sanction armed intervention. In March 1999, after Milošević refused to give way, Belgrade suffered relentless NATO bombing from the air. By June he had no alternative but to pull out of Kosovo. Political demonstrations began against him in Belgrade. In the following year he went down to defeat in Serbia’s elections and was ousted from office. In 2001 the Serbian authorities surrendered him for trial as a war criminal at the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague; he died in March 2006 before any verdict was reached. Yugoslavia had long since been dismembered and its communism consigned to the dustbin of history. Nationalism, casting off the light disguise of constitutional federalism, had triumphed – and only to a partial degree did it lead to liberal democracy. The system of political patronage and financial corruption outlived the communist order in the states carved out of Yugoslavia.
- Robert Service, Comrades: A History of World Communism (2009)
- In general, I am an opponent of Pan-Slavism. I do not think that we should be doing anything either in the Balkans or with the Slavs. But the West has now tipped the balance very heavily against Serbia, as if she is to blame for everything. But it's not the Serbs or Croats or Bosnians who are guilty. In Yugoslavia the problems began for the same reason as in the U.S.S.R. The communists--they had Tito, we had Lenin and Stalin--charted out arbitrary, ethnically nonsensical and historically unjustifiable internal administrative boundaries, and for years moved inhabitants from one region to another. And when--also in the period of a few days--Yugoslavia began to fall apart, the leading powers of the West, with inexplicable haste and irresponsibility, rushed to recognize these states within their artificial borders. Therefore, for the exhausting, bloody war which is today convulsing the unfortunate peoples of the former Yugoslavia, the leaders of the Western powers must share the blame with Tito. Now, attempting to somehow correct the very problem they helped to create, they essentially repeat the well-known maxim of Metternich [the backward-looking Hapsburg diplomat who dominated the post-Napoleonic Congress of Vienna in the early 19th century] for the Holy Alliance: "Intervention for the sake of making others healthy." Today the slogan is "Intervention for the sake of humanism." It is an ironic similarity! But intervention is a very dangerous thing. It is not so easy for the great powers to control the world.
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Interview With Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on the New Russia and Ukraine (May 1994), by Paul Klebnikov, in the (9 May 1994), issue of Forbes magazine
- And we successfully were able to deter the Soviet Union and the Cold War ended without any shot being fired, and -- and we started after the end of the Cold War to try to build a partnership with Russia. We enlarged more and more of those countries that were previously members of the Warsaw Pact. They became NATO members. And people started also to ask whether we needed NATO anymore, because the reason why we existed, to confront the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, didn’t exist anymore. But then we soon discovered that it was still a...need, still a reason to keep NATO as a strong alliance, because we saw that we had instability around our borders close to NATO allies, first in the Balkans, where we had a civil war in the 1990’s, or several wars in the 1990’s, and NATO moved into Bosnia and Herzegovina with a big military operation. We...went into Kosovo to preserve, or to...end the war and to preserve the peace and stability in the Balkans. That was, of course, important for our own security because the fighting and the civil war we saw in the Balkans was also a direct threat to NATO allied countries.
- Jens Stoltenberg, Oxford Union Address and Q&A, delivered 24 November 2016, Oxford, United Kingdom
- Conclusion: Military intervention without an attainable purpose creates as many problems as it solves. This was further demonstrated in the former Yugoslavia, where early action to arm the victims of aggression, so that they could defend themselves, would have been far more effective than the United Nations' half-hearted, multilateral intervention. A neutral peacekeeping operation, lightly-armed, in an area where there was no peace to keep, served mainly to consolidate the gains from aggression. Eventually, the United Nations peacekeepers became hostages, used by the aggressor to deter more effective action against him. All in all, a sorry and tragic episode, ended by the Croatian army, NATO air power, and American diplomacy. The combined effect of interventions in Bosnia, Somalia and, indeed, Rwanda has been to shake the self-confidence of key Western powers and to tarnish the reputation of the United Nations. And now a dangerous trend is evident: as the Haiti case shows, the Security Council seems increasingly prepared to widen the legal basis for intervention. We are seeing, in fact, that classically dangerous combination -- a growing disproportion between theoretical claims and practical means.
- Margaret Thatcher, John Findley Foundation Lecture, delivered 9 March 1996, Westminster College, Fulton MO
- The notion of civility does not submit easily to definition. To pardon a phrase, it's sort of a "we know it when we see it" phenomenon. Most of us know when we are treated rudely, disrespectfully, or improperly. We also know in our hearts when we treat others uncivilly. Perhaps with all the problems in the world today, this might not seem very important. In this country, crime and poverty still plague us. In Bosnia, we see the attempted extermination of an entire people. Yet, notions of fair play, civility, and respect for the inherent worth of another person's ideas, are all values that have been vital to the continued success of this country, and essential tools which our leaders must bring to any domestic or international crisis.
- We are on the threshold of a new century, a new millennium. What will the legacy of this vanishing century be? How will it be remembered in the new millennium? Surely it will be judged, and judged severely, in both moral and metaphysical terms. These failures have cast a dark shadow over humanity: two World Wars, countless civil wars, the senseless chain of assassinations (Gandhi, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Sadat, Rabin), bloodbaths in Cambodia and Algeria, India and Pakistan, Ireland and Rwanda, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Sarajevo and Kosovo; the inhumanity in the gulag and the tragedy of Hiroshima. And, on a different level, of course, Auschwitz and Treblinka. So much violence; so much indifference.
- And yet, my friends, good things have also happened in this traumatic century: the defeat of Nazism, the collapse of communism, the rebirth of Israel on its ancestral soil, the demise of apartheid, Israel's peace treaty with Egypt, the peace accord in Ireland. And let us remember the meeting, filled with drama and emotion, between Rabin and Arafat that you, Mr. President, convened in this very place. I was here and I will never forget it. And then, of course, the joint decision of the United States and NATO to intervene in Kosovo and save those victims, those refugees, those who were uprooted by a man, whom I believe that because of his crimes, should be charged with crimes against humanity. But this time, the world was not silent. This time, we do respond. This time, we intervene. Does it mean that we have learned from the past? Does it mean that society has changed? Has the human being become less indifferent and more human? Have we really learned from our experiences? Are we less insensitive to the plight of victims of ethnic cleansing and other forms of injustices in places near and far? Is today's justified intervention in Kosovo, led by you, Mr. President, a lasting warning that never again will the deportation, the terrorization of children and their parents, be allowed anywhere in the world? Will it discourage other dictators in other lands to do the same?
- When I was liberated in 1945, April 11, by the American army, somehow many of us were convinced that at least one lesson will have been learned -- that never again will there be war; that hatred is not an option; that racism is stupid; and the will to conquer other people's minds or territories or aspirations, that will is meaningless. I was so hopeful. Paradoxically, I was so hopeful then. Many of us were, although we had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one's life with dignity in a world that has no place for dignity. We rejected that possibility. And we said, "No, we must continue believing in a future, because the world has learned." But again, the world hasn't. Had the world learned, there would have been no Cambodia and no Rwanda and no Darfur and no Bosnia. Will the world ever learn?
- The specific nature of the Yugoslav crisis was somewhat different. Yugoslavia was not at war, and the system was not in the throes of vast social and institutional transformations on a par with those engineered by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in the 1930s or by the Khmer Rouge in their first months of power. But Yugoslavia did face its own combined domestic and international crisis that rapidly undermined the premises of the existing system. The collapse of communism and the increasing power of globalized capitalism destroyed the Cold War umbrella that had given Yugoslavia its protected and privileged place in the international order. Its economy stagnated and lacked the flexibility to function effectively in the more competitive global markets of the late twentieth century. As the communist system’s ability to provide for its people deteriorated, and the political order became mired in internal conflicts and incompetence, people turned to extreme nationalism for solutions. But the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the transition to violent population politics were not the result of age-old ethnic hatreds, as the popular media and government circles in the West often proclaimed. At a moment of crisis, in large part self-generated, nationalist leaders opted to destroy the system. To accomplish their aims, they mobilized longstanding national sentiments but also drew upon the very character of Yugoslavia as a federation of nationally based republics and as a communist society.
- Eric D. Weitz, A Century of Genocide (2018), pp. 205-206