Balkanism

Bosnian Muslims are also objects of a dehumanizing discourse about Balkan peoples which portrays Bosnians as Balkan tribal haters outside the realm of reason and civilization.

"They have been killing each other with a certain amount of glee in that part of the world for some time now," asserted former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger in July 1995 just after the betrayal of Srebrenica.[19] The phrase "in that part of the world" provides to the domestic audience an immediate, nongeographical excuse to feel alienation: these people are not our concern because they are "other," "foreign," "different." In view of the domestic audience's deep-seated (though not always admitted) prejudices against non-Christians in general and Muslims specifically, vague references to "that part of the world" tap into both anti-Balkan and anti-Islamic sentiments.

"Ancient Balkan hatreds" has become a standard cliché in debate on Bosnia. The Balkans are historically and geographically too close to the Orient (read Islam) to be a true part of Europe, we are told. The 1992 book by Robert Kaplan, Balkan Ghosts , referred to the border with Turkey as Europe's "rear door."[20] The

book popularized the caricature of Balkan peoples as locked in unending hate and revenge.

Balkanism is the distorted depiction of the people of southeastern Europe as barbaric with the implication that violence, even genocide, is inevitable there and part of the local culture. Balkanist comments were pervasive after the revelations of the horrors of Omarska in August 1992. Western officials had been holding back news of such camps.[21] The press revelations caught the major players off guard. Western leaders came under pressure by the press and public to liberate the killing camps. During this period, all the major figures of the foreign-policy team of U.S. President George Bush repeated Balkanist stereotypes.^2^

One stereotype was the superhuman Serb warrior. In World War II Serbs had tied down many Nazi divisions, we were told by Pentagon planners and by experts at military think tanks. No effort was made to distinguish between the anti-Nazi fighters of World War II, who were a multiethnic and multireligious group, and the Serb militias of fifty years later. Ignored also was the decidedly unheroic behavior of the Serb military in 1992: attacks with massive heavy weaponry against lightly defended villages and retreats when faced with serious military confrontation.

Public comments from the U.S. Defense Department also violated a key military principle: Never tell an aggressor what you may and may not do. Even if you are not going to act, never let an aggressor know what to expect. The comments from the Pentagon on the uselessness of air power to deter genocide and on the impossibility of stopping it with anything less than massive casualties were a signal that the U.S. and the NATO _powers would not respond, no matter how heinous the assault—a "green light" for further genocide.[ ]

In September 1995, the NATO powers tried air strikes. After three weeks of very selective bombing, the siege of Sarajevo was broken and NATO became concerned that further strikes would utterly destroy the Serb army in Bosnia. For three years, experts had declared the Serb army to be invincible and impervious to air power. After three weeks of air strikes, NATO feared that the same Serb army would collapse, causing a "destabilizing" shift in the balance of power.[24]

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