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Kosovo Crossing [Paperback]

David Fromkin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Jun 2002
This is a short, sharply focused explanation of what happened in Kosovo in the 1990s, in which David Fromkin clarifies the military situation, what America's role is and what is at stake for America and her allies. In this provocative analysis, Fromkin argues that American leaders must recognize the limits of military power and avoid engagements with adversaries willing to sacrifice their own countrymen in the name of ethnic cleansing. This book presents America's intervention in Kosovo as a case study in the realities of war today and their implications for the future.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (17 Jun 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684869535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684869537
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,967,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Dusko Doder "The Boston Globe" An elegant and provocative book.

About the Author

David Fromkin is a University Professor and the Frederick S. Pardee Professor at Boston University and is the author of several books on global history, including A Peace to end all Peace, in the Time of the Americans, and The Way of the World. He lives in New York City.

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IN THE SPRING of 1936, a middle-aged British writer boarded a train in Vienna and set off on a journey to the Balkans. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Only a few questions posed, without any answers 8 April 2000
By A Customer
The best thing to say about the book is that it is a reasonably dispassionate review of ancient and modern history of the territory proximate to Kosovo.
Unfortunately, the negative aspects far outweigh the positive. David Fromkin poses many of the questions which have arisen as a result of the Kosovo War, but his answers/opinions are conspicuously missing. Further, he falls into several well established traps. He feels the need to delve into ancient history (Serbian Empire of the 13/14th Century)without any great relevance to the present day. Meanwhile, 20th Century events are afforded only equal prominence, even if they are bound to have much greater significance in explaining or analysing recent events.
So many of the propagandist misconceptions or missinformation goes unquestioned it becomes difficult to treat the book with much seriousness. The war being fought to roll back massive ethnic cleansing is but one example (that followed the bombing, so it could not have been the reason for it). The unquestioned altuism in American Foreign policy is another. The external sponsorship of the KLA is not even mentioned (how can anyone claim to be acting out of altruism, when they, or their close allies are instigators or sponsors of the problems). Tito's motivation for an autonomous Kosovo (whose interests were being served and why). The ineffective functioning/ destructiveness of Kosovo within Yugoslavia prior to 1989 (political and constitutional gridlock). The ethnic mix of the new countries arising from the former Yugoslavia (why is Serbia the only multiethnic state). All these and many other issues are not addressed by the book.
Anyone wishing to have a brief introduction to the region may choose this text as just that, but noone can possibly claim to have developed a meaningful or deep insight as a result of reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THOUGHTFUL AND TIMELY 3 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Must reading for the student of International Affairs and American Foreign Policy who wants a sober and disciplined analysis. All Presidential candidates and their foreign policy advisors should read this book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Idealism meets Reality 19 Aug 2010
By Mem
This book looks at the situation in Kosovo and other numerous places were there is a strong Nationalist feeling for people's who want their own states or who want to break away and join their mother countries and America's difficult role in trying on one hand to keep the peace and on another to satisfy people's rights for their own states using the example of Kosovo, which wants to join with Albania to make a single Albanian state or the situation in Iraq during the Gulf war or the 2003 invasion in which the Kurds, Sunni and Shia who all want their own countries as opposed to America who wants to keep Iraq as one and not let it deteriate like Yugoslavia and much more. It also examines America's economic position and how politics effects this causing much difficulty as America inheriated global power where European Imperialism and the fall of Communism left off and trying do deal with the side effects of these past events such as bad Nation building and keep peace and order with enormous pressure on it's shoulders by trying to tackle these problems whilst trying to satisfy everyone. A good read for anyone wanting to understand many of the world's conflicts and America's role today and may be it's future.
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Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Ideology and Reality of American Intervention 3 Dec 2004
By Omer Belsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What would a book with the title "Kosovo Crossing: American Ideals Meet Reality in the Balkan Battlefield" be about? You may think it will be about the 1999 Kosovo war and its aftermath - I certainly did. But you will be, as I was, mistaken.

The first one hundred pages of 'Kosovo Crossing' are a discussion of American foreign policy from Theodore Roosevelt to George Bush sr., with an emphasis about military intervention abroad.

The next 50 pages are a history of the Balkan, from Roman times and up to the end of Tito's regime, with a special focus on the Post WW1 era. It is a topic author David Fromkin clearly knows much about, as the author of the brilliant study of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East.

But it is not the Kosovo war, nor really its near history - that would only come in the last 50 pages, and even then, the discussion is less about the Kosovo war then about the power and limitation of American Interventions. It is telling when the line "Kosovo is a province of 4,200 square miles in southern Serbia, slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut" appears on page 158!

The two books of Fromkin I have previously read included the brilliant, carefully research and wonderfully written 'A Peace to End All Peace', an all time classic about the fall of the Ottoman Empire and its aftermath, and 'The Way of the World', a well written but unspectacular outline of human history. Unfortunately, Kosovo Crossing is much more like the latter then the former - indeed, it does not even reach the highlights of 'The Way of the World'.

That is not, however, for the lack of clear writing. Fromkin should serve as a model for most historians and columnists. See his description of the rational of American Interventions:

'It was FDR, and not John Donne, who was vindicated by history. "Any man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind", wrote the seventeenth century poet, and while it is true that sometimes another person's dying is like a bit of one's self dying, too, it isn't always like that. Most of the times it makes good sense to ask for whom the bell tolls.' (p. 167)

The bulk of Fromkin's book is calling against humanitarian interventions. Fromkin believes that America should intervene only when its vital interests are at risk (pp. 168-169). Fromkin is not sanguine about the suffering of the Albanians who have gone through "ethnic cleansing", but his solution is bizarre; Fromkin argues that the US and the EU should allow the refugees to settle in them. (pp. 182-182).

There are two immediate problems with this idea:

First, it is a political impossibility; As Peter Novick argues in The Holocaust in American Life, political obstacles are no less real then technical ones; No matter how high spirited or moral a President of the United States will be, accepting millions of refugees is bound to be beyond his powers.
Second, and no less important, is that this will of course only encourage ethnic cleansing - indeed, might paradoxically lead to a moral case in favor of ethnic cleansing! Indeed, why must Palestinian refugees live in poverty in Israel, Lebanon and Jordan? Why not send them to America? Indiscriminate acceptance of refugees is bound to make the world more hospitable to war, massacres and ethnic cleansing.

The Palestinian example reminds us of an even more basic fallacy in Fromkin's account: Ethnic cleansing does not always solve ethnic conflicts, despite his claim that "If the US and NATO had not intervened, the Serbs would have settled the Kosovo issue, by ethnic cleansing. The Kosovars would have been pushed into Albania and forcibly reunited with their own people. Kosovo would be owned and inhibited exclusively by Serbs. Monstrous though it would have been to let the Milosevic regime profit from its crimes, it would all be over." (p. 190). I'm afraid that I don't necessarily share Dr. Fromkin's belief in the assured success of ethnic cleansing.

As a book about American intervention in the world, Kosovo Crossing has been rendered somewhat obsolete by 9/11. His skepticism about NATO's role in Kosovo also looks, five years down the road, at least partially overstated. In comparison with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kosovo looks like the very model of American interventions.

David Fromkin wrote an interesting and well written book. At 5.99 U$, it is truly a catch. But I do wish that Fromkin's pen will turn again to something more ambitious.
4.0 out of 5 stars A deep map in time and space of American foreign policy 6 Sep 2004
By Stacey M Jones - Published on Amazon.com
I have just finished historian David Fromkin's Kosovo Crossing: The Reality of American Intervention in the Balkans. I've long been interested in Balkan history, particularly since reading Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon in 1996.

So, I was pleased when this book began with a focus on West's book, her time in Yugoslavia before World War II, and the genuine attachment others who study and/or love this region have for her work and thoughts on the Balkans. Quoting Robert D. Kaplan, author of another well-known work on the region, Balkan Ghosts, Fromkin illustrates the influence West's work has had on writers following in her footsteps, when he writes that he would have rather lost his passport and his money than his copy of Black Lamb.

While all of West's information and her work on the subject is no longer accepted today, Fromkin's respect for this book that has so influenced me attracted to me to his work, and kept me very engaged in the few days it took me to read this 196-page book, which is really an extended essay on the ways in which World War I shaped the twentieth century in Europe, and how President Woodrow Wilson's response to "the Great War" has continued to shape American foreign policy in that same time period.

Copyrighted in 1999, this work does not report a resolution on Kosovo. (In the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the Serbs initiated ethnic cleansing techniques to rid the Kosovo province of its majority of ethnic Albanians - of 2,000,000 residents of the region, only 200,000 were not ethnic Albanians.) But by the end of the book, this seemed secondary to the points raised and argued by Fromkin, and the reality of the situation today supports Fromkin's thesis. (The region is still being administered by the United Nations, or that human rights organizations are calling for continuing protection.)

In the line of this book, Kosovo (or Kosova, to its Albanian residents) is the latest iteration of Wilsonian foreign policy. The book begins with a retelling of West's experiences at Kosovo Polje (Field of the Blackbirds), at which she saw a sacrifice of a lamb by a father in thanks for the birth of his daughter. This place matters so much to the Serbs because it is the (mythical?) site of the 1389 decisive battle in which the Serbian leader, Tsar Lazar, bargained with heaven that he would lose the battle with the Ottomans and gain eternity in heaven. Such a sacrifice grated on West, who was looking in the late 1930s at another great war on the Continent. The lamb's sacrifice and Lazar's, whose personal aggrandizement for eternity left the Balkan peninsula submerged under Ottoman rule for nearly as long, was just wrong to West. She rejected the idea of sacrifice as necessary for good categorically.

And West wondered, pondering Kosovo, why the people who were good were reluctant to use their power to effect good in the world, while those willing to use power, rarely had good intentions. She wondered why the right would not impose their rightness through the use of their power.

Through his discussion of the twentieth century in Europe and America, including discussions of Vietnam, Iraq I and Korea, Fromkin frames his ideas under the Wilsonian doctrine of preserving existing national boundaries (even at the cost, it would seem, of his other overarching concept, self-determination for nations). My reading of Fromkin leads me to believe that George H.W. Bush didn't push on to Baghdad as part of this belief of preserving national boundaries, and using force to defend either the vital interests of the nation or the existing boundaries of another country. This seemed to structure the Americans' response in Korea, as well. The problem, Fromkin states, with this is that not only do you have to leave troops there to defend the borders once you fight to reinstate them, but also you end up subverting the natural flow of history by propping up nations who cannot do the thing that all self-sustaining nations do, which is protect their identity and boundaries successfully. (In Kosovo, a foreign power could conceivably have found itself fighting both sides of a civil war by disagreeing with the Kosovars about independence and disagreeing with the Serbs about allowing the Albanian Kosovars to live there.)

Studying the Balkans has taught me how fluid national boundaries are in our world, and that the region is a fascinating illustration of the forces of European politics and power in microcosm. Fromkin seems to share this view. But in his examination of what the answer to the Kosovo ethnic cleansing crisis might have been was where we parted ways, though I was absolutely enamored of his study of the century and the political realities and ideologies that shaped our responses to foreign aggression since World War I.

Fromkin writes that it is possible that if there had been no intervention, the Serbs would have banished and murdered the Kosovar Albanians, and though horrible, the issue would have been settled and "it would all be over."

Fromkin apparently advocates a "Red Cross" approach to human catastrophes, including genocide, by praising the organization for not taking sides, caring for the needy, resettling them where they are allowed to go (instead of where force has disallowed them). While he found Americans willing to send million-dollar bombs to crush $10,000 Serb tanks, he found them less willing to help individual Kosovar families. He says that it is "morally inconsistent" to use force on humanitarian grounds but not allow Kosovars to settle in our neighborhoods when what they most need is a place to live freely. However, I think, to stand aside and watch while a government machine displaces 90 percent of a region's long-time population through systematic murder and rape, is not humanitarian either. While I don't think Fromkin's solution would be successful in the world (it wouldn't be "over," would it?), he successfully illustrates a dark side of the problem, that we are more willing to use force for goodness than goodness for goodness. We are asserting our power for good, but we are not being really good doing it.

This book is a useful tool to understanding U.S. foreign policy around the globe, not just in Kosovo, and it is more about the twentieth century iterations of that policy (and its birth) than about Kosovo alone. I recommend it.
11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid 3 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Kososvo Crossing was a cursory and listless stroll throughthree thousand years of history. The two hundred and two pagesrestrict the depth and understanding of the topics brushed upon. The book lists historical events and assumes political and moral positions with minimal substantiation. The position that the "population deportations of 1913-23, and in the population deportations in Eastern and Central Europe ordained by the Allies after WWII...These were tragedies on a massive scale: in terms of numbers, greater than Kosovo...Yet the point is it worked. It settled the issue." (pg. 190), along with " ...the Serbs would have settled the Kosovo issue, by ethnic cleansing." ( ibid.) betrays a dangerous simplicity that permeates the book.
2.0 out of 5 stars Tea and sympathy against atrocity? 4 April 2013
By A. M. Apostolou - Published on Amazon.com
A triumph of rapid writing and publishing, Fromkin's instant book on the Kosovo war was rapidly dated and was always simplistic. Fromkin decides that U.S. engagement in Yugoslavia was a matter of choice, which is original, but wrong. According to Fromkin, the US should go to war only to "defend its vital interests," an easy formulation that crumbles on closer examination. Indefensible and illogical is Fromkin's conclusion that the US should not attempt to reverse or stop ethnic cleansing, rather it should deliver relief and rehouse the refugees, thereby implicitly approving population expulsions. Simply handing out tea and sympathy on the external borders of the former Yugoslavia to hundreds of thousands of Albanians expelled by the Serbs may sound good, but it was never a serious policy option. Indeed, to have adopted Fromkin's approach would have been to encourage Milosevic to step up the level of brutality. In many ways this book is an object lesson in how not to formulate foreign policy. Ideas that pass muster in the seminar room, or which make a stir on the op-ed pages, look woefully poor when they meet the reality of wily Balkan thugs. A clearly defined foreign policy doctrine may possess academic rigour, but in practice it allows an opponent like Milosevic to identify the limits of US policy and test them remorselessly, which he did for most of the 1990s.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional analysis of the Balkans and U.S. foreign policy. 1 Jan 2000
By Mio - Published on Amazon.com
Fromkin presents a very lucid portrayal of the vast history of the Balkans and its impact on contemporary political policies in the United States. He masterfully draws parallels between our involvement in Kosovo and our presence in Korea, Kuwait, Somalia, and other areas around the globe. Perhaps the most poignant point made by Fromkin is that too often we have failed to learn from foreign policy mistakes of the past. Indeed, these mistakes continue to haunt us today and frequently lead to continued poor decision making from our leaders. A must read for those interested in foreign policy and those who seek a deeper understanding of the turmoil in the Balkans.
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