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As A First Draft of History - Outstanding,
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This review is from: The Fall of Yugoslavia (Paperback)I first found this book confusing and frustrating then absorbing and fascinating as it morphed from derring-do and reportage to geopolitical analysis. I chose it as Glenny was very much "Our Man in the Balkans" from a UK point of view during the chaos and destruction of the meltdown of Yugoslavia in the early nineties. The crisis in Croatia sees Glenny on the ground either soaking up the war stories along with the rakija in some dive of a bar in Knin or risking a bullet blagging his way though a roadblock manned by very jumpy and trigger-happy Serb or Croat irregulars half-way up a mountain. He certainly earned every journalistic award he won. Glenny takes you into the thick of the action and does not spare the detail in his account of the atrocities on all sides. You have to bear with the confusion about the geography and to some extent the dates and timeline in the excitement and the danger. Cautious checking with Wikipedia may help keep some factual grip.
As the war progresses and becomes the multifaceted and destructive battle for shares of Bosnia, Glenny steps back and takes us into the complex diplomatic processes of the European Union and Washington as they meshed (or often failed to) with the post-Tito aspirations of peoples still wounded by the Partizan/Chetnik/Ustashe conflicts of World War II. Glenny demonstrates these political manoeuvres were not mere sideshows but central actions in ratcheting up the tensions and military intervention. His analysis of Germany's premature recognition of Croatia and the EU's failure to agree a comprehensive solution to the Yugoslav problem as the cause of the conflict in Bosnia is utterly convincing. Equally so is his argument that Tudjman's treatment of the Serb minority in Croatia and promotion of the the Bosnian Croats in Western Hercegovina was just as culpable as Milosovic's attempt to salvage a "Greater Serbia" out of the rump of the former Yugoslavia. Glenny is a man of strong opinions, not least about the complicity of Tudjman and Milosovic at Karadjordjevo in 91 and later their proxies in Graz in carving up Bosnia without reference to the majority Bosnian Muslims. He clearly demonstrates Milosovic's final repudiation of his former henchman Radovan Karadzic in Bosnia and the Croatian Serbs in the Krajina as the EU and NATO belatedly upped the pressure of sanctions on Serbia proper. At the end the blood of ethnic cleansing is on everyone's hands but the Bosnian Serbs under Karadzic and Mlatko Radic bear the greatest shame, especially for the massacre at Srebrenica and the shelling of Vukovar.
The book ends at the end of 95/beginning of 96, as the ink was barely dry on the Dayton Accord, with Glenny struggling to keep up with events as the publisher's deadline loomed closer. With the value of hindsight Glenny's major doubts about the viability of the emergent Bosnia-Hercegovina were (fortunately) mostly misplaced and his growing obsession with a major southern Balkan conflagration based on the breakdown of Macedonia rather ludicrous. He was obviously right about Kosovo, although both the timing and the turn of events there were remarkable.
From the point of view of late 2009 the book misses much of the immediate aftermath of the war and obviously the ICTY trials in the Hague, which continue as I write. The history of the war in the Balkans will continue to be re-written as the evidence becomes clearer. Nevertheless Glenny's account will stand amongst the forefront as both testimony and analysis of the highest order.