September 29, 2003

Bosnia, the Middle East, and "Realism"

Christopher Hitchens reviews French journalist Bernard-Henri LÚvy's new book Who Killed Daniel Pearl?

LÚvy has some interesting things to say, not just about Daniel Pearl and Pakistan, but about the Terror War in general.

Here is Hitchens:

Bernard-Henri LÚvy was a strong defender of Bosnia's right to exist, at a time when that right was being menaced directly by Serbian and Croatian fascists. It was a simplification to say that Bosnia was "Muslim," but it would also have been a simplification to say that the Bosnians were not Muslims. The best resolution of this paradox was to assert that Bosnia-Herzegovina stood for ethnic and cultural pluralism, and to say that one could defend Islam from persecution while upholding some other important values at the same time. I agree with M. LÚvy that it was a disgrace at the time, and a tragedy in retrospect, that so few Western governments took this opportunity.

But now we hear, from those who were indifferent to that massacre of Muslims, or who still protest the measures that were taken to stop the massacre, that it is above all necessary for the West to be aware of Islamic susceptibilities. This plea is not made on behalf of the pluralistic citizens of Sarajevo, but in mitigation of Hamas and Hezbollah and Saddam Hussein. One of the many pleasures of LÚvy's book is the care he takes to show the utter cynicism of the godfathers of all this.

Those who LÚvy and Hitchens refer to are actually being consistent. They are Kissinger "realists," and they side with whoever's in power. They really don't care who it is. To them the internal charactertistic of states do not matter. Stability, even a violent and nasty one, rules. A Christian Orthodox fascist who puts Muslims to the sword is as good as a theocratic mullahcracy that throws infidels into torture chambers.

During the Cold War it was often dangerous to be on the same side as the resistance. Odds were high that the Soviet Union backed them. That's not a problem anymore. The Soviets are gone, and there is no wisdom in behaving as though it weren't so.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 29, 2003 10:55 PM


An interesting paradox of the last year in the build up to war is the adoption of realpolitic by many on the left of center.

It seems that contributing to amnesty international, or human rights watch, or holding a candelight vigil for peace is an appropriate response to genocide. Actually acting to stop genocide where it exists is either a policy failure or is somehow immoral.

In the current democratic field it seems that more than a few of the candidates either subscribe to this point of view or are giving lip service to get through the primaries.

Is there a democrat out there that will actually prosecute the war against islamic facisim; and could he/she get elected if they said they would?

Posted by: Matthew King at September 30, 2003 04:02 AM

At the risk of sounding stupid, Michael, I don't get the angles or points here? Can you email me a quick explanation?


Posted by: Mike at September 30, 2003 06:56 PM


It's like Matthew said: realpolitik.

Some of the same people who opposed the intervention against Slobodan Milosovic in Yugoslavia are also upset about the intervention against Saddam Hussein. In the second case they profess to care about Islamic sensibilities, but in the first case they did not. Their response to Serbian aggression against Bosnian Muslims was silence; they reserved their invective for America for intervening.

The point is that they don't really care about Muslims; they seek to maintain the status quo, whatever that happens to be, just as the "realist" stability junkies did during the Cold War.

That, I think, was Hitchens point, and I agree with him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 30, 2003 09:28 PM


Sorry if I'm being a little obtuse. Maybe I'll revisit this at greater length and it will be clearer...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 30, 2003 11:05 PM

Oh, I thought it might be that the Americans did it. I've got some nut job on my website right now claiming the Israelis perpetrated 9/11. The hot summer was our fault. So why not?

Posted by: scotty the body at October 1, 2003 07:36 AM


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