Friday, 19 December 2008

Balkan ignorance

The history of the countries of the former Yugoslavia is a fascinating case study into so many areas of inquiry that we should have a far greater understanding and knowledge of the area than all but the most specialised scholars do.

Studying the Balkans tells us about modern warfare; statecraft; ethnic, racial and religious tensions and hatred; the rights of minorities; the rights of majorities; the nature of democracy; the arbitrariness of borders; post-communist conflict; Eastern and Western spheres of influence; the effectiveness of the United Nations, Europe and the international community in stopping genocide; international law; self-determination; liberal Western interventionism and the absurdity of nationalism. All this, and so much more, can be evidenced in the Balkans and just since 1991.

And yet, the averagely intelligent WATM reader will, like the WATM duo ourselves, be painfully ignorant of the causes and course of conflict in that region.

The topic is, of course, too gigantic to say anything intelligent at all in one blog post but more on this issue, like m'colleague's second post on moral relativism, will be coming soon.

One particular oddity of the situation in that region remains the naming of the Republic of Macedonia (sic). In respect of this naming 'dispute' Greece has acted like a petulant child. The Hellenic Republic objects to the term 'Republic of Macedonia' because it apparently implies territorial ambitions. What rot! Therefore, thanks to the Greeks, in international diplomacy the country is invariably referred to as, wait for it, 'The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia'.

This issue has been escalated to the highest levels of international diplomacy, without, so far, any firm result.

The Balkans have enough problems of their own making without these being compounded by a supposedly respectable Western, European Union democracy acting up. Greece should be a stabilising actor in a region with far to few hitherto stable neighbours.

In the coming weeks and months we hope to provide more posts on the Balkans because, we believe, that they are fascinating and important, especially for those of us with an internationalist outlook.

In the meantime, given the festive season, it seems appropriate to thank our handful of readers for sticking with us. To be honest, we could probably ring all of you personally to do so, but it would seem somewhat not in the spirit of blogging to do so. To all and sundry, then, WATM wishes you a very merry Christmas-time. We'll catch you in the New Year!

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