“Croatia’s Far Right Weaponizes the Past” | Foreign Policy

Unbelievable! How can Croats think that this is a good idea? Weren’t the first two times bad enough? This is also likely to provoke an equally nationalistic response from Serbia, which then will further provoke Croats leading to an ever-increasing radical nationalism. Let’s hope the story doesn’t end like it

“The EU’s newest member, Croatia, has an unabashed and strong-willed fascist in its new cabinet — one who makes the right-wingers in power in Hungary and Poland look like wimps.”

Source: Croatia’s Far Right Weaponizes the Past | Foreign Policy

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Behind the New German Right by Jan-Werner Müller | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

“The rhetoric of the rapidly growing Alternative for Germany party and its supporters indicates a potentially profound shift in German political culture: it is now possible to be an outspoken nationalist without being associated with—or, for that matter, without having to say anything about—the Nazi past.”

Jan-Werner Muller explains that “the AfD has fed off and in turn encouraged a radical street movement, the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West,” or Pegida, that has no equivalent elsewhere in Europe. And perhaps most important, the AfD’s warnings about the “slow cultural extinction” of Germany that supposedly will result from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming of more than a million refugees have been echoed by a number of prominent intellectuals. In fact, the conceptual underpinnings for what one AfD ideologue has called “avant-garde conservatism” can be found in the recent work of several mainstream German writers and philosophers. Never since the end of the Nazi era has a right-wing party enjoyed such broad cultural support. ”

This does not bode well for the future of Germany, or Europe as a whole, if things continue in this direction. But  I think it is only if another major event (terrorist attack(s), severe economic downturn, another major wave of immigrants, etc.) befalls the German people will these groups be in a position to take power. Still, this is not good! Don’t they remember their own history?

Source: Behind the New German Right by Jan-Werner Müller | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

“Balkan Poison, Revisited” by Tim Judah | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

The horrific wars that tore Yugoslavia apart offer a window into the dark side of human nature. At a time when ethnic and religious violence has become widespread across the globe, revisiting these wars could prove useful. Just as the UN tribunals for war crimes committed during these Balkan wars wind down Tim Judah, a seasoned war correspondent who frequently reported on these wars, has chosen to reassess their legacy.

Last month (March 24) Radovan Karadzic, one of the Bosnian Serb leaders, was sentenced to forty years in prison for various war crimes and genocide. The UN tribunal has yet to declare a verdict in the case of Ratko Mladic, the leader of the Bosnian Serb army  who led the killing of 7,000 men in Srebrenica.  The biggest fish, Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of the Republic of Serbia who did much to stir up nationalist sentiments and hatred, died while his trial was still underway in March 2006.

Assessing the situation today Judah notes that “so much more could be done by Balkan leaders to address the legacies of these brutal conflicts, which have not yet really become history. Sometimes it looks like they are not capable of or interested in doing so and verdicts like the Karadžić one gave Serbian and Bosniak leaders an opportunity to beat nationalist drums again and remind their voters that they had better vote for them or the enemy would one day be back.” This is exactly the dilemma that perpetuates the violence in never-ending cycles of revenge. And it is not just demagogues who are to blame for this situation. They are only rewarded with power because ordinary people give it to them, because they are enamored with their nationalist rhetoric. They are made to feel special through national myths of past greatness and current innocence. They are not responsible for their present woes, it is “the other” who is responsible. It’s a powerful message. Many are unable, or unwilling, to resist the siren song of nationalism.

Source: Balkan Poison, Revisited by Tim Judah | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

History News Network | The Zionists Censor a Textbook – An Analysis

Lawrence Davidson takes McGraw-Hill to task (and rightly so) for taking “the extreme step of withdrawing from the market a published text, Global Politics: Engaging a Complex World, and then proceeded to destroy all the remaining books held in inventory.” This radical solution was the result of pressure from pro-Israel groups who didn’t like the story that the above map told. If it had been incorrect, McGraw-Hill’s actions might have been warranted, but as Davidson explains the maps are not “historically inaccurate.”

Did the group pressuring the publisher have any legitimate claims? No. In fact, as Davidson points out, their claims were “historically perverse – the sort of grasping at straws that reflects a biased and strained rewriting of history.”

“The sad truth is that the suborning of textbooks addressing culturally sensitive subjects has become a standard practice. Thus, the process of education is indeed threatened by incessant propaganda. This includes the culture war that swirls around American biology textbooks. It also includes the powerful Zionist drive to literally wipe the Palestinians off the map.”

Read Davidson’s detailed explanation of the whole sorry affair: History News Network | The Zionists Censor a Textbook – An Analysis

“Israel: The Broken Silence by David Shulman” | The New York Review of Books

We can learn from history if we are willing to. We remember the Holocaust because of the important lessons it provides. “Never again” is the mantra. Unfortunately, we keep making the same mistakes.

If any peoples should have learned the lessons of exclusion and hate it should have been the Jews. Of course, many Jews have. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Israeli state have learned nothing from the past. This period does provides amble evidence of the dangers of nationalism and racism, especially when they become the guiding principles of authoritarian regimes.

Yet they are making the same mistakes with similar  (but not identical) consequences. This time they (the Israeli government and their right-wing supporters) are the victimizers. They may justify their behavior in the name of self-defense, but what they have actually done is locked themselves into a cycle of never-ending violence and revenge.

David Shulman explains the unfortunate situation in Israel today.

An excerpt: “But Israeli McCarthyism has an additional, distinctive element that deepens the madness. It is directly linked to Israel’s colonial project in the occupied Palestinian territories. Anyone who opposes the occupation in word or deed is now at risk. For the right, patriotism is synonymous with occupation and all that comes with it, above all the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians and the theft of their lands. One can hear overtly racist rationalizations of this aim any day on the public radio talk shows. Put simply, the occupation system as a whole is ruled by the logic of stark division between the privileged Israeli occupiers and the Palestinian occupied, who are totally disenfranchised and stripped of all basic human rights.”

Source: Israel: The Broken Silence by David Shulman | The New York Review of Books

The ‘war on terror’ isn’t working – LA Times

Andrew Bacevich’s article at the Los Angeles Times is brief but smart. In contrast to the dominant voices calling for more bombing and even the use of torture, he proposes something different. His critique is historically informed and echoes what many scholars, including myself, have been advocating for a long time.

“What Americans refer to as terrorism is more accurately this: a violent outgrowth of chronic political dysfunction and economic underdevelopment affecting large parts of the Islamic world, exacerbated by deep-seated  sectarian divisions and the pernicious legacy of European colonialism and further complicated by the presence of Israel, all together finding expression in antipathy toward the West and especially the United States. For the “war on terror” to succeed, it will have to remedy the conditions giving rise to that antipathy in the first place.” Exactly!

Read the entire article here: The ‘war on terror’ isn’t working – LA Times

“Studying the 30 Years War Gives Me Hope about Our Religious Wars” | History News Network

Like the historian Wayne Te Brake I think the wars of religion that occurred in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries can teach us something about the current conflicts in the Middle East. However, I have to disagree with his optimism concerning the current cease-fire in Syria.
Brake points to the well-known settlements to the European conflicts: “the Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555), the Edict of Nantes (1598), and the Peace of Westphalia (1648).”  While admitting that these were the result of a “grudging consent” rather than “the acceptance of explicit blueprints for a pluralistic future,” he sees in them hope for peace in the Middle East. This may be true in the long run, but the analogy between the current situation in Syria and the above peace settlements fails to take into account some important differences.
First, I think its’ important to note that the first two of the above peace settlements did not last. The breakdown of the Peace of Augsburg resulted in the Thirty Years War and the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685 by Louis XIV, unleashing a new rounds of violence. It was only after the idea of toleration was accepted as something desirable that we began to see permanent peaceful relations between the various religions in Europe. This is why Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration was so important. Locke was not the first, or the only person, to advocate in favor of toleration, but his influence in changing people’s attitudes about religious diversity that made him such an important figure in the West.
In the conflict zones of the Middle East today there are few, especially those in power, who are willing to accept even a grudging toleration. Without this there can be no lasting peace. The peace in Europe was enforced by powerful states, who despite not accepting toleration as a good were willing to enforce policies of toleration because it was in their interest to do so. The wars had taken such a toll in lives and treasure that a politique policy became necessary. This willingness, or even the ability, to follow a similar policy in Syria, the Islamic State, or Iraq is missing. And even if they get to the point of accepting a grudging toleration in the name of stability, it will not be permanent until there is a change in world view.

Read the entire article here: History News Network | Studying the 30 Years War Gives Me Hope about Our Religious Wars

The Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War

A well tried strategy: Dividing through violence: “In Retrospect: A Year of Sharpening Contradictions” |History News Network

This is the lesson we can never seem to learn: “Extremism thrives on other people’s extremism, and is inexorably defeated by tolerance.”

In contrast to the hyped up rhetoric of politicians, and Mr. Trump in particular, Juan Cole rationally analyzes the goals and purposes of the terrorists. We only play into to the hands of the terrorists when we demonize and blame Muslims as a whole. They want to divide us. In that way they can bring the disgruntled formerly moderate Muslims into their camp. The clash of civilizations becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Unfortunately, political leaders will continue to play into the hands of the terrorists because the rhetoric of “strength” and nationalism proves too useful in pursuit of political power.

Read Cole’s astute observations here: History News Network | In Retrospect: A Year of Sharpening Contradictions

Paris-attacks 2015

Paris Attacks 2015

“The Return of History” – The New York Times

“From the Islamic State to Sri Lanka, modern people are looking to connect with an ancient past.”

This is nothing new. Golden Age myths have long been useful to ambitious demagogues. This narrative is at the heart of all nationalist movements. The basic formula consists of a simplistic narrative of a glorious past of a particular group (whether national, ethnic, or religious) whose decline must be explained. Someone must be responsible this decline. Enter scapegoat (usually a marginalized, feared, or hated minority).  The same pattern can be seen from Nazi Germany, to Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbiain the 1990s, as well as the present movements from Donald Trump (“We’re going to take our country back”) to Vladimir Putin in Russia, to the Islamic State, etc.

The anecdote is not less history, but more history. The distortions of these white-washed histories and their purposes need to be exposed. The comforts these narratives provide do not justify their existence. The consequences are too dangerous.

Source: The Return of History – The New York Times

“The Refugees & the New War by Michael Ignatieff “| The New York Review of Books

Another credible voice making the case against giving ISIS what it wants: “Strategists will tell you that it is a mistake to fight the battle your enemies want you to fight. You should impose your strategy on them, not let them impose theirs on you. These lessons apply to the struggle with the leaders of ISIS. We have applied pressure upon them in Syria; they have replied with atrocious attacks in Ankara, Beirut, and now Paris. They are trying to provoke an apocalyptic confrontation with the Crusader infidels. We should deny them this opportunity.”

Source: The Refugees & the New War by Michael Ignatieff | The New York Review of Books