As heavily armed U.S. and NATO troops enforce the peace in Bosnia, the press and politicians alike portray Western intervention in the former Yugoslavia as a noble, if agonizingly belated, response to an outbreak of ethnic massacres and human rights violations. In the wake of the November 1995 Dayton peace accords, the West is eager to touch up its self-portrait as savior of the Southern Slavs and get on with “the work of rebuilding” the newly sovereign states. But following a pattern set early on, Western public opinion has been misled. The conventional wisdom holds that the plight of the Balkans is the outcome of an “aggressive nationalism,” the inevitable result of deep-seated ethnic and religious tensions rooted in history. Likewise, commentators cite “Balkan power-plays” and the clash of political personalities to explain the conflicts.
Lost in the barrage of images and self-serving analyses are the economic and…
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