The Eunuchs of YugoslaviarnThe United Nations and the Third Balkan Warrnby Curtis GaternIf there is one lesson we should have learned from the historyrnof the past 90 years, it is that minor crises, unless promptlyrndealt with, almost invariably build up into major internationalrndisasters. This is not to say that such disasters are absolutelyrnavoidable—that would be wishful thinking. But it is to sayrnthat an inclination to do nothing and to “let events take theirrncourse” simply inflates the magnitude of the subsequent catastrophe.rnI write these lines with reference to what Branko Lazitch, onernof France’s foremost Sovietologists who is himself of Serbianrnorigin, has aptly called the “Third Balkan War.” The article inrnwhich he used this phrase (published in the June 1992 issue ofrnthe Paris monthly Est & Quest) provided an incisive descriptionrnand analysis of something experienced by Serbian leader SlobodanrnMiloshevitch during a visit to the historic battlefield ofrnKosovo on April 24, 1987, which hit him with the force of arnDamascene revelation: the explosive potential of strident,rnxenophobic nationalism. This discovery, I might add, had alreadyrnbeen made, more than 60 years before, by an Austrianbornrndemagogue named Adolf Hitler, who decided in the earlyrn1930’s that the “nationalism” inherent in National Socialismrnwas a far more potent rabble-rousing force than its “socialist”rningredient, to which his chief rival in the party, GregorrnStrasser, was more solidly committed.rnIt may sound absurd to compare two such dissimilar individualsrnas Hitler and Miloshevitch and the vastly different situationsrneach had to cope with at a crucial moment in his career.rnBut I personally believe that there are certain constants,rnor let us say propensities—for example, political cynicism or therngambler’s instinct—which keep recurring in the course of humanrnhistory and that, furthermore, what we have been witnessingrnrecently in the Balkans, while in no way an exact replayrnCurtis Gate, a resident of Paris, is the author of The Ides ofrnAugust, devoted to the BerUn Wall crisis of 1961.rnof past events, has provided us with one more example of thernspinelessness that the pampered countries of the West so oftenrndisplayed toward the Soviet Union during the “Cold War”rnand the phony “detente” that prolonged it.rnTo understand how this could happen, and how a minor crisis,rnwhen not dealt with promptly, can develop into an internationalrndisaster, let us look back to the fateful 1930’s. A keyrndate in the turbulent history of this century was assuredlyrnMarch 7, 1936. It might even be ranked in an honorablernfourth or fifth place—^behind June 28,19I4 (the assassinationrnof Archduke Ferdinand of Austria); the November 7,1917, revolutionaryrnputsch of Lenin and his Bolsheviks; and the Januaryrn30,1933, appointment of Adolf Hitler to the chancellorship ofrnthe Germanic Reich—as one of this century’s decisive turningrnpoints. On that fateful day. Hitler, displaying the canny instinctrnthat made him the most reckless (and for a long time thernmost successful) political gambler of this century, overruled thern”pussyfooters” in the German general staff by ordering exactlyrnthree battalions to cross the river into the Rhineland—a sizablernchunk of German territory extending like a “buffer zone”rnfor several hundred miles along the borders of France, Luxembourg,rnBelgium, and Holland—^which had been officiallyrn”demilitarized” by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and thernLocarno Pact of 1929. While the minister of defense. GeneralrnWerner von Blomberg, spent an anxious day wringing hisrnhands at the prospect of a prompt French reaction, whichrnwould have entailed an immediate, humiliating withdrawal ofrnGerman soldiery, nothing happened, and over the next day orrntwo the number of in-marching troops was gradually increasedrnfrom three to 19 battalions. Hitler had won his gamble, consolidatingrnhis grip on the Third Reich.rnThe question that immediately arises is what would havernhappened if the French Army’s chief of staff at this crucial momentrnhad been not a spineless nonentity named MauricernGamelin but, instead, a man of guts and character, like, let usrn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn