The Unknown Civil Warrnby Alex N. DragnichrnThe use of NATO militar’ strikes against the Bosnian Serbs,rnat the urgings of the Clinton administration, camouflagesrnfor the moment a rift that has occurred in the Western alliance.rnSooner or later recriminations over “who lost Yugoslavia?” arerncertain to come. And though it may be a while before historiansrnrender a verdict, there are already some indications that thernanswer will be “the Western European powers with the complicityrnof the United States.” The reason: a failure to understandrnthe basic issues in the Yugoslav crisis.rnSince the Western media failed—or simply refu.sed—tornstate or explain the issues in that civil war, particularly as seenrnb} the largest ethnic group (the Serbs), I elicited informationrnfrom Serbian friends and acquaintances who were visiting thernUnited States or who were writing or phoning in an effort to bernheard. What follows is a summary of those conversations.rn”For nearly 50 years we were forced to suffer under communism,rnwhich we did not choose, and yet nary a word of concernrnfrom you. As a matter of fact, after 1948, your Presidents andrnSecretaries of State praised our dictator Tito, whom you knowrnwas a Croat and not a Serb. Communism was not our doing;rnyou betrayed us near the end of World War II, when you abandonedrnour guerrilla leader, General Mihajlovitch, and supportedrnthe communists. We were your allies in the two worldrnwars, and yet now you heap all sorts of evil upon our heads andrnblame us for everything in Yugoslavia.”rnThe voice was that of an intelligent, well-educated, andrnwell-traveled Serbian woman at least 20 years my junior. Thernallegations and imputations were obviously not personal, but asrnwas to be the case in nearly every one of my encounters, therernwas the inescapable question; “Why?”rnAlex N. Dragnich is a retired professor of political science whornhas written widely on Yugoslav history and politics. His mostrnrecent book is Serbs and Croats: The Struggle in Yugoslavia.rnThe torrent seemed unending, but I had to listen. Thesernwere friends. More than that, I wanted to learn more about thernagitated Serbian psyche in the present tragic situation. I was eagerrnto ask about Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, and ethnic cleansing,rnamong other things. But I quickly sensed that each conversationalistrnwanted to be sure that I viewed everything in the appropriaternhistorical context.rnIn all of our conversations there was much harking back tornSerbia’s past, and no end of repetition. I cannot even estimaternhow often I heard the same plaintive voice that expected me tornunderstand. Although American in every way—birth, education,rnprofession, family—I am of Serbian parentage, whichrnthey believed would enable me to put myself in their shoes andrnto grasp the enormity of their psychological as well as materialrnburdens.rnThese were friends with whom I spent many an enjoyablernand interesting hour when I served as cultural attache and publicrnaffairs officer in the American Embassy in Belgrade right afterrnWorld War II, as well as many years later when I was doingrnresearch in Serbian and Yugoslav history. Many had read somernof m- books, most had not. They were aware that I was familiarrnyyith what they were telling me, but this did not diminishrntheir determination to make sure.rnI lost count of the times I vyas asked: “Are you Americans totallyrnblind?” “Has foreign propaganda so hoodwinked yournthat you have lost your critical faculties?” “Are AmericanrnPresidents and senators so mesmerized by TV pictures that theyrncannot think rationally; don’t you have people in your StaternDepartment yyho know Yugoslavia and Yugoslav history?”rnThese rhetorical questions I could handle with a shrug of thernshoulders, a shaking of the head, or some other vague gesture.rnThe substantive ones were more difficult. Many a time, I hadrnto come back to my Serbian friends and acquaintances with thernquestion: “Was there a way to a’oid civil war?”rnOCTOBER 1994/27rnrnrn