Borba100 at Borba100 at
Fri Nov 26 08:56:31 MST 1999

by Diana Johnstone (posted 11-25-99)

[Note from we encourage the distribution of this
article, but in full, including this note.]

It is an undeniable, observable fact that Serbs -- in Yugoslavia or in the
diaspora -- are politically divided by history. In addition to these
divisions, there is also the fact that even anti-Communist Serbs (unlike the
nationalist Croat diaspora) had no national project for destroying Yugoslavia
which could use U.S. and German anti-communism as an ideological basis for
gaining Great Power support.

These two factors go a long way toward explaining, in my view, the absence of
any effective Serbian lobby in the United States, in contrast to the Croatian
(and, somewhat subaltern, Albanian) lobby. Today, the disasters of Yugoslavia
have altered the second factor but not the first. Serbs see the need for a
united "Serbian lobby" but they are still divided. The sharpest division is
the attitude toward the existing government in Belgrade.

Parts of the anti-communist Serbian community are trying, more or less, to
appeal to the Western anti-communism that already was used by the nationalist
Croat lobby. This is understandable, but, I think, naive and inappropriate.
The only really effective result of denouncing Milosevic as a communist
monster is to justify the policy of destroying Serbia. Blanket condemnations
feed into the Manichean tendency that has led to branding the Serbs as "the
villain" in the Balkans.

The sad truth is that most of the demonization of Serbs and Serbia has drawn
heavily on public denunciations by anti-Milosevic Serbs, without benefit to
Serbia or even to the anti-Milosevic Serbs themselves (although some of them
may hope to come to power under a NATO occupation of Serbia -- a most
precarious hope, at best).

It seems to me that some Serbs at times (not always) tend to be subjectively
pro-American to such an extent, even to identify strongly with some notion of
America, that I think they fail to realize how little that identification
makes any impression on those who wield U.S. power in the world.

My own advice to Serbian friends (or to anybody else, for that matter, in any
and all circumstances), is to be very precise and factual in their criticism
of their government and leaders, and to avoid generalities and exaggerations.
For two reasons: (1) so far, the opposition has been a minority, and thus
needs to convince more citizens of Yugoslavia, who will not be convinced by
exaggerated rhetoric which does not correspond to what they see and know. (2)
Generalities and exaggerations are used abroad to demonize the entire Serbian
people, who are "guilty" of supporting "the new Hitler" and so forth. An
article I wrote last summer, which was just posted on this Website [see link
at end of this article], touches on this problem. Entitled, "Collective Guilt
and Collective Innocence", it includes a section on "what is really wrong
with Milosevic". Readers may agree or disagree with my analysis, but the main
point is that it should be possible to criticize Milosevic (or other leaders)
without indulging in inflammatory analogies (Hitler, Stalin, etc.). Usually,
such restraint is merely a matter of intellectual honesty. In the present
dangerous situation, it can be a matter of life and death.

Here, I reiterate, I am thinking both of the problem of the perception of
Serbian identity in the West, and the problem of the healthy development of
Serbian democracy. -- Diana Johnstone


Diana Johnstone's new article, which she mentions above, is called Collective
guilt and collective innocence. Click here or go to

For an excellent introduction to the background on the troubles in Kosovo,
click on Ms. Jonstone's Yugoslavia: Seen Through a Dark Glass or go to

For Ms. Johnstone's critique of Western claims that Yugoslav media is unfree,
see Media in Serbia or go to

If you would like to browse articles from, click here Or
go to:

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