Deciphering the Balkan Enigma: Using History to Inform Policy

  • November 01, 1995
  • Dr William T Johnsen

After having been fueled by the events of the distant and recent past, the current wars in the former Yugoslavia finally may be grinding to a halt. An understanding of that past, and of how history and myth combine to influence the present and help to define the future in the Balkans, is no less relevant today than it was two years ago when the original version of this monograph was published. Events of the intervening years have largely validated the insights and conclusions offered in the initial report. That said, strategic conditions have evolved, and two years of additional study and analysis provide a greater understanding of the long-term roots of conflict in the Balkans, as well as a firmer grasp of the proximate historical factors that contributed to the outbreak of violence. In this revised monograph, the first four chapters that provide the historical examination of the Balkan enigma remain substantially unchanged. Details have been added, and interpretations modified attenuated or accentuated as the author s understanding of events has matured. The last chapter of the original version has been expanded into three chapters. Chapter 5 first offers insights that are drawn from the first portion of the report. Because the passage of time has foreclosed some alternatives, and the changed strategic conditions have created the possibility for new options to be examined, the policy assessments that are now Chapter 6 have been substantially rewritten. Similarly, a new Chapter 7, Conclusions, contains revised reflections on the preceding analysis. Despite the revisions, the focus of the monograph remains on the tangled history of the region, and how policy options fit into the larger historical context that has influenced, and will continue to affect, the course of events in the Balkans.