Book Review: Making Peace Prevail: Preventing Violent Conflict In Macedonia


by Alice Ackermann

Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000. . . . ISBN:0815606028

The theme of this work is "preventive diplomacy." It focuses on why, unlike the situations in Bosnia and Croatia, independence for Macedonia did not lead to chaos and slaughter. There is a lot of background on the situation in the other Balkan states, and a side-look at the Rwandan disaster as well. The tone of the work is quite idealistic.

Ackermann’s idealism leads her to some dubious conclusions. For example, she says "However oppressive and exploitive, Turkish rule was also a time of peaceful coexistence" among the various ethnic groups, which conveniently overlooks centuries of religious discrimination, occasional massacres, and the devsirme, which for centuries took the first-born son of every Christian family for the Sultan’s service at the age of seven. This is like saying that the period of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe or of European domination in Africa led to an era of “peaceful coexistence” among the numerous indigenous ethnic groups. She also tends to dismiss the importance of some issues. In fact, Macedonia’s gratuitous adoption of Alexander the Great, the "Star of Vergina," and the White Tower of Saloniki as national symbols were very insulting to Greeks, and hardly suggestive of peaceful intentions.

On the other hand, she correctly identifies the haste with which the states of the European Community recognized the independence of Slovenia and Croatia as a major contributory factor to the subsequent disaster in the region, but fails to follow this conclusion to its logical consequence, that there are no generally accepted international criteria for recognizing new states; Why was the secession of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia from Yugoslavia acceptable to the international community, while that of Biafra from Nigeria was not, nor that of Aceh or Moluka from Indonesia, or, inded, of Krjnia from Croatia?

Also valuable is Ackerman’s suggestion that too often there have been "missed opportunities" to stave off disastrous developments because "early warning indicators" of communal conflict or other humanitarian disasters have been overlooked, misunderstood, or simply ignored. Ackermann also right observes that one reason for the relative "success" of peacemaking during the Cold War was the mutual convergence of the interests of the superpowers in avoiding becoming embroiled in local wars. Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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