Lessons from the Balkans: Tactical, strategic, psychological and spontaneous uses of extreme violence.

Stunningly good conversation on Start the Week this morning on BBC Radio 4. You can catch the whole lot here, but the clip above begins with this penetrating opening statement from the Balkan writer Aleksandar Hemon:

What happened in Bosnia, people always try to explain it as thousands of years of hatred: which of course is lazy, easy and inaccurate. I always thought that the extreme violence in Bosnian and particularly around Sarajevo was directly proportional to strength of the bonds that had existed at least for a few generations before that. And that the violence had to be so intense as to tear that apart and make any reconciliation impossible or at least very hard to achieve over several generations.

So rather than the consequences of thousands of years of hatred, it needed to break up families. It need to drive a wedge between neighbours who had lived together for so many years. And this was a strategy on the part of the Serbs in particular and they utilised inhuman potentials that humans have in more ways than one. But it was a political strategy. This required in some ways, advanced thinking, tactical, strategic and psychological and perhaps spontaneous.

They knew what they were doing. So that in the siege of Sarejevo there were so many arbitrary crimes, you know, children shelled, snipers shooting people running to get water, but it was precisely so that no one would be able to forgive the next generation. In other words to establish the conflict as eternal and perpetual.

But do, if you have the time, listen to the whole thing

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