Interview: Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, recipient of the 2010 CNAB Award

Interview: Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, recipient of the 2010 CNAB AwardAuthor: Haris Alibašić, MPA

Dr. Marko Attila Hoare is a Reader at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University (London) and is the European Neighbourhood Section Director of the Henry Jackson Society, an independent think tank promoting democratic geopolitics. He received his BA from the University of Cambridge in 1994 and his PhD from Yale University in 2000.

Hoare has been studying the history of South East Europe, in particular the former Yugoslavia, since 1993, and is intimately acquainted with the lands and peoples of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the summer of 1995, he acted as translator for the aid convoy to the Bosnian town of Tuzla organised by Workers Aid, a movement of solidarity in support of the Bosnian people. In 1998-2001 he lived in Belgrade, and was resident there during the Kosovo War of 1999. As a journalist, he covered the fall of Milosevic in 2000. He worked as a Research Officer for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’s Office of the Prosecutor in 2001, and participated in the drafting of the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic.
He is the author of How Bosnia Armed (Saqi, London, 2004), Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941-1943 (Oxford University Press, London, 2006) and The History of Bosnia-Hercegovina: From the Middle Ages to the Present Day (Saqi, London, 2007).
Dr. Hoare is the winner of this year’s Congress of North American Bosniak’s award for outstanding contributions to the advancement of Bosniaks and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the world for ther past 20 years, his writings about truth and history of Bosniaks and Bosnia and Herzegovina, war crimes research, and promotion of truth about aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina and genocide against Bosniaks.

Dr. Marko ATTIL HOARE, historian

Interview: Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, recipient of the 2010 CNAB Award
Interview: Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, recipient of the 2010 CNAB Award
The CNAB award for outstanding contributions to the advancement of Bosniaks and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Congratulations on the 2010 CNAB award for outstanding contributions to the advancement of Bosniaks and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This award is recognition for your lifelong dedication to presenting the truth about Bosnia and Herzegovina, both from historical and current events perspectives. [Comment: Florence Hartmann is also this year’s winner of the award. She was our guest at the Annual Dinner and we held a book promotion in Saint Louis] How do you feel about the award and what does it mean to you?
Thank you very much. I am extremely honoured to receive this award. Since the war broke out in Bosnia in 1992, when I was nineteen, I have been defending, studying and writing about Bosnia. I have visited the country many times, and lived there for a year, in 1997-1998. I have published three books about Bosnia. So Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a very big part of my life. It means a lot to me to feel that that my contribution to the defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to the study of Bosnia, has been noticed and appreciated.

Can you tell us about your current plans, what can we expect from Dr. Hoare in the next few years in terms of your writing future publications?
I am currently planning to write a history of Serbia since 1918, and in particular since 1941, that will focus on the relationship between Serbia and Yugoslavia, on the evolution of national ideology in Serbia, and how Serbia’s leaders and intellectuals saw and understood Yugoslavia. I would like ultimately, however, to work more thematically on issues relating to genocide, with a focus that goes beyond the former Yugoslavia.

In 2001 you were a research officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia; can you briefly talk about your experience?
I worked for seven months as a Research Officer at the ICTY. I did not know, when I arrived there in February 2001, what work I would be assigned to do, but found myself assigned to work on Serbia’s leadership and its relationship to the crime base in Croatia, and in particular in Bosnia. I focused in particular on Serbia’s relationship to the JNA, and on the structure of the Serb military forces.
Working at the ICTY was a wonderful experience, partly because my team of researchers – the ‘Leadership Research Team’ – was made up of researchers like myself, people committed to justice and eager to find out what happened and why, who were consequently prepared to study the war in the former Yugoslavia in great depth. It was also a major intellectual experience for me, as it taught me a great deal about how the Yugoslav state and its component parts were organised, and related to that, the structure of the Milosevic regime and the Great Serbian organisation for war in all their component parts. I learned about the relationship between the Yugoslav Presidency, the Yugoslav government, the Yugoslav People’s Army, the Serbian presidency, the Serbian government, the Socialist Party of Serbia and JUL, the Yugoslav and Serbian interior ministries and their police forces (secret and public), the Serbian Territorial Defence, the Serb nationalist rebels in Croatia and Bosnia and their forces – Interior Ministry and police, Territorial Defence, Serb Democratic Party, etc. So, I learned a lot about how the war was waged, and how the aggression was organised.
At the same time, I got to understand the negative side of the ICTY and the UN generally – the corruption, cronyism, internal politics and incompetence that partly explain why the ICTY has not been more successful, and why the UN as a whole is a problematic institution.

Seeing that you are a historian, how did you become interested in writing about Bosnia and Herzegovina?
I became interested in the history of Bosnia-Hercegovina after the war broke out there in 1992, and I wanted to understand why. Of course, the origins of the war lie in Serbian aggression and in all-Yugoslav developments, but I wanted to understand why the war took the form that it did in Bosnia, and I wanted to understand this war properly. When I arrived at Yale as a postgraduate student in 1994, I had to decide what topic to study for my PhD. I chose Bosnia over other former-Yugoslav lands, in part because the national question there was unique: three nations or nationalities sharing a common homeland. I decided to concentrate on trying to understand how and why Bosnia had come into being as a nation-state of three nationalities, which meant studying the Partisan movement in Bosnia of the 1940s. I thought that if I could understand how and why this state was created in the 1940s, I could better understand how and why it was destroyed in the 1990s. Then I found that, in order to understand the Partisan movement in Bosnia, I had to go back further into Bosnian history.

You speak about the Bosnian national question during and after Tito’s Yugoslavia in your book, History of Bosnia: from Middle Ages to the Present Day. In reality do you think the question of a nation-state will even be solved if so, what do you think the best strategy is?
As I argued in ‘The History of Bosnia’, since 1918, there have been two paths with which Bosnia has been faced: autonomy or sovereignty as a unified whole, or partition. As things stand, Bosnia has been de facto partitioned by the Dayton Accords, and the partition is becoming fuller and harder with every passing year. Unless Bosnian patriots can devise a strategy to overturn the Dayton Accords, I believe the Republika Srpska could eventually become an independent state, or at the very least, a de facto independent state like Taiwan.
Bosnian patriots need, on the one hand, to lose their fear of appearing unreasonable in the eyes of the international community: the EU and the Western world will usually appease a trouble-maker so long as it appears strong, as they appeased Serbia in the 1990s and as they are appeasing Greece today. But they do not respect victimhood. Bosnian patriots need to assault the Dayton system, and to make it clear to the international community that the price they will pay for trying to maintain Dayton will be greater than the price they will pay for revising it.
I think that Bosnian patriots from among the Bosniak community should assault the Dayton system where nobody can stop them: by dismantling the system of cantons that cripples the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They should campaign to have the Bosniak-majority and mixed cantons merged together to form a single entity that would then act as the core around which a new Bosnian state could be built. That would start the process of constitutional revision in a way that bypasses the RS’s veto. And once the ball of change starts rolling, it may not be possible for anyone to stop it.
Nevertheless, Bosnia will only work as a state and as a country if at least part of the Serb and Croat communities, as well as Bosniaks, can be brought on board to support the project of a unified Bosnia. So even if most Bosniak patriots at the present time are Bosniaks, they need to put forward a model of Bosnian patriotism and a Bosnian state which is at least in principle attractive to Bosnian Serbs and Croats.

Do you think the Dayton agreement has played a part in damaging the nation-state?
The Dayton agreement was a catastrophe that gave the Great Serb perpetrators of genocide most of what they wanted, despite the fact that they had been beaten on the battlefield. Izetbegovic was wrong to have accepted signing the agreement. I believe he wouldn’t have signed it today even under pressure, as it is evidenced in particular, the recognition of the Republika Srpska, and the absence of functioning Bosnian central state organs, are catastrophic. Bosnia will never begin to heal so long as the Dayton order remains in place.

Looking at the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is genocide culturally determined?
No; genocide is not culturally determined. Though neither is it true that genocide was wholly imported from outside into Bosnia, by the Milosevic regime. The Serb genocidal campaign against the Bosniaks and Croats in the 1990s enjoyed the support of at least part of the Bosnian Serb population, and of the Bosnian Serb politicians of the Serb Democratic Party for whom most Bosnian Serbs had voted. Their fear and hatred of Izetbegovic, the Party of Democratic Action, Bosnian independence and the Bosniak population were conditioned by the divisions in Bosnian society that had their origins in Ottoman times – namely, the divison of the Bosnian population between three different nationalities, with their own national ideologies. These divisions were a precondition for genocide, but they did not make it inevitable; it required the Milosevic regime in Belgrade and Karadzic’s leadership of the Bosnian Serb nationalists to organise genocide on the basis of these decisions. You could not have had the Holocaust in Germany without the existence of both Jews and Christians – with distinct religious and cultural traditions – but the existence of Jews and Christians in Germany did not make the Holocaust inevitable.

In your opinion, is the Bosnian Army today strong enough to defend the sovereignty of the country, or is Bosnia still dependent on half-hearted efforts of the Western nations to protect its future?
The Bosnian Army is strong enough to make the RS’s secession very risky. But we do not know what the outcome of a military conflict between the Bosnian Army and the RS forces would be. The Bosnian Army needs to remain large and powerful to counter any attempt at secession by the RS. I do not believe the Western alliance will intervene militarily to prevent the RS’s secession; it is more likely that it would allow a Cyprus-style scenario to emerge, in which the secessionist entity is simply isolated. But once Bosnia enters the EU, even that may be difficult to enforce. So the Bosnian Army needs to remain strong. Even if it is not strong enough to defeat the RS as fully as Croatia defeated the RSK, it should be powerful enough to occupy large parts of the RS, so that the secession will have failed.

Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially Bosniaks, and Bosnia and Herzegovina officials have had a very bad experience in dealing with the authorities of Great Britain during the Serbian and Montenegrin agression on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through your research or personal opinions, what can you tell us about about why the British leadership supported genocidal policies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and extrermination of Bosniaks at that time?
The fullest answer to this question is given by Professor Brendan Simms of the University of Cambridge, in his book ‘Unfinest Hour – Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia’. My own answer, which accords largely with what he wrote, is as follows: the British Conservative government of John Major subscribed to a philosophy of ‘conservative realism’ in international affairs, which made it averse to any foreign intervention for ethical or humanitarian purposes. Instead, it believed that British foreign policy should be guided solely by selfish national interest. It misunderstood the nature of the Yugoslav war, and wrongly believed that Milosevic’s Serbia was fighting secessionism and struggling to keep Yugoslavia together. It wanted to befriend Serbia as the strongest power in the former Yugoslavia, and despised Croatia and Bosnia as supposedly ‘secessionist’ states – as a deeply conservative government, it despised secessionism, but did not realise that Milosevic’s Serbia was the principal secessionist. It believed that the Serb forces had won the war and that the UK had no interest in trying to change this. Once it went down the path of collaborating with Serbia, it could not allow any new Western policy to be adopted, such as military intervention against Serb forces, or lifting the arms embargo against the Bosnian government, that would prove it had been wrong all along in its insistence that such policies would not work, or that would reveal its overestimation of Serb military superiority. So, its pro-Serb policy became self-perpetuating.

What role would Great Britain likely assume today if the Serb secessionists were to follow Milošević’s or Karadžić’s path?
The UK today has a brand new government, with the Conservatives in the majority and the Liberal Democrats in the minority. We do not know how this government will behave. However, based on the past statements made by Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Minister William Hague, I am cautiously optimistic that, in the event of a renewed Great Serb assault on Bosnia, British policy would be very different from what it was in the 1990s. Hague has indicated that the West should adopt a ‘more muscular’ approach to Bosnia. He strongly criticised the previous government for its behaviour over the arrest of Ejup Ganic. Cameron strongly denounced Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008. So, I am optimistic.

From the Bosnian point of view, British policies towards Bosnia today are not much different than those from early 1990’s, which is the case with arrest of dr. Ejup Ganić, member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency at time of agression. He was arrested in London and there is a case in the Court seeking extradition based on the Serbian request, the very state that committed agression on BiH. This case seems to show that the British judiciary is politicized which can turn out to be a huge embarssament to Great Britain. What do you expect from this case?
I don’t think the arrest of Ganic is a reflection of British policy or of the politicisation of the British judiciary. The arrest was the result of a judicial decision based on the UK’s extradition treaty with Serbia. I criticise the judicial treatment of Ganic, but I don’t believe it was a political arrest; more a question of judicial overreaction. I believe the Serbian extradition request will ultimately be thrown out by the court, and that Ganic will leave Britain a free man.

Thank you for your time and candid answers.Finally, for those who wish to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give to those individuals?
If you want to study the history of Bosnia or any other country, you should ask the big, exciting questions. You should pick questions that will explain the big things that are not understood. You should be prepared to challenge existing wisdom and cliches, and should not be intimidated by any existing intellectual consensus that you don’t believe in. I don’t mean you should be deliberately offensive or provocative for its own sake, but you should try to be intellectually original. I would also strongly advise giving priority to looking at original documents, particularly the key documents of any country’s national and political history. Important historical monographs also need to be read. But there is a lot of pretentious theoretical rubbish from the fields of political science, international relations etc. that is not only intellectually useless, but that actually gets in the way of proper understanding – theory for the sake of theory. When I pick up a book about Bosnia or any other subject in which the first quarter or third of the text is a theoretical discussion that has nothing particularly to do with the case study in question, I usually feel it safe to assume that the book will not teach me much.

Courtesy web magazine