February 10, 2004

Warren Zimmermann

The last American Ambassador to Yugoslavia is dead at 69. He was the highest-ranking official to resign in protest over the Clinton administration's long (pre-Holbrooke) inaction in the face of the horrors of Bosnia.

I remember first hearing about his resignation, thumbing through the IHT, in a small port city in southwestern France back in 1994. It made my day.

Someone, in the upper echelons of State, resigning over an issue of principle! May he rest in peace.

Note: His "Origins of a Catastrophe" is an excellent read. A couple thought-provoking inscriptions Zimmermann starts the book with:

"As you can see, bad leadership has caused
The present state of evil in the world,
Not Nature that has grown corrupt in you
."

--Dante Alighieri, Purgatory (trans.: Musa)

In pessimistic moments, I think that quote is false (and that we should blame human nature, not our leaders, for our many travails). But meeting a lot of great Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats through the mid-90s--I felt that the brutish nationalisms unleashed in the former Yugoslavia were mostly (though not entirely) a product of nationalism from the top down (rather than the bottom up) spawned by leaders like Milosevic, Tudjman, Karadzic.

In this vein, Zimmermann also quotes K. R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies:

"The old question, "Who shall be the rulers?" must be superseded by the real one "How can we tame them?"

BTW, the answer isn't the U.N. or "international law."

Not yet, anyway.

Posted by Gregory at February 10, 2004 01:14 AM
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