Interview with Eric Stover: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Human Rights Work: Conversation with Eric Stover, human rights activist and writer, 2/16/99 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

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The New World Disorder

This recent historical period has a spectrum from political terror moving to worse situations such as, in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, genocide: efforts to wipe out whole populations. To what do you attribute this resurgence of small-scale versions of the Holocaust?

Well, there are so many theories. It's difficult to sort through them. I think one is clearly that in the post - Cold War (or maybe the peri - Cold War, meaning the Cold War is still in place, though it's slowly being dismantled) is that you had two superpowers keeping many countries in check, like giving funding to shore up one political leader and so on. Now that is dissolved, you have a sense that there is much more intra-fighting within borders or simply across borders, that superpowers aren't going to get involved in. Clearly Russia isn't going to get involved anymore and the United States has been more and more reluctant. So it's been this lack of any pressure being put on to resolve these issues -- by pressure and political will. As we face today in Kosovo, that means that you need to show not only the threat of force, but that you are willing to use force to end these conflicts. Each one has to be looked at contextually. I mean, what's happened in the former Yugoslavia -- the genocide there, the ethnic cleansing -- and the genocide in Rwanda are very different. Too often we try to draw all these similarities. The way they evolved were very different. One key element that is there, though, is the rise of nationalism and the use of hatred by one ethnic group against another. That is one commonality that's shared.

And the goal of the politicians who are stirring up this hornet's nest is to wipe out another people.

Well if you look at the former Yugoslavia, I would venture to say, on the part of Milosevic, he wanted a greater Serbia. But I think, part of that, he wanted land and he wanted to expand what was going to be greater Serbia. So he used the rhetoric of being a national Serb in order to gain greater power and greater land. And Tudjman in Croatia essentially did the same thing.

They were willing to play with the matches to light fires that they couldn't necessarily control. They set in motion the forces.

Yes. In Milosevic's and Tudjman's cases, they were very much in control. I'd be very disappointed if sometime in the future Milosevic was not indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia. He knew what was going on and planned it.

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