(Simon & Schuster), 1999, trade 2002
ISBN: 0-684-86953-5 (trade)
Fromkins Kosovo Crossing
is the sort of book that makes
you wonder if jacket copy writers read their memos. True, he does
examine the "clash between American ideals and Balkan realities
on the battlefields of Kosovo." Mr. Fromkins leisurely
examination, however, does not impose itself on this 196 page text
until page 149. Scattered elsewhere are brief references to U.S.
foreign policy in the twentieth century that, when considered together,
serve only as an pellucid frame for what is more properly a history
of general foreign intervention in the Balkans many conflicts.
Not to be overly
negative, Kosovo Crossing
does present a number of novel
and important topics, such as the transitory nature of friend and
foe in the former Yugoslavia, and the consequences of Americas
ultimately shortsighted view of its own power and worth. Mr. Fromkin
pays his respects to the inimitable Rebecca West and uses some of
her experiences to broadcast his own insightful perspective.
In honesty, however,
though pleased with the authors self-aware and meticulous
use of language and the obvious amount of research that went into
what amounts to a minor history of Kosovo, I was disenchanted. The
book is an example of "almost" played to perfectionalmost
a history; almost an editorial; almost complete, unique, and edifying.
One wonders if Kosovo Crossing
is the product of an editors
bright idea, or perhaps the result of an expanded essay for a news
magazine. In contradiction to the covers assertion, it certainly
is not a "history" in any meaningful sense of the word,
for the events discussed are of occasionally debatable import when
the kaleidoscope of options is considered, and those that are unquestionably
pivotal are discussed in an almost cursory manner. In other areas,
the contents run to opinion and conjecture.
Mr. Fromkin issues
a number of dubious assertions that clog the text. One example:
"If Americans dont care enough about a country or die
for it, then they shouldn't be there." In support of such pronouncements
he offers neither a foundation nor elaboration. This is unfortunate,
as what arguments he does present are generally logical and well
formed, and do not sacrifice meaning for sentiment and inscrutable
political high-mindedness. Mr. Fromkin is clearly blessed with a
powerful mind and a gift for analyses that are multifaceted and
The failings described
above should not deter readers interested in Balkan history, U.S.
policy from the time of the Great White Fleet to present, or the
real-world ethics behind altruistic political decisions.
But readers are advised to make use of Mr. Fromkins kindly
provided bibliography, and to read several included books concurrently
with Kosovo Crossing
as a means of fleshing out the tale
and absorbing conflicting points of view. An expanded edition of
would be a welcome edition to this reviewers