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First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia Paperback – June 29, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0826516442 ISBN-10: 0826516440

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First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia + Homeland Calling: Exile Patriotism and the Balkan Wars + Kosovo: What Everyone Needs to Know®
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press (June 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826516440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826516442
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #521,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This is an important work which anyone with an interest in how diplomacy is actually conducted should read."
--Science and Society

--Washington Times

Gibbs offers a powerful new interpretation of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
--Chalmers Johnson, author of The Blowback Trilogy (2000-2006)

About the Author

David N. Gibbs, Associate Professor of History and Political Science, University of Arizona, is the author of The Political Economy of Third World Intervention, and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Le Monde Diplomatique.

Customer Reviews

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I highly recomend this book.
J. Gwinn
A major theme of this book is the attempt of the U.S. to maintain its hegemony, along with the relevance of NATO, by sabotaging the efforts of the EC.
Brian C.
I highly recommend this book, "First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia" by David N. Gibbs.
Aleksandra Rebic

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Louis Proyect on June 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
David Gibbs has written one of the few chronicles of the wars in Yugoslavia designed simply to tell the truth about what happened. Since so many mainstream accounts are content to recycle propaganda, it is no small accomplishment to present the facts without fear or favor. With a twenty-five page bibliography, "First Do No Harm" is a substantive contribution to the scholarly literature, one that will have to be engaged with whatever your perspective on the Balkan wars.

For Gibbs, the key to understanding the trajectory of the Balkan wars was rivalry over what was considered a ripe plum. Germany had its own imperial interests and was actually the first capitalist power to begin the process of tearing apart a social system that had proven quite viable until economic contradictions began to make it vulnerable to outside powers in the 1970s.

Although the United States and Germany shared hostility toward Milosevic, who was perceived as a Titoist holdover standing in the way of converting the Yugoslav economy into one more favorable to Western economic ambitions, they by no means saw their own interests as coinciding. Like dogs fighting over a bone, the United States sought to push its rivals aside and viewed NATO in particular as a means toward that end. Sharing Gervasi's emphasis on the role of NATO, Gibbs makes a strong case for seeing this military alliance as a bid to enhance the US hegemonic power at the expense of what became known as "Old Europe" in the early stages of the war in Iraq.

Gibbs fully intended "First Do No Harm" as a critique of both successful interventions such as the one that took place in Yugoslavia and the one that still lurches unsteadily in Iraq.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful By J. Gwinn on June 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Gibbs argues Humanitarian Intervention in The former Yugoslavia was a pretext to muzzle a resurgent EU which was spearheaded by Germany. After the break up of the Soviet Union, US geostrategy lacked a pretense to maintain a military presence in Europe via NATO. The EU began taking assertive measures to chart foreign policy objectives independent of the USA. Yugoslavia was the EU's first test case...

The common front between the US and the EC was to thwart Serbian attempts to keep the Yugoslavian political units integrated with the central government in Belgrade. Repeatedly the US subverted EU diplomatic initiatives which regressed into military solutions. Diplomatic initiatives would play into the hands of European interests vs military solutions by the USA. Of course, in the end America maintained hegemon status through NATO.

Gibbs persuasively argues a huge propaganda campaign mounted which totally distorted reality. Serb agression was emphasized while the US/EU backed Bosnian Muslims/Croats/Albanian attrocities were not reported or underplayed. For example, a NY public relation firm, Ruder-Finn Inc. Orchestrated a campaign to associate the Holocaust with Serbian agression. The President of Ruder-Finn explained how Jewish groups form the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress were Manipulated to place a political advertisment in the New York Times which would link Serbia with the Holcaust in the popular imagination.

To put Gibbs work into total context, he argues IMF intervention helped to dislocate the Yugoslavian economy/ coupled with US/Western interference which encouraged secessionist movements by unscrupulous politicians.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Galina De Roeck on July 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've read many books on the Yugoslav wars. I did so because I was born in a little Bosnian town called Bihac. But my family moved to Belgrade when I was 3 years old. This was during WWII and in Belgrade we suffered terrifying bombing raids. We left Yugoslavia when I was 6 years old.

You couldn't miss the news of the Yugoslav wars as they screamed from the headlines throughout the 90s. Milosevic was Hitler, the Serbs were the Nazis, and the Muslims were the helpless victims. Really? Then in 1999 I heard that we were bombing Belgrade: I felt like I was bombing myself.

In 2004 my husband Richard and I traveled throughout all of former Yugoslavia. The devastation was overwhelming - but it turned out that what we automatically assumed to be the handiwork of Serbs had just as often been perpetrated by Croats or Muslims. In Belgrade we found that NATO's "smart bombs' had hit a famous church and a monastery. Why?

Dr. Gibbs' book is one of the very best I've read on the subject of "WHY." It is meticulously researched and documented, but written with exemplary clarity. I expect it will strike some readers as controversial because it questions the idea that our engagement in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars was a purely "humanitarian intervention."

Think again. Dr. Gibbs demolishes this myth with enviable objectivity. The only axe he grinds is the pursuit of truth. It is an honest book and an absorbing read.

Next time somebody gushes over another "humanitarian intervention" - somewhere in the Middle-East or in darkest Africa, you'll know to look for skeletons. The trick is to stop the now habitual hypocrisy before another country is wiped out.
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