Professor Gibbs, Failure To Address The Issues.
I finally got around to reading all of the 339+ comments on David Gibbs’ guest post and I must say I am disappointed.
I like academic discussions normally.
I appreciate clever people making intelligent points and I confess to being a fan of Engage, where some witty or informative exchanges are to be found. I had hoped that this guest post would be equally sharp and illuminating, sadly it is not.
Professor Gibbs seems to have made a conscious choice not to address the criticism of his work in any significant way.
From the top of the thread, initially, what can be seen is him pointing to some previous work he’s written, but it doesn’t deflect from the criticism that he pushes a softer form of denial. The first piece is problematic.
These paragraphs show why:
“Without question, the Bosnian Serb army and their political and military leaders must bear the overwhelming burden of guilt for having orchestrated this calamity. However, the Muslim leader Alija Izetbegović must bear some of the blame as well. Contrary to popular belief, Bosnia’s Muslim-led government was in fact quite ruthless and some of its actions helped lay the groundwork for the massacre.
Once again, it is important to emphasize that the bulk of the guilt for the massacre must surely lay with the Serb forces that carried it out. However, we should not whitewash the Muslim government’s role in contributing to the conditions leading up to the massacre.
That lingering “However” is exceedingly unsatisfactory.
Later on Gibbs brings in a completely tangential point, concerning Dr. Hoare’s mother and father.
Further, when Gibbs does make a sizeable contribution (on 27/12/2010 at 06:54) once more he fails to address the criticism of his research methods and book in any thorough way. Instead he goes on the offensive talking about McCarthyism, denunciations and the UK libel laws.
That would be fascinating, in another thread, but it only seeks to confirm the notion that Gibbs does not want to discuss his own work, and is employing the age-old politicians tactic of attack-attack. It is all exceedingly disappointing.
When Gibbs does finally get around to discussing some of the questions, he takes it all personally, rather than looking at how his arguments follow a particular direction.
In his first effort, he argues that he quotes from the Yale Human Rights and Development Journal (without supplying a reference for those who don’t possess his book, rather sloppy):
“The quote criticises the 2003 Krstic decision by the international tribunal at The Hague, which had originally defined the Srebrenica massacre as a case of genocide. The cited article strongly implies that the court had erred in defining that massacre as genocide. Based on the evidence in the article, my endnote concluded that Srebrenica was closer to a war crime than to a genocide. This endnote became the basis of Hoare’s entire claim that I am a “genocide denier.””
However, as was pointed out earlier in the thread, the question hangs not on a single instance, but on the planning, the effort and the conscious desire by Serbian political and military leaders to carry out that mass murder. It’s not the incidental actions of a few, rather a very conscious action, part of a wider scheme, thus in any reasoned fashion could be classified as “genocide”, bearing in mind the historical context.
Still, others have done a far better job of dealing with Gibbs’ arguments and work, I would recommend reading Sarah Correia’s, Malach’s and Mark H’s contributions.
Also, even before any substantive exchange from Gibbs, he is talking of:
“I can see that this debate is winding down, since most of Mr. Hoare’s latest posting only repeats distortions that he has previously made, and which I have addressed and refuted. I have no intention of repeating myself, and interested persons can view my earlier postings. “
I can’t really see Gibbs providing any meaningful refutation on any of these issues. In fact, it appears that he didn’t even understand his interlocutors’ views, therefore could not really see what they were going on about.
Bob summed it up better than I could:
“They detract from the real substance of the argument which are about what happened in Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Similarly, the tendentious comparison of this conflict to other conflicts on the basis of some absolute moral calculus is an example of whataboutery. I personally think that America acted genocidally in Vietnam, but that does not have any bearing whatsoever on what the Serbian forces did or didn’t do in Srebernica.
The refusal to engage on that topic, but instead to insist on throwing around ridiculous comparisons to Pravda, Joe McCarthy and Goebells can be taken to indicate rather weak arguments. ”
Dr. Hoare details his criticism of Gibbs, again, in his comment of 05/01/2011 at 19:08.
The thread falls away after that.
So it seems to me that whilst Professor Gibbs was given a splendid opportunity to deal with the criticism of his work, he didn’t.
Whilst he could have engaged with the issues in the Balkans, he found other matters more pressing.
All in all, Professor Gibbs showed a failure to address the issues, not a sparkling performance as you might expect. A missed opportunity.