Preferred Citation: Ron, James. Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2003 2003.




Qualitative, case-oriented explanations of state behavior are supposed to accomplish two tasks. First, they must account for empirical variation within the cases under consideration. On that count, this study, structured explicitly as an explanation of both Serbian-Israeli variations and varying patterns within each case, has, hopefully, proved its worth. Using the concepts of ghetto, frontier, core, and institutional setting, this book has provided a plausible account of varying Serbian behavior in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sandžak, and Vojvodina, and of Israeli behavior in Palestine and Lebanon.

At the same time, our explanations are also expected to provide generalizeable tools—frameworks or arguments for a broader universe of cases. This task, however, is far more complex, as it becomes difficult to control for other important variables. For sure, a cursory glance at recent conflicts demonstrates the importance of institutional settings and boundaries. Apartheid South Africa, for example, used graphic methods of destruction to combat enemies in Mozambique and Angola, but used police-style tactics to suppress challengers within its own boundaries. Although the latter were harsh and discriminatory, they were less drastic than the warlike methods used beyond South Africa's international boundaries.[5] In Russia, troops used awful violence in Chechnya, but shifted to less destructive methods in neighboring Ingushetia, despite the presence of Chechen rebels there.[6] In Croatia, violence against Serbs in the contested Krajina region was far harsher than against Serbs living in Zagreb. It seems likely that these variations can be explained by the concept of institutional setting, norms, and empirical and juridical sovereignty.

Because of my focus chiefly on Serbia and Israel, however, a number of other variables faded into the background. Take, for example, the importance of international norms. In both cases under consideration, I have argued for the importance of world opinion, both on issues of sovereignty and on respect for human rights. Not all states, however, are as concerned as Serbia and Israel about their global image, nor do all states care about their prospects for inclusion within the Western-dominated "international community." In the late 1980s, for example, Iraq flouted virtually every human rights norm possible during its repression of northern Kurds, and its behavior may not be explainable with the tools provided here.[7] Yet even if this is true, it does not invalidate the argument

advanced in this book. Instead, it suggests that Iraq is a particular kind of state, one that is wealthy enough to ignore global public opinion, and one that cares little for Western human rights sensibilities.

Another variable controlled for in the Israel-Serbia comparison is state strength. In both cases, the state in question was internally coherent, had a tradition of law and order, and had the capacity to enforce its sovereignty over its territory. Many states, however, are not as strong as that. In Africa, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere, many states are weaker, largely because of the end of Cold War patronage.[8] In these cases civil war, warlord politics, and internal strife are not produced by the exclusionary intentions of strong states such as Serbia and Israel, but by the lack of any coherent state structure at all. The analysis advanced in this book does little to explain these sorts of violent conflict.

Finally, both the Serbian and Israeli cases took place in the same moment in world historical time, the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a result, my analysis effectively controlled for variations in international tolerance of norm violations, especially in the arena of human rights. As noted earlier, international human rights monitoring grew increasingly aggressive in the 1970s. By the end of the Cold War, the international human rights norm and its organizational carriers had become remarkably effective at stigmatizing and shaming strong, Western-oriented governments such as Serbia and Israel that abused human rights. As noted in the Introduction, the density of the human rights movement makes the difference between "ghetto" and "frontier" particularly important. This scrutiny would not have happened thirty or forty years ago. Thus the argument I developed here is especially useful for analyzing current conflicts. To be sure, some states get away with greater human rights violations than others, even at the same point in the historical development of the global human rights system of norms, activist networks, and information flows. All states at a given point in history will have to contend with the same broad global human rights conditions, but each state's particular relationship to those conditions may vary.

This book's main contribution is to underline the importance of bureaucratic inclusion or exclusion during times of violent conflict. In the contemporary era, strong, capable states immersed in a nationally exclusive ideology are not likely to use ethnic cleansing against "outsider" populations that are partially included within the polity. This is true even when important segments of the state, its military, and the majority population favor drastic measures. In frontier-style regions, by contrast, states are more likely to resort to extreme repertoires. In making this argument,

however, I do not mean to suggest that other variables, including regime type, intensity of insurgent challenges, and position within the international system are not also important.[9]


Preferred Citation: Ron, James. Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2003 2003.