“Easily the most difficult book I’ve read in a long time, not because it is poorly written but because of the subject matter.”
Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, Europe’s Worst Massacre Since World War II by David Rohde is about the fall of Srebrenica during the Bosnian wars of the mid 1990s and the genocide of Muslims that followed. I’ve only read two books that have disturbed me so much that I had to stop reading them and come back to them later. This was one of those books. Around half way through, I was so angry that I had put aside for awhile because what I read and what I thought about what I read would ruin the rest of my day.It wasn’t that the book was poorly written; it is well written, the problem is the subject matter. The subject matter is the death of thousands because of ineptitude and negligence.
Author David Rohde makes no attempt to sugarcoat what occurred in and around Srebrenica. He doesn’t just tell the reader what happened, he also explores how it happened and why it happened. It’s isn’t a simple narrative either; Rhode puts you behind the eyes of Muslims, Serbs, and Peacekeepers, telling the story from their perspective. You feel the fear and see the horror the Muslims experience. You get an idea of what made the Serbs tick and why they participated in atrocities. You feel the frustration of the Dutch peacekeepers as they try to do their job while outnumbered, outgunned, and at upper levels poorly led. This book is objective. Rhode doesn’t paint the Muslims as completely innocent or the Serbs completely evil. He points out violations of agreements and corruption on the part of the Muslims. He explores the decision making of the peacekeepers and the UN and western leadership, pointing out mistakes and negligence while also defending when it is called for.
To be honest, I don’t know how my words can do this book justice, so I’ll just describe how it left me when I was finished. It describes an episode in history in which there were no winners, only losers in painful, objective detail. It didn’t take me long to realize that the “good guys” were impotent and that there would be no happy ending to the story. It made me rage, it made me cry tears of sorrow, and it made me ashamed of my country’s part in the tragedy. After reading how it made me feel, you probably won’t want to read this book, but I urge you to do it. It’s something that many in this country don’t know about and probably don’t want to know about, but the lack of understanding and knowledge about what happened in the former Yugoslavia has a lot to do with where we find ourselves at now.
If you’re not familiar with what happened in the former Yugoslavia in the mid 1990s, I urge you to buy this book and learn how the United Nations and the West, including the United States failed the Bosnian Muslims. Despite how difficult it was read, it was at the same time hard to put down. This is one of the easiest five star ratings I’ve ever made.