top of page

Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and its Destroyers

Warren Zimmermann

Warren Zimmermann was the last United States ambassador to Yugoslavia. Origins of a Catastrophe is his highly personal, authoritative account of a doomed country's descent into war and genocide. His book answers the questions millions have asked: What happened? Why did it happen? And what does it have to do with us? This is a story of villains. Challenging conventional wisdom, Zimmermann shows that the wars in Yugoslavia, culminating in the slaughter in Bosnia, sprang not from ancient blood lusts but from the conscious actions of extremist leaders like Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia. The deformities in the character and policies of these and other ethnic supremacists come alive in their own words, recounted from the author's in-depth discussions with them. This is also the story of people who resisted the racist propaganda of their leaders. Origins of a Catastrophe paints a vivid picture of political leaders and ordinary citizens who fought for democratic reform and human rights. In Yugoslavia the Bush and Clinton administrations failed the first test of American leadership since the end of the cold war. In his insider's account of that failure, Zimmermann contends that, if the NATO air strikes of 1995 had been launched three years earlier, they would have saved over 100,000 lives and produced a better peace agreement than was achieved at Dayton. Origins of a Catastrophe draws lessons far beyond the confines of the wars that ravaged the Balkans. The issues fought out with such savagery in Yugoslavia - how to curb tyrannical majorities and protect endangered minorities, when to recognize claims of self-determination, when and how to use force - are beingcontested around a globe beset by racial tension and violence. Warren Zimmermann's powerful and passionate narrative demonstrates that separation is no solution to the rivalries between ethnic groups - that people can live in peace only when they learn to live together in tolerance.

bottom of page