Printer Friendly

Trauma advocacy, veteran politics, and the Croatian therapeutic state.


This article considers international trauma advocacy and Croatian veteran politics. The article begins by discussing international trauma advocacy and therapeutic state legitimation. International trauma advocacy seeks to promote peace, however unwittingly it has legitimized veteran politics antithetical to its ideals. The second half of the article goes on to consider Croatian state legitimation and privileged veteran pensions. The article suggests that Croatia is developing therapeutic forms of state legitimation. The article highlights the problems of Croatia as a therapeutic state and its recognition of extensive veteran privileges. The article concludes that the veteran privileges represent a political, social, and economic burden which is hindering Croatia's postconflict development.


trauma, advocacy, therapeutic state, legitimation, Croatia

"We were together in the war, let us be together in peace," the Croatian Ministry of Families, Veterans, and Intergenerational Solidarity declared in newspaper adverts on August 5, 2011. (1) The date of the military Operation Storm and fall of Republika Srpska Krajina is officially celebrated as Croatian Victory Day, Homeland Thanksgiving Day, and Croatian Veterans Day. During the annual celebrations in 2011, the then Prime Minister and former Veterans Minister Jadranka Kosor renewed her promise to veterans that she would protect their interests. For Kosor, the veterans' position in society transcends politics. "Let us not squabble over the veterans' back, we have a commitment to them and they are above politics," Kosor declared in earlier Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day celebrations. (2) The new Croatian government has not yet declared a firm position on Croatian veterans, nor has the European Union following Croatia's EU accession treaty signed in December 2011 and ratified in March 2012. But apprehension has been growing among veterans that their position in society is under threat.

This article considers international trauma advocacy and Croatian veteran politics. Croatia is interesting as a case study of international trauma advocacy as it was the first country where international trauma programs took off in the early 1990s. The origins of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are linked to the US antiwar movement and human rights advocacy. International human rights advocacy in the 1990s sought to assert individuals' rights against national sovereignty, but ironically legitimized state claims and power politics. (3) Similarly international victim trauma advocacy sought to assert individuals' interests against nationalist politics, but ironically in Croatia legitimized sectional nationalist interests. Specifically, international victim trauma advocacy helped legitimize Croatian veteran politics and their privileged position in Croatian society. The article begins by discussing international trauma advocacy in Croatia and its legitimization of privileged veteran pensions. The article then goes on to discuss therapeutic state legitimation and international therapeutic governance. The second half of the article considers Croatian state legitimation in the context of the need for international and national recognition. We suggest that Croatia is developing therapeutic forms of state legitimation. Croatia may be conceptualized as what the sociologist James Nolan has termed a "therapeutic state," where the state relates to key sections of society through therapeutic governance. (4) We conclude that the Croatian therapeutic state is characterized by parasitical therapeutic relations and social stasis.

In our criticisms of expanding therapeutic governance, we are not disputing that people are marked by their experiences or the presence of psychological distress. However, we are contesting how the prevailing paradigms have constructed war trauma and legitimized particular political relations. There has been strikingly little understanding or follow-up in the international trauma advocacy field of how their ideas became absorbed into the recipient societies and adapted to local political interests. International trauma advocacy and therapeutic governance have actually complicated postconflict national politics and development in Croatia.

International Trauma Advocacy in Croatia

There was a veritable explosion of international trauma programs first in Croatia and then in Bosnia. This new field was expressed in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees's (UNHCR) revised 1990s' guidance on refugees, which began to recommend counseling services for refugees and war-affected populations. (5) A 1994 report documented a total of 185 psychosocial programs in Bosnia and Croatia. (6) Interventions are not simply about alleviating individual psychological distress. Therapeutic governance of war-affected societies seeks to break perceived cycles of trawna and violence and views untreated war trauma as a trigger of future war. The US Common Bond Institute (CBI), among the western organizations promoting a psychosocial war paradigm, contends that "unresolved communal psychological wounds, often inherited from one generation to the other, are one of the most powerful fuels of war and violent conflicts." (7) Without psychosocial intervention, it is feared, "the cycle of violence and the cycle of trauma directly contribute to each other. The pervasive presence of such a large segment of traumatized members in all areas of these societies poses perhaps the most (8) formidable barrier to peace." (9)

The Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma has been influential in its efforts to build a "new paradigm for the prevention of war and the healing and recovery of survivors of violence." It seeks to place "human and mental health issues at the center of global approaches to world peace and development." Bosnia and Croatia were a key focus on its work in the 1990s. The Harvard Program describes how since 1995, it has "trained over 200 practitioners in Bosnia and Croatia in caring for survivors of mass violence, through a model that is being replicated throughout Bosnia and has been accepted by the region's Stability Pact. Our work in Bosnia has been supported by the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, and USAID." (10)

Intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations adopted these psychosocial approaches, as the Harvard program indicates. The World Health Organization (WHO)'s Consultation on Health as a Bridge to Peace warns untreated trauma "may contribute to demoralization and lack of initiative, as well as to rigid patterns of thinking that perpetuate war and make it chronic." (11)

As part of its endeavor, the Harvard Program adapted its Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ), symptoms checklist, and trauma manual to the country context, including a specific version for Croatian veterans, available in English and Croatian. (12) Other US diagnostic tests have also been applied in Croatia. (13) International trauma models have therefore been integral to the screening and legitimizing of veteran trauma claims.

Western psychosocial interventions have been attacked by critics as foreign impositions, marginalizing alternative cultural meanings, delegitimizing, and undermining local understandings and coping mechanisms. (14) Western checklists have been problematized as pathologizing normal responses, overlooking the social meaning of symptoms and inflating the numbers deemed to be dysfunctional and in need of psychosocial interventions. Overall trauma programs have been criticized for emphasizing vulnerability and neglecting resilience. (15) Controversies over the assumptions and quality of many international psychosocial programs subsequently led the WHO to modify its guide-lines on trauma interventions. (16) Nevertheless the WHO accepted the premise of the field that psychosocial interventions were needed to support war-affected populations.

Croatian Veteran Pensions

Croatian society, seeking international recognition and EU membership, has been very receptive to external ideas and initiatives. Professionals, pleased to develop international links, readily allowed responses to war-affected individuals to be shaped by the western PTSD framework through international counseling or training programs which mushroomed in the war. (17) Croatian medical literature and pension policies have overwhelmingly endorsed PTSD models and the medicalization of veterans. International trauma assumptions of mass psychological dysfunction in war, supported by authoritative diagnostic checklists, have legitimized large-scale veteran claims to PTSD diagnosis, institutionalizing veteran rights and veterans' privileged social position. A key ministry adviser on the law was Herman VukusSia, President of the Society of Medical Stress in Zagreb. In an earlier coauthored ministry study, he suggested:
  PTSD incidence in Croatian war veterans suggest that at this moment at
  least 14-16% of population participating in the Croatian Homeland
  Defence War suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. This figure is
  very probably the lower limit of incidence, whereas the upper limit
  could be inferred ranging from 25 up to over 40%. (18)

Given this evaluation, the study recommended veterans' need for intensive psychosocial assistance and the community's social responsibility toward them. The attractiveness of PTSD is very apparent with thousands of veterans making trauma pension claims supported by international trauma models presuming long-term traumatic dysfunction. (19)

Notwithstanding Croatia's cultural receptiveness, international trauma advocacy literature has not adequately reflected on how its ideas became intertwined in Croatian politics and sectional interests. Ironically international trauma advocacy has helped legitimize a therapeutic veteran frame-work, actually institutionalizing "chronic" conditions and "demoralization and lack of initiative, as well as to rigid patterns of thinking" which the WHO sought to prevent. (20)

Earlier reports blame the growth of veteran pensions on President Franjo Tudman. (21) Certainly Tuctman legitimized veterans having a privileged political position in society and the numbers of veteran pensions were steadily rising in late 1990s. But pensions actually rose dramatically after his presidency in the new millennium, coinciding with international requirements for demobilization. Their number doubled between 2003 and 2009 from 30,865 to 64,494. (22) The biggest leap was in the mid-2000s, notably 2006-2008. (23) The year 2010 shows the highest reported veteran figures at 68,630. Furthermore we need to add the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), that is, members of the Bosnian Croatian forces, who have Croatian citizenship and were first recognized as a separate category in 2008. Their numbers went from 3,029 in 2008 to 6,174 in 2009. Meanwhile, Croatian military pensions actually went down in the same period. (24) The number of Croatian Army pensioners is only 10,863 in 2009 compared to 64,494 homeland war veterans and 6,174 Croatian Defence Council veterans. (25)

We may compare these figures to a country like Israel who has experienced sustained conflict for decades and whose military have enjoyed significant national standing and recognition. Yet the number of Israeli veterans on disability pensions is actually proportionately lower, approximately 50,000 disabled veterans in a population of 7.7 million, whereas Croatia has approximately 70,000 veteran claimants in a population of 4.5 million. Importantly many later pension claims relate to PTSD, rather than other physical injury claims--one study gives the figure of 32,000 PTSD cases. (26) Some media reports have even claimed around 90 percent of veteran pension claims are related to psychological rather than physical injury. However, without a public registry, the breakdown is not clear.

Significantly, the average homeland war veteran pension is about a third more than the average military pension and about double that of ordinary pensioners. (27) Veteran privileged pensions are actually higher than average incomes. (28) Moreover veterans enjoy further benefits and privileges. (29) These include health insurance rights, education allowances, priorities related to university enrollment, allocation of rooms in student halls of residence, free textbooks, priorities related to leasing commercial properties, various import duty and tax exemptions and administrative levies, and free shares in privatized companies. By 2010, the cost of veteran pensions was estimated to total over 5 billion Kunas, while their right to import cars without customs duties was estimated to total around 6 billion Kunas.

Periodic government attempts have been made to reign in PTSD claims. In 2002, Ivica Paneie as Minister of Veterans under a coalition government introduced a review test to check claims. (30) Other supplementary initiatives included invitations to foreign experts, such as the experienced Israeli military psychiatrist Arieh Shalev and the British military historian Ben Shephard to advise officials and professionals on alternative national approaches supporting resilience and rehabilitation as against international trauma models presuming long-term traumatic dysfunction. There has been an idea to limit recognition of PTSD claims to those involved in particular military engagements, although again it is not clear to what extent this is followed in practice.

So far periodic attempts to limit PTSD claims have not been sustained and have been soon abandoned. New or renewed veteran claims have continued to be allowed in the context of successive governments concerned to maintain veteran loyalty. Over her political career, Kosor has strongly defended veterans' entitlements and pensions. Under her ministerial leadership, the modified regulations actually made it easier for veterans to claim pension rights, including PTSD claims. (31) In the face of economic crisis, former Prime Minister Kosor kept reiterating her promises to veterans: "Even today, when Croatia is in recession, the government will not put into question a single veteran or disabled right. Instead in this difficult 2009, we will set aside around 7 billion kunas." (32)

Goran Dokie's illuminating ethnographic study of various Croatian clinics treating veterans shows the entanglement of diagnosis and social assistance. (33) Clinical professionals feel under pressure to be lenient over the periodic medical reviews of claims because of not wanting to deny social assistance. (34) But Dokie documents the unease of some clinicians with medicalizing veterans: "Giving them pensions and forcing them to remain in constant check only deepens their alienation and constant reliving of traumatic episodes and strengthens their role as medical subjects." (35) Unsurprisingly, the term veteran has become synonymous with being a veteran pension claimant.

Strikingly critical studies of veteran pensions have tended to come from outside of professional stakeholders in trauma advocacy, for example, economic studies (36) or anthropological studies. (37) Local psychologists might report sniggering in international training sessions, (38) but their skepticism has typically been expressed informally. Furthermore key relativist critiques of trauma models have had little professional purchase where the political imperatives have been to demonstrate the country's western cultural values. As Croatian psychologists have observed, Croatia was after all historically part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and under the rule of Vienna, birthplace of Sigmund Freud and modern psychoanalysis. (39) The foremost Croatian twentieth century novelist Miroslav Krleza was strongly influenced by Freudian ideas, although Krleza might have some damning observations to make about therapeutic parasitism, given his earlier sharp social commentary.

Therapeutic State Legitimation

Many studies have explored the "triumph of the therapeutic" in Anglo-American culture. (40) Works like Ellen Herman's The Romance of American Psychology (41) or Nikolas Rose's Governing the Sour (42) or Frank Furedi's Therapy Culture (43) have further analyzed the rise of psychology's influence on political thinking, social governance, and state legitimation. James Nolan's The Therapeutic State follows Jiirgen Habermas' analysis of a crisis of previous sources of state legitimation, and its intensification with the state's expansion and need to justify itself in new areas of life. We may compare how the earlier postwar Keynesian state model made "productivism" or state-led industrial economic production, employment, and material welfare core to state legitimacy through giving security, identity, and purpose to citizens. Keynesian "productivist" state legitimacy has declined, along with relative industrial decline and the shift to the late capitalist postmodern, post-material economy. Nolan argues that the search for new sources of state legitimation found a cultural source in cultural therapeutic orientations. (44)

Nolan's study outlines key themes of the therapeutic culture: (a) the emotional self as the reference point; (b) the "emotivist ethic" or an ethics which appeals to one's feelings and emotional self-esteem; (c) a "new priestly class" of psychological professionals who are authorized to guide individuals according to a psychological vision of the world; and (d) the "pathologization of human behavior" or attributing human behavior to mental conditions as opposed to traditional moral codes. (45) The latter can be seen in the massive expansion of both psychological professionals and diagnostic classifications. Of relevance here, suffering is framed as PTSD, that is, a disorder, as against older moral orders, which associate suffering with stoicism and virtue. (46) Thus, individuals are encouraged to understand themselves as victims or sick selves. (47) Furthermore, "The sick self not only speaks with the language of emotions but blames someone else for infringing on his or her rights to health and happiness." (48) Simultaneously personal appeals and social entitlements are legitimized in the language of victim pathologies. This change is reflected in political rhetoric where pathos has become "the dominant form of persuasion." (49)

The therapeutic ethos goes beyond the cultural popularity of informal or formal psychological diagnosis and engenders new governance relations. Paralleling how the postmodern economy has shifted from productivism to services and consumption, so the state has shifted from state-supported productivism toward therapeutic governance orientated toward personal subjectivity: promoting capabilities at the individual cultural level rather than economic industrial production. The problem of employment is typically now addressed at the level of individual employability: personality, attitudes, and skills. Under the therapeutic ethos, individuals and groups are understood as incomplete subjects requiring enablement to act upon themselves and make the right choices.

The pathos of Anglo-American therapeutic state legitimation compliments the historical pathos of humanitarian advocacy and became fused in the 1990s' international psychosocial humanitarian interventions. The new field helped reinvigorate western humanitarianism against its legitimacy crisis and doubts over traditional humanitarian work. (50) As such their representations tell us about the psy-chopolitical needs of western societies at a particular historical juncture. (51) The trauma paradigm seductively delineates the third-party intervener as healer, peacemaker, and rights defender. (52) Simul-taneously war and disaster-affected populations are encouraged to frame their needs in therapeutic terms. Simultaneously too post-conflict statebuilding and state legitimation have drawn on international psychosocial approaches. But to understand state building as therapeutic governance, we need to consider the demise of international development which had underpinned international state building models in the post--Second World War period.

Demise of International Development and the Rise of Global Therapeutic Governance

Psychosocial programs were not part of the standard international aid response before the 1990s. Yet they took off spectacularly within a couple of years of the Cold War ending. Crucially international psychosocial programs took off in Croatia and in other countries as part of international conflict management. Such approaches in the field of conflict studies may be traced back to western social psychology and crowd theories of the interwar period such as John Dollard's Frustration and Aggression (53) or Edward Glover's War, Sadism and Pacifism, (54) which regard the masses as primarily driven by their emotions rather than by reason. The field of conflict studies treats conflict at different levels from the international, national, to the interpersonal as essentially analogous. Indeed key conflict studies informed by social psychology link the risks of war with child development problems and a culture of family violence. (55) United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s 1945 constitution expressly locates the causes of war in the human mind and believes that peace building needs to begin there. However, psychosocial approaches to conflict did not prevail internationally during the Cold War. Significantly such approaches were opposed by the Soviet bloc and the newly independent nonaligned movement countries--not least they opposed the application of psychosocial approaches to nationalist anticolonial armed struggles, which they regarded as legitimate, and not pathological.

Economic development strategies, rather than psychosocial approaches, came to the fore in international policy thinking in the context of East--West rivalry for influence in the nonaligned world. Economic development was championed as promoting the capacity of weak states, lessening disparities between countries, and therefore advancing shared values and international rapprochement. Western modernization models such as W. W. Rostow's Stages of Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (56) competed against Soviet and Chinese models or alternative critical political economy approaches. Peace studies, which developed as a distinct field from conflict studies, were influenced by critical political economy perspectives against the politics of the Cold War superpowers.

Nevertheless, especially from the 1970s, we see social psychological ideas incrementally influencing more and more areas of international policy thinking, including international development which had initially displaced social psychological conflict models. Western official support for international development was historically qualified by fears of its destabilizing impact on societies and only supported in so far as it is regarded as furthering international order. (57) Western alarm in the late 1960s at the destabilizing impact of development eroded its support for "productivism" or industrialization models of international development. Influential western thinking such as the psychologist Abraham Maslow's frustration and basic needs theory (58) and the economist and philosopher E. F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful (59) linked modernization, social dissatisfaction, and social conflict. Such ideas gained official attention in the context of the 1973 oil crisis internationally and economic disputes domestically. They led to the reorientation of international development from aspirations of universal material prosperity to basic needs. But they also influenced western radicals, disappointed in the failures to mobilize among the urban working classes, who turned to antimaterialist counterculture ideas. Against the failures of collective ideologies, movements such as feminism and peace activism increasingly took the personal as the starting point for social and political change. The therapeutizing of peace activism is vividly illustrated by peace activists and disenchanted veterans coming together to campaign for official recognition of a Vietnam syndrome which culminated in codification of PTSD in the revised US diagnostic manual. (60) Therapeutic approaches were therefore already discernible from the 1970s, although the climate internationally was not receptive to conflict management and therapeutic governance until the end of the Cold War. (61)

Contemporary global strategies essentially seek to improve people's resilience and sense of well-being in the absence of significant material transformation by reforming the subjectivity of populations, that is, a form of therapeutic governance. (62) Therapeutic governance links psychosocial well-being and security and seeks to foster personalities able to cope with poverty, risk, and insecurity without resorting to violence. Thus, an individual's sense of self-esteem and psychosocial well-being is not simply of personal concern but is an aspect of good governance. Yet there are problems globalizing such forms of therapeutic governance or therapeutic state legitimation in countries, where populations have evident material priorities or maintain expectations of the state as material provider rather than therapeutic enabler. These problems are evident in how the influences of international trauma advocacy and therapeutic governance have been absorbed in Croatia.

Croatian Nationalism and Trauma Politics

Nationalism has been defined by its active mobilization of peoples in a struggle for national self-determination. As such nationalism has been a dynamic force historically, in both its creative and its destructive aspects. A Nietzschean will to power and sovereignty is antithetical to a trauma model of dysfunction and incapacity. The sick role, as Talcott Parsons outlines, involves release from social responsibility and action, and professional determination of one's interests. (63) So while the Croatian wartime government was ready to use the discourse of trauma and victimhood as an aspect of the international propaganda war, to a degree Croatian nationalism circumscribed international therapeutic frameworks.

President Tudman was in certain respects an old-fashioned nationalist leader, who saw himself as a Croatian patriot and father of the nation. He was proud of establishing the Croatian state and believed in Croatia's future destiny in Europe. Yet he was also a former Yugoslav Partisan officer with earlier wartime experience. He was reported to be rather wary of PTSD labels being applied to Croatian soldiers, whose suffering he held to be heroic, not dysfunctional. Croatian soldiers were heroes fighting a defensive homeland war, whereas a Vietnam syndrome had been experienced by US soldiers fighting an unpopular, unjust dirty foreign war. A Vietnam-type syndrome was therefore irrelevant, even insulting, to Croatian veterans. Nevertheless the Croatian state came to adopt trauma models through tensions over the challenges of securing state legitimation, domestically and internationally. External intervention was crucial for Croatia in establishing itself as a state. Hence external sources of state legitimation influenced internal politics and how the character of domestic legitimation developed. Regional military expert James Gow has summarized these tensions leading to Croatia following a Janus-like political discourse representing itself externally as victim and internally as victor. (64) This dualist victor/victim representation pervades veteran politics.

The new state of Croatia had the challenge of legitimizing itself in distinction from the former socialist state of SFR Yugoslavia. Croatia has drawn its core legitimation from a nationalist narrative of a defensive Homeland War against Serbian aggression. In this war, Croatian statehood has been presented as the realization of the historical dreams of a cultured pro-western Croatian European identity against Serbian Balkanism and Orientalism. This war narrative continues to dominate public discourse, including war-related documentaries or news reports, anniversaries of particular war events, commemoration ceremonies and veteran affairs. Myriad monuments, museums, exhibitions, and plaques are devoted to the Homeland War, from Dubrovnik's historical walls to Knin's fortress. Many street names in towns and villages are dedicated to the war, while Croatian flags are common on public and private buildings. So a town like Knin has Storm Square, Ante Starcevic Square, Franjo Tudman Street, Fourth Brigade Road, Seventh Brigade Road, 142nd Brigade Road, and so on. The Homeland War's centrality in legitimizing the state fostered the political elite's reliance on veteran support and veterans' elevated status and privileges. Here Croatia is following a well-established political pattern. A nationalist war narrative and the army's centrality in state legitimation is historically common--indeed Socialist Yugoslavia made its wartime Partisans integral to its legitimacy.

Yet Croatia's establishment was won, less on the battlefield than as a result of diplomatic and judicial interventions, supporting Croatia's establishment and pressurizing Serbia to withdraw support from Krajina Serbs, which eventually led to the fall of Republika Srpska Krajina in 1995. The role of external support has required the Croatian state to negotiate international pressures against domestic pressures. In particular international intervention has problematized Croatia's legitimation through the Homeland War. First the political elite has confronted international war crimes trials; second, demands to reduce its military.

Initially international war crimes discourse was focused against the Serbs and complemented Croatian nationalism's model of a war against aggression. The early indictments of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague related to the actions of Bosnian Serbian or Croatian Serbian forces. Croatia was therefore a keen supporter of the Hague tribunal. But the ICTY's prosecuting policies evolved to include indictments of Croatian and Bosnian Croatian military and political leaders. Prosecutions did not question Croatia's legitimacy as a state or its right to go to war but the conduct of war. Nevertheless indictments for war crimes and crimes against humanity challenged the nationalist narrative of a legitimate defensive war. Trials of figures such as General Tihomir Blaskic and General Ante Gotovina, considered Croatian war heroes, shook official and popular representations of the Homeland War, and therefore the core pillar of Croatian state legitimation. The prosecutions have been opposed by the core of the Croatian government, the ruling HDZ party, and veteran organizations, who have protested at every stage of the trials. "We will protest until all our veterans awaiting trials for alleged war crimes are released," one veteran protester declared, illustrating the clashing pressures on the Croatian political elite. (65) So it has not been easy for the government to maintain its legitimizing war narrative and veterans' loyalty while complying with international demands to surrender Croatian military commanders to the Hague Tribunal.

If this first dimension hit primarily the symbolic level, the second dimension requiring reduction in the military materially affected this key veteran constituency from whom the Croatian government drew its core legitimacy and electoral support. Military reductions were significant where the discrediting of the Yugoslav federal state and Yugoslav socialism did not mean the discrediting of state support. Indeed the Croatian Constitution defines itself as a "socijalna drzava" or "welfare state." (66) The population has continuing expectations of extensive social support, coupled with hopes of the higher standards of living enjoyed in west European market economies. The new Croatian state actually expanded state institutions or state aid in particular ways, cultivating loyal constituencies against the insecurities of declining industries and market liberalization, from new municipal layers of local government to nongovernmental organizations to privatization rights. In Croatia, therapeutic legitimation is attractive in spanning its socialist past and market future, and affirming state support, not least a reorientated continuing social role for professionals. Indeed therapeutic concerns have expanded potential professional roles in personal lives where previously there was relative autonomy from state supervision as compared to the Soviet bloc.

We now come to the attractions of therapeutic legitimation in reconciling international and national legitimation demands, while maintaining the loyalty of this key veteran constituency. Here we may note historical precedents where therapeutic discourse has allowed for reconciliation of conflicting narratives over war and the military. Notably trauma advocacy, which culminated in official diagnostic recognition of PTSD in 1980, helped US society deal with the Vietnam War, defuse the political and social consequences of military defeat, and reconcile state, veterans, and the antiwar movement. (67) Moreover psychology's expanding in mainstream culture was arguably fostered through the military. (68) Nevertheless there are important differences between the US and Croatian veteran and therapeutic politics. Namely the Vietnam veterans movement was a political force opposing the US government to which the US government made concessions in the form of veteran welfare rights. However, the veterans in Croatia are not an autonomous political actor of their own. Instead, the privileged Croatian veteran militants have essentially been cultivated as a group and used by the dominant Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, both in the period when the HDZ was in opposition (2000-2003) and when it was in government (2004-2011), as an instrument to intimidate their domestic political opponents.

Demilitarization for many Croatian soldiers without state support meant economic insecurity, unemployment, underemployment, and economic hardships. And whereas wartime deprivations might be tolerated, peacetime hardships questioned the sacrifices of war and therefore the legitimacy of the Croatian state. International trauma models have allowed the government to comply with western demands for demobilization, and cultivate veteran loyalty. But it should be remembered that some veterans are more equal than others--and in a situation of general mobilization only those with sufficient connections have been able to acquire the cherished privileged veteran pension status. As such the therapeutic framework has provided a useful way of managing demilitarization cultivating both a veteran and a professional lobby, even if only some may enjoy its largesse. So rather than international trauma politics countering nationalism, it has fostered a particular parasitical form with serious long-term consequences for the country's future, politically, socially, and economically.

Croatia on the Couch

Nietzsche suggested "measuring the health of a society and of individuals according to how many parasites they can stand." (69) According to that measure Croatia has been a very healthy therapeutic state for the last two decades.

The around 70,000 veteran claimants and other privileged pension groups needs to be read against a population of 4.5 million, where real GDP growth in 2011 was at 0.9 percent, with a current account deficit of 6.0 percent. (70) The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) gives Croatia a regional economic ranking of 11 out of 16 among central and eastern European countries. (71) Croatia carries a relatively high national debt for its economy, with its "total government debt and guaranteed debt" amounting to HRK 194.3 billion, or 58 percent of 2010 GDP. (72) "Public and publicly guaranteed debt is just below 60% of GDP ... above the average in eastern Europe and above the 40% level sometimes suggested by the IMF as suitable for emerging economies." (73) As such the country's sovereign debt risk is higher than the central and eastern European average. (74) The EIU forecasts "public debt will remain high in 2011-12, at almost 60% of GDP." There is concern over the long-term sustainability of public debt if the government does not reduce the fiscal deficit and social burdens. (75) A new feature as against the 1980s' economic crisis is high consumer credit debts. (76) The unemployment rate was reported as 18.8 percent at the end of 2010, though this figure dropped in 2011. Reports of much higher informal unemployment levels--nearly 50 percent among the young circulate in the media. (77) Significantly Croatia's unemployment levels are further matched by high non-participation in the labor force--only around 63 percent of those of working age participate. (78)

Crucially in Croatia postindustrial or postmaterialist models of therapeutic governance has led to the neglect and the demise of its industrial sectors. Whole towns like Sisak are now facing economic ruin with their dying industries. Virtually no strategies exist toward establishing new industries. Reports on the Croatian tourism industry may suggest it is booming, but increasingly its profits are realized abroad. Against the expanding privileged pension burden, (79) most of the population have experienced over two decades of declining living standards, impoverishment, and harder working conditions. The state's recognition of extensive veteran privileges coexists along side acute social needs which are being ignored. Not least alongside the attention given to trauma advocacy, individuals with severe conditions like schizophrenia receive inadequate mental health support, a problem in other countries too.

There appears little political will to address the problem of a state organized around competing entitlement claims, nor to expand Croatia's productive economic base beyond tourism. Among the political class there is striking reluctance to take any responsibility for developing any plans to restructure the Croatian economy or any responsibility for having led Croatia into economic crisis. Periodic scandals over the veteran pensions have arisen, (80) including the online leaking of a list of 501,666 war veterans in April 2010, with information on combat service. (81) Behind this scandal is a long ongoing debate over whether a veteran registry should be published, which is supported by President No Josipovic. (82) A journalist at the time of the Internet leak observed, "Most of the public feels that the document has been kept secret to protect military personnel who served behind desks instead of on the battlefield." (83) The new government and the minister for war veterans have announced that they intend to publish the names of all Croatian war veterans. (84)

Meanwhile Croatian sociological and psychological expertise has shifted from war-related trauma advocacy to psychopolitical diagnosis of the economic crisis. The medical sociologist Slaven Letica and principal government adviser in the 1990-91 period suggests "Croatian society is living in the state of general PTSD." (85) Letica criticizes how "(t)he entire concept of the economic policy in the past 15 years has been shifted away from work ethics." (86) Certainly a privileged entitlement system where pensions are higher than average incomes has given incentives to those with sufficient influence to not work and become a claimant. Yet state largesse is only enjoyed by a minority, while the majority have experienced impoverishment, whether ordinary pensioners or those in work whose earnings and working conditions have worsened against rising living costs. The World Bank and Croatian UNDP attribute the "unusually low" labor participation rates to privileged war veteran and other pensions. (87) Unemployment benefits, enjoyed by less than a quarter of the unemployed, are not seen as disincentives to work. (88)

The high pension costs and non-participation in the labor force are seen as major drags on Croatia's increased labor productivity and economic development. Slow pensions reform is identified as a key negative economic factor undermining the country's economic sustainability. (89) In 2010, the government announced it would decrease "all privileged pensions greater than 3,500 kunas (482 Euros)" by 10 percent. (90) Other proposals have also been made including tightening the granting of veteran pensions and means testing for veterans' cash benefits. (91) But the previous government also said it will spare all full war invalids. It remains to be seen how substantial the new government's reforms will actually be in practice. Critical analysis invariably ends on expectations that the lax privileged (veteran) pension regime will tighten. Yet this expectation has recurred for a decade, with the privileged pension system modified, but essentially unreformed. In these circumstances, the EIU analysis suggests slower GDP growth over the next decade than 2000-11. (92)

Indicting a general cultural mentality overlooks how work has intensified for those subject to market pressures. Nor does it address the political responsibility for fostering a privileged entitlement regime, nor how the entitlement-dependent lives of specific veteran or war victim groups have been important to the government's legitimacy. Nolan asks whether therapeutic state legitimation can be lasting as a "solidarity-building force." (93) Therapeutic legitimation has helped the Croatian state legitimize a privileged veteran constituency. But the privileged position of veterans is acquiesced to rather than actively supported among the broader population. Recent public lobbying over discrimination between civilian and veteran disabled entitlements suggests veteran privileges are becoming more politically controversial and divisive.

Nonetheless, even if veteran privileges disappear, this does not mean that therapeutic legitimation will necessarily disappear. Certain trends toward a therapeutic ethos are also evident in Croatia, therefore providing a broader cultural basis to therapeutic state legitimation, albeit a potentially reconstructed state. As Nolan suggests, "(t)he subjective orientation of the therapeutic disposition in effect mitigates the importance of it being both a lasting and unifying force on the cultural level and a basis of authority on the state level." (94)

Strikingly, the Ministry of Families, Veterans and Intergenerational Solidarity is shifting the focus of its activities toward more general public advocacy against victimhood, especially around children. (95) Here the mentality of the Croatian population becomes indicted, as in psychosocial economic analysis. Letica's psychosocial diagnosis suggests that "the renewal of the Balkan fatalist mentality and Western, developed elements ... is being suppressed." (96) His diagnosis overlooks how western-inspired trauma advocacy helped legitimize individuals adopting more passive welfare recipient orientated lives where they could claim entitlement status and fostered a parasitical entitlement mentality among privileged sections of Croatia rather than the traditional stoicism which is still displayed among those less privileged. It was precisely key "western, developed elements" in Croatian society, which followed the West in its own stasis and has their share of responsibility for the therapeutic state that Croatia is in.

International trauma advocacy rather than countering nationalism and antimilitarism, countered nationalism in its more dynamic creative form, and legitimized nationalism in a parasitical sectional form undermining the country's national development and risking its bankruptcy. Croatian citizens live with the consequences of how the war and peace were therapeutized. Under a therapeutic paradigm, the country's resources have been squandered to support unproductive private lifestyles of a minority at the expense of the rest. This parasitical state of affairs has been seductive to those able to enjoy its largesse, but in the long-term it has been corrosive of a shared public ethos and civic values and is antithetical to progressive democratic national forces and interests.

For over a decade and a half the ruling elite has managed to cultivate its legitimacy with a narrow sector and take its legitimacy with the wider population for granted. The formal political party opposition groups essentially operate within the ruling political parameters and frameworks of legitimacy. No opposition is organized against this state of affairs. Spontaneous protests took place in Spring 2011 inspired by the Arab spring involving younger people and outside the existing political groupings. "You've stolen from us" protest banners proclaimed. They represented no threat to the government and soon fizzled out, but they did indicate alienation from the government and future legitimacy problems. If local democratic forces do not develop and challenge the parasitical political economy strangling the country, the future only holds far more dramatic state restructuring being imposed by the EU or IMF against all citizens.

Authors' Note

Earlier versions of this article were presented at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, University of Warwick, University of Westminster, and University of Nottingham. We would like to thank those who responded to these presentations for the useful discussions which helped develop our thinking.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article

Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

37(3) 199-213

[c] The Author(s) 2012

Reprints and permission:

DOI: 10.1 177/0304375412450844



(1.) "Ministry of Families, Veterans and Intergenerational Solidarity," Slobodna Dalmacija, August 5,2011,9.

(2.) Quoted in Dalje, August 5,2007.

(3.) Inger Agger, "Challenges in Psychosocial Intervention in the Aftermath of War and Political Violence," Psyke & Logos, 25 (2004): 77-94; David Chandler, From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention (London: Pluto, 2002); Simon Chesterman, Just War or Just Peace? Humanitarian Intervention and International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute, 1995); Susan Woodward, "Humanitarian War: A New Consensus?" Disasters 25 (2001): 331-344.

(4.) James Nolan, The Therapeutic State: Justifying Government at the Century's End (New York: New York University Press, 1998).

(5.) UNHCR, Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women (Geneva: UNHCR, 1991); UNHCR Guidance on the Care and Protection of Refugee Children (Geneva: UNHCR, 1994).

(6.) Inger Agger, Sanja Vuk, and Jadranka Mimica, Theory and Practice of Psychosocial Projects under War Conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia (Brussels: ECHO and the European Community Task Force, Psychosocial Unit, 1995)

(7.) Common Bond Institute web site. Common Bond Institute

(8.) Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma web site.

(9.) Common Bond Institute

(10.) Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma web site.

(11.) WHO, Report on the Second WHO Consultation on Health as a Bridge for Peace (Geneva: WHO, 2002).

(12.) K. Allden, T. Franciskovic, J. Lavelle, M. Mathias, K. McInnes, RF Mollica, and L. Moro, Harvard Trauma Manual: Croatian Veterans Version (Cambridge: Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, 1998).

(13.) Zoran Komar and Herman Vukusic, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Croatian War Veterans; Incidence and Psychosocial Features (Zagreb. Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Croatia, 2000).

(14.) Patrick Bracken, Trauma: Cultural Meaning and Philosophy (London: Whurr Publishers, 2002); Paul Stubbs and Baljit Soroya, "War Trauma, Psycho-Social Projects And Social Development in Croatia," Medicine and War, 12 (1996): 303-314; Derek Summerfield, "A Critique of Seven Assumptions Behind Psychological Trauma Programmes in War-Affected Areas," Social Science and Medicine, 48 (1999): 1449-1462; F.W. Weathers and T.M. Keane, "The Criterion: A Problem Revisited: Controversies and Challenges in Defining and Measuring Psychological Trauma," Journal of Trauma Stress, 20 (2007): 107-21; R. Yehuda and A. C. McFarlane, "Conflict between current knowledge about posttraumatic stress disorder and its original conceptual basis," American Journal of Psychiatry, 152 (1995): 1705-1713.

(15.) Arieh Shalev, "Resilience is the Default--How Not to Miss It." Paper presented at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, October 5, 2009.

(16.) Mark van Ommeren, Shekhar Saxena, and Bennedetto Saraceno, "Mental and social health during and after acute emergencies: emerging consensus?" Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 83 (2005): 71-5.

(17.) Goran Dokic, Psychosocial Transition in a Postsocialist Context: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Croatian Psychiatry, MA Thesis, University of Victoria, 2009, 59-62; Jadranka Mimica and Paul Stubbs, "Between Relief and Development: Theories, Practice and Evaluation of Psychosocial Projects in Croatia." Community Development Journal, 31 (1996): 281-290.

(18.) Komar and Vukusic, 2000, 135.

(19.) Mile Franicevic, "Ivica Pancic stvara famu da je branitelja PTSP-jem ubojica za volanom," Vjesnik, September 9, 2003; Biserka Lovric, "Vazno je dostojanstvo, ne novac," Vjesnik, September 9, 2003.

(20.) WHO, Report on the Second WHO Consultation.

(21.) Drago Hedl, "Croatia: Storm Over War Pensions," Institute for War & Peace Reporting. BCR, (366), September 11 2002.

(22.) Marijana Badun, "Pension beneficiaries who have been granted pensions under more favourable conditions," Institute of Public Finance Newsletter, 44 (2009): 3.

(23.) Ibid.

(24.) Ibid.

(25.) Ibid.

(26.) Dokic, Psychosocial transition in a postsocialist context, 48.

(27.) Badun, "Pension Beneficiaries," 4.

(28.) Suzana Barilar and Kristina Turcin, "Ne piju tablete da ne bi ozdravili. Zdrav branitelj u ovoj zemlji gubi privilegije," Jutarni list, June 19, 2009.

(29.) Badun, "Pension Beneficiaries," 8.

(30.) Nacional, "HSLS koristi PTSP-jevce za udar na koaliciju," February 25, 2002.

(31.) A list of the laws determining veteran pension rights is given in Badun's succinct economic review of privileged pensions (Badun, "Pension Beneficiaries," 9).

(32.) Kosor in Barilar and Turcin, 2009; authors' translation.

(33.) Dokic, Psychosocial transition in a postsocialist context.

(34.) Dokic, Psychosocial transition in a postsocialist context, 67-75; Vera Folnegovic Smalc in Barilar and Turcin, 2009.

(35.) Nurse quoted in Dokic, Psychosocial transition in a postsocialist context, 76.

(36.) Badun, "Pension Beneficiaries," 1-9.

(37.) Dokic, Psychosocial Transition in a Postsocialist Context.

(38.) Dokic, Psychosocial Transition in a Postsocialist Context, 65.

(39.) Jadranka Mimica, "The Politics of Culture and Suffering," in The Refugee Experience. Psychosocial Training Module, ed. M. Loughry and A. Ager (Oxford: Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, 2001), 132-33.

(40.) Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1966).

(41.) Ellen Herman, The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).

(42.) Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul (New York: Free Association Books, 1999).

(43.) Frank Furedi, Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Age of Uncertainty (London: Routledge, 2004).

(44.) Nolan, The Therapeutic State, 45.

(45.) Ibid., 2-13.

(46.) Ibid, 15-16.

(47.) Ibid., 15.

(48.) Ibid., 15.

(49.) Ibid., 279.

(50.) Vanessa Pupavac "Psychosocial Interventions and the Demoralisation of Humanitarianism," Journal of Biosocial Science 36 (2004): 491-504; Tony Vaux, The Selfish Altruist (London: Earthscan, 2001).

(51.) Dubravka Ugresic, The Culture of Lies (London: Phoenix House, 1998), 200.

(52.) Erica Burman, "Innocents Abroad: Western Fantasies of Childhood and the Iconography of Emergencies," Disasters 18 (1994): 238-253.

(53.) John Dollard, Leonard W. Doob, Neal E. Miller, 0. H. Mowrer, and Robert R. Sears, Frustration and Aggression (New Haven: Yale University, 1939).

(54.) Edward Glover, War, Sadism and Pacifism: Further Essays on Group Psychology and War (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1946).

(55.) For example, John Burton, Violence Explained (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997); or an older study, Quincey Wright, A Study of War (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1965).

(56.) W. W Rostow, The Stages of Growth A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971).

(57.) Vanessa Pupavac, "Human Security and the Rise of Global Therapeutic Governance," Conflict, Security and Development, 5, no. 2 (2005): 161-81.

(58.) Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).

(59.) E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (London: Vintage, 1993).

(60.) Jerry Lembcke, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York: New York University Press, 1998); Wilbur Scott, "PTSD in DSM-III: A Case in the Politics of Diagnosis and Disease," Social Problems, 37 (1990): 294-310; Ben Shephard, War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists 1914-1994 (London: Jonathan Cape, 2000); Allan Young, The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).

(61.) Kenneth Boulding, "Limits or Boundaries of Peace Research," in Contemporary Peace Research, ed. Ghanyam Pardesi (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1982), 76-92.

(62.) Deepak Narayan, R. Patel, K. Shaft, A. Radenmacher, and S. Koch-schulte, eds., Voices of the Poor: Can Anyone Hear Us? (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the World Bank, 2000); Deepak Narayan, R. Chambers, M. Kaul Shah, and P. Petesch, eds., Voices of the Poor: Crying Out for Change. (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the World Bank, 2000).

(63.) Furedi, Therapy Culture, 95-8; Talcott Parsons, Action Theory and the Human Condition (New York: Free Press, 1978), 77-78.

(64.) James Gow, The Serbian Project and its Adversaries: A Strategy of War Crimes (London: Hurst, 2003), 236-40.

(65.) Authors' translation.

(66.) Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (consolidated text), Article 1. Croatian Parliament website http://

(67.) Lembcke (1998); Scott (1990); Shephard (2000); and Young (1995).

(68.) Herman, 1995; and Shephard, 2000.

(69.) Nietzsche in Gordon Marino, Basic Writings of Existentialism (New York: The Modem Library, 2004), 162.

(70.) Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) "Croatia: Fact Sheet," August 5, 2011.

(71.) EIU, "Rankings overview," August 5, 2011.

(72.) EIU, "Sovereign risk," July 7, 2011.

(73.) Ibid.

(74.) Ibid.

(75.) Ibid.

(76.) EIU, "Croatia Fact Sheet," 2011.

(77.) HTV News, August 2011.

(78.) World Bank and UNDP Croatia, Social Impact of the Crisis and Building Resilience (Zagreb: World Bank and UNDP Croatia, 2010), 22.

(79.) Badun, "Pension Beneficiaries."

(80.) Dokic, Psychosocial transition in a postsocialist context, 49; Srecko Latal, "Croatia Reviews its Pensions Paid in Bosnia," Balkan Insight, September 22, 2009.

(81.) Natasa Radic, "Croatia"s war veterans" information appears online, Southeast European Times, April 13, 2010.

(82.) Ibid.

(83.) Ibid.

(84.) Jutarnji list, December 23, 2011.

(85.) Mladen Starcevic, "Croats live in fear and act like a herd." Dalje. July 13, 2009.

(86.) Ibid.

(87.) World Bank, Croatia "s EU Convergence Report: Reaching and Sustaining Higher Rates of Economic Growth. Report No. 48879, Vol. I: Overview, (2009), 25.

(88.) Ibid.

(89.) EIU, "Sovereign Risk," 2011.

(90.) Croatian Times, "Privileged Pension Cuts in July." May 14, 2010.

(91.) World Bank and Croatian UNDP, 2009, 62.

(92.) EIU, "Croatia: Summary," August 5, 2011.

(93.) Nolan, The Therapeutic State, 301.

(94.) Ibid.

(95.) Ministry of Ministry of Families, Veterans and Intergenerational Solidarity web site.

(96.) Letica in Starcevic, 2009.

Mladen Pupavac (1) and Vanessa Pupavac (1)

(1.) University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Corresponding Author:

Vanessa Pupavac, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK Email:


Mladen Pupavac was a translator at the UN International Criminal Court for Former Yugoslavia. He is researching on international criminal justice.

Vanessa Pupavac is a lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham. She writes on human rights, humanitarianism and trauma politics.
COPYRIGHT 2012 Sage Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Pupavac, Mladen; Pupavac, Vanessa
Publication:Alternatives: Global, Local, Political
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXBO
Date:Aug 1, 2012
Previous Article:"Don't be scared, be prepared": trauma-anxiety-resilience.
Next Article:The demise of PTSD: from governing through trauma to governing resilience.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters