Magazine article The Spectator

Never Again

Magazine article The Spectator

Never Again

Article excerpt

It is not begrudging the Prime Minister's triumph to say that, at this early stage in the post-war period, whether the Prime Minister has had a triumph is not the main point. The main point is whether the Balkans are a worse place than before this war was launched, and whether Europe is a safer one.

We shall leave to a future date those aspects of the war specifically to do with Mr Blair, which are mainly those aspects of it that are to do with British foreign policy and British domestic politics. Enough to say for the time being that if Mr Milosevic and what he stands for have been defeated, Mr Blair, who identified himself more than any other head of government with defeating him, should be congratulated, whatever we have said about Mr Blair's policy. But it is too early to say. If that sounds grudging, it is not intended to be. It simply reflects the confusion and uncertainty of the present situation.

So at the moment we should confine ourselves to what military men sometimes call the big picture. After all, whatever the international publicity that Mr Blair attracted, neither Mr Blair nor Britain were the decisive forces in this war. France seems to have flown more bombing missions than Britain. The decisive forces were Mr Clinton, and the United States. Mr Clinton did not want to send in ground forces. That is why the war has ended, if it has ended, in this vague way. But about ten days ago he began to give the Serbs the impression that ground forces might nonetheless have to go in. That is why the war has ended in any way.

But the big picture is cloudy. A good test of any war is whether those claiming victory would think it was worth it. This war does not stand that test. No one, not even Mr Blair, would do it all again if they knew that Mr Milosevic would not give in after a couple of days' bombing, that the bombing would give the Serbs a far better cover for their ethnic cleansing of Kosovo than otherwise would have been the case - Western journalists and other Western observers being no longer so free to travel around the province - that there would have been such an exodus of Albanians, and that the West would have a million refugees on its hands. Previous victors in war have looked back and agreed that they made mistakes, and questioned whether their strategy and tactics were right or wrong. These victors, if victors they be, looking at the results of `victory', must in their heart of hearts question whether the war itself was right or wrong.

Our own position on this war was that we would not have become involved in it, that it was entered into almost with the appearance of frivolity, but that, having become involved, we had to face the fact that longterm British security -- which alone can be guaranteed by an effective Nato led by the United States - was at stake. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.