Magazine article The Spectator

Meddling and Posturing

Magazine article The Spectator

Meddling and Posturing

Article excerpt

Having provoked two episodes of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, first of the Albanians and then of the Serbs, without having thereby brought about any lasting settlement of the original problem, Nato feels morally entitled, or perhaps even obliged, to return to the region. But there is no question of forgiving it because it knows not what it does. The good intentions of Wilsonian imperialism are as nothing when weighed in the balance against the foreseeable violent havoc of such imperialism's practical effects.

The deployment of 3,500 Nato troops, including 450 British, for a period of 30 days after the Albanian National Liberation Army hands in its weapons to them, is either culpably naive or culpably disingenuous. The weapons of the National Liberation Army are like the principles of Barney Barnato, the famous mining magnate of the South African Rand. `Gentlemen,' he told a meeting of shareholders, `those are my principles. And if you don't like them, I have others.' So is it likely to be with the NLA's AK-47s.

From the point of view of British national interest, what is at stake in Macedonia? The answer, of course, is nothing; which is precisely why Mr Blair is able to act with such decisive firmness in sending troops there. As with the bombing of Serbia, it requires not a jot or tittle of moral courage to do so, certainly by comparison with the courage a refusal to do so would have required. When nothing is at stake, Mr Blair is firm as a rock; but where matters of deep national interest are concerned, he has all the strength of wet blotting-paper.

Of course, to meddle in the Balkans gives him the illusion of power and influence, and lets him believe that he cuts a figure on the stage beyond these shores A man of his temperament is almost bound to mistake the shadow for the substance. But the whole world knows that he is like the little boy who jeers at the school bully from the safety of his father's side - the father in this case being the United States of America.

Likewise, to agonise over the situation in the Balkans gives a population that is increasingly unable to distinguish between the virtual and the real the impression that Mr Blair is a man both of feeling and of principle.

But in so far as there is any principle at stake in sending troops to Macedonia, it is that of subversion, of the kind that Mr Blair glibly terms 'modernisation'. Our armed forces exist to defend our national interests, and their morale is sustained by their awareness of being the heirs of those who have done so for hundreds of years. What better way could there be of undermining this traditional understanding of their role in national life than to make them perform fatuous and ineffective peacekeeping duties in a country in which we have no interests, economic, strategic or political? …

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