Monday, September 2, 2013

A few additional points ...

... and then I turn my attention to some other work. One or two of these points I have made before but they seem to bear repetition:

1.      President Assad is not like Hitler, though he is a very nasty bloodthirsty dictator. For one thing, he has not invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia or Poland. It is not rational to compare every international crisis with 1938 - 39. They are different and we have to think about them differently. (NB. Let us not forget that highly respectable historians think that Britain made a mistake in declaring war on September 3, 1939 but that is another story.)

2.      Following on from that: Syria is not in the Balkans and the situation there is not the same as it was in former Yugoslavia throughout the nineties. Therefore, any comparison in required action is invalid. Or, in other words, everything is not just like everything else in international affairs and each situation has to be judged separately. 

3.     The argument of "no meddling" is meaningless in that it also says that every situation is just like every other. Sometimes we have to meddle and sometimes not. It is not the fact that this is meddling that is the problem, as I see it, but that we have no clear idea why we should do so, on whose side we want to meddle and what we hope to achieve as well as what our meddling should consist of. If those who want us to go in could answer those questions in a satisfactory fashion instead of wringing their hands and crying that we cannot just do nothing, then meddling might become an acceptable option to many more people. Certainly, it would to me, for whatever that might be worth [very little] as I do not oppose necessary intervention in principle.

4.     Those who are calling for another vote "to erase the shame" are clearly not people who approve of parliamentary democracy and consider that the EU's way of running political affairs - make them vote over and over again until we get the result we want - is far better. I hope none of those people will ever present themselves as eurosceptics again.

5.     Britain's position in the world does not depend on us rushing into every war and civil war that happens to have better photographers though, as we know, not all of those photographs are completely kosher, if I may use that word. It did not, for instance, benefit in the end from us going into Iraq as we were thrown out of there ignominiously and Basra had to be taken back by the Iraqi army with American support. [See numerous postings by the Boss over on EURef.]

6.      It would be good to think that as a result of this fiasco we are going to start that long-delayed discussion and debate as to what our national interests are, what our position in the world should be and what our foreign policy is going to be. I have no great hopes of that happening.


  1. Thank you for this series of articles on Syria, which are the most critical and informative I've come across.

    There's been talk about failing to intervene in Syria, "wrecking our foreign policy" or "rewriting foreign policy". Have we had what could meaningfully be called foreign policy in this area? It seems more like an inclination to pitch in, without much thought, whenever the moment seemed right, laced with some wishful thinking about "The Arab Spring".

  2. The Syria articles are indeed well done. There are rumblings that the French might want to throw in with Obama as a last resort. I presume they will demand to cater all the food and wine as a precondition.

  3. You are quite right that no two situations are the same but there are similarities because basic human nature doesn't change and there are continuities of attitude within bureaucratic organisations and within cultures.

    Blair and Clinton changed the culture of NATO from a defensive, limited alliance into an aggressive supranational organisation, dedicated to "humanitarian interventions" .
    From 1999 it has run true to form.

    In the Balkans NATO encouraged its Muslim clients to falsify evidence of massacres to provide TV reports to influence public opinion in NATO countries in favour of NATO intervention on behalf of its clients. There is, at the least, strong evidence that Muslim forces were not averse to inflicting severe casualties on their own people to achieve a more dramatic effect of the same sort.

    1. I think that you, too, have forgotten that the war in former Yugoslavia went on for ten years, that it had been started by Serbia (in Kosovo, as it happens but then anyone who knew anything about it said that it would start in Kosovo and end in Kosovo) and that the EU most certainly encouraged the former Communist apparatchik, born-again Serb nationalist Milosevic to keep the federation together by whatever means he found necessary. If we are going to discuss the Balkans and produce dubious arguments based on very dubious evidence, then let us not forget all of it. It started in 1989, ten years before the Kosovo finale.

  4. I think that the Yugoslav business of the Nineties probably originated in 1848 at the Frankfurt parliament of the failed revolution. The "liberal" delegates resolved that the Balkan area was part of Germany's natural economic hinterland and that no significant Slavic power or confederation should be allowed to arise in the area. The German political class has had a strong proprietary interest ever since and certainly armed and funded the separatist movements in Yugoslavia.

    Perhaps coincidentally Friedrich Engels listed the Serbs among the peoples who must be made to disappear because they were too undeveloped to appreciate the proletarian revolution. That too was in 1848 in the Neue Rhenische Zeitung.

    1. Separatist movement? Just how long has Yugoslavia had existed and to what extent was it ever a viable state? The EU was anxious to keep it together for obvious reasons: just a it was moving into the next stage of creating a federal state with the Maastricth Treaty, the other two federal states, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were imploding. Something had to be done and Milosevic was given carte blanche. You seem to approve of that. Hadn't quite realized you were on the EU's side on this one. It was not the Serbs who were being to made disappear. They were the ones who were trying to keep the federation together only as a Serb ruled entity, exactly as they had tried to do before World War II. The Czechs displayed the same tendency in Czechoslovakia and caused the same resentment among the other members only this time round the implosion there was peaceful. In fact, the creations of 1918 have not had a happy history.

  5. Actually, my Serbian contacts take the view that the strains and stresses in Yugoslavia were too great to be contained. Much of the trouble was caused by Tito's gerrymandered internal borders which placed so many Serbs outside Serbia. Whilst the boundaries were, more or less local government ones, the Serbs outside Serbia enjoyed a degree of legal protection and security under the communist dispensation. But the West - particularly Germany - insisted that Tito's boundaries should become international borders and the new states (certainly Croatia and Kosovo) had strong ambitions to be "Serbenrein". The Bosnian government aspired to a Muslim hegemony over the Serbs and Croats. Osama Bin Laden called in to give them a hand.

    Even David Owen, no friend of Serbia, made this point and said he could not understand why border adjustments were ruled out so vehemently .

    Winston Churchill said that the Balkans was an area "which produces more history than can be consumed locally" . It generally produces the history in response to outside stimuli - like the Bundesnachrichtendienst's long maintained programme of destabilisation .

    Like the Canadian General Lewis Mackenzie's even-handed account of the atrocities of both sides at Srebrenica, I think General Sir Michael Rose's account of the early peace keeping efforts is revealing.

    With regard to the Czech Republic, Dr. Miroslav Polreich, former ambassador to the OSCE in Vienna, said the result of the Havel government's policy was to limit Czech foreign policy to "Finding the nicest Germans and hoping they will be kind to us".

  6. Well, Edward, let's just assume that everything that has ever gone wrong in European and, indeed, world history since the Creation has been Germany's fault and leave it at that.