Friday, 27 May 2011

The Arrest of Mladic

General Ratko Mladić during UN-mediated talks ...Image via Wikipedia
The announced arrest of Ratko Mladic cannot go without comment. Mladic was the general who led the Serb forces that stormed the so-called "safe haven" of Srebnica in 1995 that led to the massacre of thousands of men and boys who had the misfortune to live there and not be ethnic Serbs. The international possibility of this massacre taking place was grounded in the application to the conflict in Bosnia of "realpolitik" analysis that claimed the forces in possession of territory should be left in control of it and on a ban on the Bosnian government procuring arms internationally. 

Since Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs could turn to Croatia and Serbia respectively for supply of arms the "embargo" penalised the only multi-ethnic actor in the war and helped to ensure the occurrence of the Srebnica massacre. Responsible here in the UK for this grotesque policy were Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, Defence Secretary Malcolm Rifkind and Dr David Owen who was held up as an international mediator and became chairman of the "Conference for the Former Yugoslavia". Owen effectively acted throughout as a stooge for the Bosnian Serbs and "trusted" Slobodan Milosevic, the President of Serbia. For a general and thorough demolition of Owen's own self-serving memoir on the subject see this report. The policies of Douglas Hurd as Foreign Secretary dove-tailed with Owen's reflexively pro-Serb position as is brought out well in this review of Hurd's memoirs. Unlike the defensive Owen and Hurd, neither of whom has admitted the error of their ways or the result of the policies they urged, Malcolm Rifkind has since stated that the arms embargo on the Bosnian government was a major error and he is at least to be commended for this, an expression of regret that has certainly influenced subsequent Western policy in Libya as Rifkind has rightly intended.

The appeasement practiced by the British government in the 1990s towards the Serbs was oddly echoed by some on the left at the time who, as usual, fretted about Western intervention anywhere and some of whom preferred to attack Germany (!) rather than Serbia. Such people have been discussed at length elsewhere on this blog and refuted in detail by David Campbell on his excellent site. The striking aspect of this peculiar convergence between the Tory "realists" and apparent leftists does strike one today, as it did then, as serious evidence of the need for a politics that, in true Kantian fashion, focuses on the cosmopolitan need for attention to human rights rather than being based on either narrow ideas of self-interest or reflexive attacks on any form of "Western intervention".

In the meantime it is certainly good to see that Mladic has followed Radovan Karadzic to the Hague and that the disastrous policies of Owen, Hurd and Rifkind are not being currently followed by Western governments.

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