Kosovo: not a Blair success but an Iraq clone

Assiduous readers of this blog, if they exist, will have noticed that I repeatedly point out that the NATO attack on Yugoslavia over Kosovo in 1999 was not, as constantly asserted (not least by Tony Blair) a brilliant success for the Blair doctrine of 'humanitarian [or 'liberal'] intervention', but a resounding and discreditable failure.  The myth of the Kosovo triumph has been repeatedly recycled during the current festival of Blair retrospectives, not least by Mr Blair himself. 

In one more doomed attempt to put the record straight, I submitted a letter to the Guardian, which hasn't thought fit to publish it, no doubt regarding it as water under the bridge over the Danube (destroyed by NATO bombing) and as bad taste:  don't speak ill of the departing.  So here it is:

In his pre-resignation speech on 10 May ("I may have been wrong.  That's your call", May 11) Tony Blair claimed success for his intervention in Kosovo to "stop ethnic cleansing", and in the premature orgy of Blair retrospectives numerous commentators — Timothy Garton Ash, Jonathan Freedland more cautiously, Julian Borger unreservedly, just in the Guardian — have also listed Kosovo as a major Blair success.  Before this sinks permanent roots in the conventional wisdom, we should remember that the NATO attack on Yugoslavia over Kosovo had much in common with Iraq, for which it was a curtain-raiser:  it was sold on a false prospectus (NATO's demands at the Rambouillet conference, presented as an attempt at a peaceful settlement, were in fact carefully designed to be rejected by the Serbs and thus to provide a pretext for the bombing), it was illegal under international law (Security Council approval was never even sought), it killed thousands of innocent civilians, it made a bad situation much worse (the bombing actually prompted an acceleration and intensification of Serbian ethnic cleansing, and an exodus of refugees from Kosovo for the first time), and it was a total failure (it was secret American, Russian and Finnish diplomacy, with no British involvement, that finally ended Serbian control of Kosovo on terms quite different from NATO's original demands:  the bombing failed in its proclaimed purpose of forcing the Serbs to accept NATO's fake ultimatum).  One difference from Iraq was that the NATO bombing didn't even bring about régime change:  it was months later that Milosevic was toppled, by his own electorate, not by Blair or NATO.  But Blair convinced himself and many others that the Kosovo intervention for which he had been principal cheer-leader had been a glorious success, and that he could repeat it in Iraq, with the catastrophic consequences that we can all see.

An old and extremely well informed friend tried to persuade me yesterday that Blair's call (noncommitally and reluctantly endorsed by Clinton) for the use of ground forces against the Serbs in Kosovo, after it had begun to become clear that the bombing was getting nowhere, would have been a major factor, perhaps the clincher, in Milosevic's eventual decision to accept the revised settlement proposals put to him by the American and Russian presidents' envoys (Strobe Talbott and Viktor Chernomyrdin) and the then Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari.  I remain unconvinced.  Milosevic must have known that there would never be the necessary unanimity among NATO members for the huge war effort required for a land invasion of Kosovo, which would have destabilised the whole region and could not have acquired legitimacy through Security Council approval.  In any case, even if Clinton had wanted to get Congressional approval for an invasion of Kosovo (which I don't think he did), he would never have secured it.  What forced Milosevic to accept the US-Russian terms was the knowledge that if he rejected them, he would lose the protection of Russian support and would become completely isolated internationally:  that Russian support for the new proposals would ensure that they would get UN endorsement (unlike the NATO air campaign):  that the totally unacceptable elements in the original NATO ultimatum at Rambouillet had been removed from the revised proposals: and, in short, that the game was up.  It was quiet flexible diplomacy by the Americans and the Russians, plus Ahtisaari, wot won it, with a settlement that Milsosevic couldn't reject — and which could have been negotiated three blood-stained months earlier at Rambouillet without a bomb being dropped.  And there's no evidence, so far as I know, that Tony Blair played any part in that diplomatic effort or in the negotiation of the eventual settlement, or indeed that he knew anything about it as he redoubled his fantasy demands for a land invasion.  

Mr Blair and the pundits assessing his premiership really ought to stop claiming the NATO campaign over Kosovo as one of his triumphs.  It was a fraudulently presented and criminal enterprise, and it failed, indeed made a bad situation much worse.  But because Blair persuaded himself and others that it had been a glorious success, he was confident that he could repeat it in Iraq. 


5 Responses

  1. Bravo!  Great letter.

  2. Reuben says:

    Excellent  prognosis, but it is blindingly obvious why the guardian or any other "news" paper would not print or make reference to your letter, during the build up to and during the destruction of  Yugoslavia these people printed lie after mistruth after exaggeration and when the hostilities ended these liberal war mongers could not or would not admit they lied to take us to war and as no or very few people of human value had died , ie British troops they did not have to, so it was hailed as a success.

    When Blair and Bush decided Iraqs resources were now ripe for the picking, ground troops were essential, this meant he had to explain all to the British people and his former cheerleaders in both the press and his own government when young British men that were considered more than simply statistics were killed.Extremists such as Clare Short and Robin Cook were now seen as peaceniks!The hypocrisy from both quarters was stunning, the reaction to the offhand remark about bombing Al Jazeera was a prime example, when Short described the actual bombing and murder of staff at radio television Serbia as perfectly acceptable, even essential, to "stop the bloodshed".

    These people dumped cluster bombs, depleted uranium rounds etc. on innocents with no mercy, they funded armed (illegally) and trained mujahadeen a.k.a Al Quaeda fighters (apparently now our enemies!) to massacre innocents and still they hold this episode up not as a war of neo colonialism but as an act of selfless rescue, yet still the press suppress the actual truth about Blair not Bush opening the gates of hell through his "Humanitarian" mass murder in the Balkans, because they were his greatest supporters and its better for both New Labour and the press that the public remains ignorant of this bloody "hostile take over", now that Al Quaeda have a foothold in Europe one must wonder if British troops will return to the Balkans perhaps this time to help the Serbs against the new Nazis (the islamists) as the Serbs were once were labelled.

    The breakup of Yugoslavia was fostered by Western powers through economic actions and the support of ultra nationalist leaders in the Balkans and had little to do with "ethnic tensions" until these actions bore fruit.

    I am not "pro Serb", I am just one of the few that knows there is more than one side to the story, unlike the ICTY.

  3. ziz says:

    It is extraordinary how short political memories are. The Croatians swept the Serbs from Krajina LUka, 250,000 fled and untold 1,000’s died and Gen. AnteGovina has been surrendered to the Hague for his part in directing this – and also as a sop to the EU in their desperate desire for the fruits of EU membership.

    What is forgotten (it appears) is that this whole operation was planned by surrogate US forces on the ground, was aided by  SIGINT from the US and Drones flown by the USAF supplied images to Antegovina.

    All the while this was planned and approved by US diplomats – and most certainly by the UK Government.

    Bombing inocent citizens from the safety of 22,000 feet, destroying the Serb infrastructure, the murder of the TV station staff etc ., were to follow.

    But … ’twas long ago and far away .. besides the whore is dead.

  4. Princip, UK says:

    Brian, I thank you for your efforts in promoting honest justice.   This article reminds those Britsih citzens of Serbian heritage that the truth one day will come out and an equality of understanding will prevail over the tradegy that befell the collapse of Yugoslavia.  Your continued analysis of the illegal bombardment in 1999 is an insight that must be heard and understood especially in the context of the blatant attempts at hand to undermine the UN process and deception that the only solution must be an independent Kosovo.

  1. 31 July, 2008

    […] Don’t panic:  this isn’t going to be yet another re-run of my theme-song about NATO’s illegal attack on Yugoslavia over Kosovo in 1999 having been an unalloyed failure, contrary to the prevailing wisdom.  Anyone who wants to see that argument and the evidence for it can easily do so by clicking, for example, here and, especially, here (among many other posts littering this blog for years).  My purpose here is to recommend a deeply depressing, superbly well documented article in the London Review of Books, 17 July 2008 issue, by Jeremy Harding, about the current situation in Kosovo, nearly nine years after NATO’s air war against the Serbs on behalf of the Kosovo Albanians, and a few months after the Kosovo Albanian majority in Kosovo, cynically egged on by the United States, Britain and much of the rest of the EU, unilaterally declared Kosovo independent in the face of furious opposition from Serbia, Russia and some others:  an act disagreeably reminiscent of white Southern Rhodesia’s disastrous Unilateral Declaration of Independence, or UDI, on 11 November 1965. […]