04 June 1999
Kosovo: the price of Blair's victory
by Mick Hume, LM editor
NATO's war against Yugoslavia looks like ending in predictable fashion: as
a victory for Tony Blair, and a disaster for just about everybody else.
For NATO's leaders, it has been a war won on the cheap. They have run an
unheroic remote-control air campaign against the isolated and crippled
Yugoslav state, involving no ground forces and not one NATO casualty. Many
others, however, have paid a heavy price for NATO's adventure.
The ethnic Albanian and Serb populations of Kosovo have been plunged into a
humanitarian disaster. The rest of Serbia has been bombed to rubble and
ruin. The entire Balkan region has been economically devastated. And the
reverberations of the war have been felt across Europe and around the
world. India's air strikes in Kashmir are one example of what can follow,
once the West has set a pattern of gunboat diplomacy in international
Those who think that 'it's all right now' are advised not to hold their
breath. Things are likely to descend further into chaos. At best, Kosovo is
set to become a protectorate of the United Nations Security Council, run by
the diktat of appointed officials - a status which, as the example of
Bosnia shows, holds out little hope of democracy for its people.
None of this, however, needs overly concern Bill Clinton or Tony Blair, for
whom the war has largely served its purpose. As LM argued, Blair launched
Britain's war effort as a crusade that had little to do with Kosovo. It was
more about giving his government an air of authority and sense of mission
as a force for Good against Evil, and establishing a moral consensus within
Britain. With those political goals having been achieved as far as
possible, Blair and Co need not worry too much about practicalities on the
The Kosovo crisis has been played out as a piece of grisly political
theatre, directed from Washington and Whitehall, in which the local players
served as little more than puppets. Milosevic - described by the US
administration only a few months ago as 'a man we can do business with' -
has been set up as a Hitler-style pantomime villain. And the suffering
Kosovo Albanians have been used as a stage army to justify whatever NATO does.
Look at how the official status of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has
changed to suit NATO's purposes. A year ago the Americans branded the KLA
as terrorists. A few weeks ago, the KLA was turned into an unofficial
member of the NATO alliance. Now NATO is telling its KLA 'allies' to disarm
and disappear again.
The outcome of all this looks like (in the short term at least) a good
result for Clinton, and a real triumph for Blair, the crusader King of
Kosovo. In truth, this was always a war that Blair could not lose. Safe in
his missile silo on the moral high-ground, facing absolutely no opposition
at home, he has remained the self-righteous Mr Clean of NATO's increasingly
dirty war. The only criticism he now faces is from the half-satisfied
laptop bombardiers of the liberal press, whose demands for a truly 'noble'
ground war in recent weeks have come close to sounding like Dulce Et
Decorum Est Pro Kosova Mori.
Even as the Serbs accepted NATO's terms, the bombs continued to fall. After
all, as Clinton pointed out, you can't trust Milosevic to keep his
promises. Not like Western politicians.
For more on Kosovo, see the special LM Online documentary
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