The curse of the Blair Doctrine

The blueprint for the present international mess lies in the overthrow of Milosevic

Robert Henderson

The first Gulf War was the last Western intervention with force under the old Cold War rules. It was limited to evicting Saddam Hussein  from  Kuwait  and establishing a no-fly zone established over the Kurdish part of Iraq . No attempt was made to overthrow Hussein .  Indeed, the reverse is the case because the first President Bush deliberately lifted the no fly order in the immediate aftermath of  the War to enable Hussein to re-establish control, the USA’s  judgement being that it was the lesser of two evils, the greater  evil being  Iraq as a client state of Iran.  This was still recognisably the world of Communist East versus  capitalist West.

The wars which eventually occurred from the splitting of Yugoslavia after Tito’s death gradually  increased the West’s liberal imperialist tendencies and culminated in NATO bombing  – action unauthorised by the UN and illegal under NATO’s own rules because Slobodan  Milosevic offered no threat to a NATO member –  what remained of  the  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There was also something new, the desire to remake territories in the West’s image by imposing conditions on a sovereign state over part of its territory, in this case Kosovo. The first steps towards ignoring the UN Charter’s protection of national sovereignty  (chapter 7) had been taken not merely in actuality,  but intellectually.

It was the experience of the wars resulting from the break up of Yugoslavia  and the continuing difficulties represented by Saddam Hussein that persuaded Blair to develop what became the Blair Doctrine. He first outlined this in 1999 in a speech to the Economic Club in Chicago, viz:

The most pressing foreign policy problem we face is to identify the circumstances in which we should get actively involved in other people’s conflicts. Non -interference has long been considered an important principle of international order. And it is not one we would want to jettison too readily. One state should not feel it has the right to change the political system of another or foment subversion or seize pieces of territory to which it feels it should have some claim. But the principle of non-interference must be qualified in important respects. Acts of genocide can never be a purely internal matter. When oppression produces massive flows of refugees which unsettle neighbouring countries then they can properly be described as “threats to international peace and security”. When regimes are based on minority rule they lose legitimacy – look at South Africa.

Looking around the world there are many regimes that are undemocratic and engaged in barbarous acts. If we wanted to right every wrong that we see in the modern world then we would do little else than intervene in the affairs of other countries. We would not be able to cope.

So how do we decide when and whether to intervene. I think we need to bear in mind five major considerations

First, are we sure of our case? War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian distress; but armed force is sometimes the only means of dealing with dictators. Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? We should always give peace every chance, as we have in the case of Kosovo. Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? In the past we talked too much of exit strategies. But having made a commitment we cannot simply walk away once the fight is over; better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with large numbers. And finally, do we have national interests involved? The mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo demanded the notice of the rest of the world. But it does make a difference that this is taking place in such a combustible part of Europe.

Milosovec  lost a Presidential election in 2000, was arrested on April 1, 2001 and extradited to the Hague Tribunal on June 28, where he died in detention in March 2006, before his trial was completed.

What Blair saw  the fall of Milosevic as a success for the Blair Doctrine and this has  laid the foundation for all the misbegotten Western intervention since. Nor has it been simply a matter of military force.  The EU had a hand in making sure that Milosovec  did not survive by dangling carrots such as eventual membership of the EU for Serbia.  From this the EU became more and more ambitious in its expansionist plans to the East, something which is all too apparent in the EU’s messy hand in creating the Ukraine conflict we are presently witnessing by pressing for it to move close to the EU with eventual membership the end of the game.   The imperialist mindset of the EU is  unambiguously  described in an EU document  The Western Balkans and The EU:  ‘The hour of Europe’  (Edited by Jacques Rupnik Chaillot Papers,  June 2011), viz:

Today, more than fifteen years after the end of the wars of Yugoslavia’s  dissolution, the ‘Balkan question’ remains more than ever a ‘European question’. In the eyes of many Europeans in the 1990s, Bosnia was the symbol of a collective failure, while Kosovo later became a catalyst for an emerging Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). In the last decade, with the completion of the process of redrawing the map of the region, the overall thrust of the EU’s Balkans policy has moved from an agenda dominated by security issues related to the war and its legacies to an agenda focused on the perspective of the Western Balkan states’ accession to the European Union, to which there has been a formal political commitment on the part of all EU Member States since the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003. The framework was set, the political elites in the region were – at least verbally – committed to making Europe a priority and everyone was supposedly familiar with the policy tools thanks to the previous wave of Eastern enlargement. With the region’s most contentious issues apparently having been defused, the EU could move from stability through containment towards European integration.

There are favourable trends to make this possible: the EU has emerged as the unchallenged international actor in the Balkans; the region, exhausted by a decade of conflict, is recovering stability and the capacity to cooperate; the EU has no other equally plausible enlargement agenda in sight and could use the direct involvement of some of its Member  States in the region to facilitate the accession process.

I wrote the essay below in 1999 for Free Life, the magazine of the Libertarian Alliance.  Reading it now I am glad I placed a question mark after Milosovec in the title. Milosevic  might be said to have won the war and lost the peace, for it was Western interference which did for him. Had he been left,  as Saddam Hussein was after the First Gul War, to fight to retain power in the rump Yugoslavia without international interference he would probably have remained in office. As it was when the Presidential Election was run in 2000 Milosovec

What the 1999 essay does do is show how the move from non-intervention to regime change and nation building was well under way fifteen years ago, with all the disastrous consequences we have seen since, including creating false hopes in many countries democracy could be magicked up simply by removing  a dictator.

Rousseau wrote that people must be forced to be free for their own good : the Blair Doctrine states that people must be forced for their own good  to live by the rules of political correctness.

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A victory for Milosevic?

Robert Henderson

Now that the big boys toys have been put back in the  cupboard and Mr Jamie Shea is returning to run his whelk  stall in the Mile End Road, we really do need to ask why this bizarre act of aggression by Nato occurred because it  has profound implications for Britain. What was it all about?  Well, we all know that, don’t we? To put the Albanians back  into Kosovo, stupid! Wrong! The war started because  Milosevic would not accept the Nato proposals drawn up at  Rambouillet, which was scarcely surprising for they might  have been designed to ensure their refusal.

Not only did the Rambouillet Proposals give foreign soldiers  the right to enter any part of Yugoslavia, they provided for a referendum on independence for the Kosovan population. Add to that the demand that Serb troops withdraw from Kosovo and the refusal to allow Russian troops to be part of a peacekeeping force, and it is all too easy to see why  Milosevic refused them. Moreover, the Rambouillet proposals were not put forward as a basis for negotiation, but as a  fait accompli. They then became the subject of a naked  ultimatum, issued effectively by the US in the egregious  person of Madeleine Albright.

The Rambouillet proposals would have reduced Yugoslavia to the status of a dependent territory, with the virtual  guarantee that the land (Kosovo) which had the greatest  emotional significance for the majority Serb population would  be lost to the hated Albanian minority. Moreover, they had  the knowledge that the loss of Kosovo through a referendum  would almost certainly result in the expulsion of the two  hundred thousand Serbs normally resident in Kosovo, assuming  that they had not already left after the withdrawal of  Serbian troops. Milosevic was offered the prospect of  tremendous humiliation and nothing else. If Nato had wished  to ensure a war they could scarcely have done better. As  Henry Kissinger remarked in a interview with Boris Johnson of  the Daily Telegraph (28/6/99,) Rambouillet was a provocation.

But the Rambouillet proposals were only the immediate cause  of the conflict. The war was really about the imposition of  Liberal Internationalist ideals. Since 1945, the Liberal  Internationalist cause have been growing in strength until it  has become the ostensible ideology of the ruling elites  throughout the West. During the Cold War the territorial  ambitions of the Liberal Internationalists were considerably  constrained. Since 1989 those constraints have been removed.

The result has been an unhappy sequence of interventions,  covered by the fig leaf of UN colours, which have  demonstrated the utter impotence of the Liberal  Internationalist creed by invariably creating situations the exact opposite of those intended by the interveners: Somalia  is a mess of anarchy, Bosnia a UN protectorate with the  warring ethnic groups largely segregated and future conflict  just waiting to happen. The war against Serbia marked a new stage in Liberal Internationalist ambitions: naked  aggression was undertaken without even the indecent cover of  the UN fig leaf.

The persistent failure of international intervention has not  deterred the Liberal Internationalists because, like all  fanatic ideologues, the Liberal Internationalist is  incapable of admitting that his creed is plain wrong no matter have often events prove it to be so. For the Liberal  Internationalist any failure is simply the result of  insufficient resources and time, a spur to behave in an ever  more totalitarian manner; from peacekeeping through outright  war to de facto colonial occupation. Consequently those with  the power in the West continue to intervene ineptly in  conflicts inherently irresolvable in liberal Internationalist  terms. Their response to failure or the contrary evidence of  events is to embark on ever more intervention regardless of  the havoc caused or the long term consequences.

What the war was not about was morality, despite Blair and  Clinton’s inordinate and deeply risible posturing. (In fact  war is never about morality. It is always about territory,  aggrandisement, the removal of competitors and the  imposition of the victor’s will.) The nations attacking  Yugoslavia had stood by during many greater man made horrors  such as the massacres in Rwanda. Most pertinently, the West  had not merely stood by while hundreds of thousands of Serbs  were expelled from Croatia, but in the guise of the UN had  actively assisted in that expulsion by providing arms and  airpower to support the Croat military. Most tellingly, and  most repellently, because it was utterly predictable, Nato  has not meaningfully protected the Kosovan Serbs since the  end of the war. Nor could they have had any reasonable expectation of doing so, for the size of even the projected  peace keeping force (50,000 – which numbers have not been  met) was obviously inadequate to mount a general police  action against an Albania population of nearly two million in  which there were plentiful arms. A cynic might think that  Nato’s aims were from the beginning to produce a Kosovo  ethnically cleansed of Serbs.

The course of the war laid bare the stupidity, incomprehension, incompetence and amorality of the Nato members’ leaders. The objective facts say that the conflict  has greatly worsened a naturally fraught situation. Before the war, the vast majority of the Albanian population of  Kosovo was in Kosovo living in their homes. Since the war  began the, vast majority have either left the country or  remain in Kosovo having been driven from their homes. Thus,  just as the Second World War signalled the beginning of the  Holocaust, so Nato’s action signalled that of the Kosovan  Albanians’ tragedy. Without the war, it is improbable to the  point of certainty that the greatest movement of a  population in Europe since 1945 would have occurred.

The hypocrisy of the whole business was graphically  demonstrated in the Nato members’ attitude towards the  refugees. The public posturing on the need to provide for the refugees was all too clearly balanced by the fear that  any large scale import of refugees to Nato countries outside  the Balkans would arouse considerable dissent in those  countries. Amongst many stomach heaving moments, Clare  Short’s protestations that Britain did not want to move the  refugees away from the Balkans simply because Britain did not  wish to unwillingly assist Milosevic rank very high. The double standards, both amongst politicians and the media  have continued with the end of the war, as the Liberal  Ascendency quietly tolerates ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo  Serbs and the gross acts of revenge taken by the Kosovo  Albanians.

What if there had been no war? Judged by what had gone  before, there would have been continued harassment of  Kosovan Albanians by Serb paramilitaries and some action by  the regular Serb forces, the latter primarily directed  against the KLA. One simple fact alone gives the lie to  Nato’s claims that wholesale ethnic cleansing would have  occurred regardless of Nato intervention. Prior to the war,  Milosevic had ten years to undertake the task and did not  attempt it. Fine ideals are not fine at all if  they are so  out of keeping with reality that they produce evil ends.

Who won the war? Well, let us follow the Dragnet example and just look at the facts. Milosevic remains in control of  Yugoslavia minus Kosovo. Two of the prime demands of the Rambouillet proposals – that the Kosovo population be given a  referendum on independence within three years and the right of peacekeeping troops to go anywhere in Yugoslavia – have been dropped. There is also to be no referendum and the  peacekeeping force will operate only within Kosovo. In  addition, Russian troops are involved in the peacekeeping  force, a token Serb presence will be allowed in Kosovo and  there are signs that the force may eventually come under UN  not Nato auspices. Those are very significant political gains for Milosevic.

Let us make the assumptions which most favour Nato. That the agreement which was reached between Milosevic and Nato was not ambiguous. That Milosevic will keep his word. That the  peace keeping force will be Nato led under a unified  command. That the Russians involved in the peace keeping will not subvert the process on the ground. That money will be forthcoming in sufficient amounts to rebuild Kosovo. That the  KLA will allow themselves to be disarmed. A collection of pretty improbable occurrences. But no matter, let us grant  them. What then?

Even under such propitious and unlikely circumstances, it is  highly improbable that Kosovo will be quickly returned to  normality. The destruction of housing and the spoliation of  farm land alone make that immensely difficult, but given the  will and the money, the material damage might be repaired.

But material renaissance is not the heart of the problem.  That lies in the all too simple fact of the existence of  two incompatible ethnic groups occupying the same territory,  both sides replete with ancestral hatreds and recent hurts.  In such circumstances a peaceful multicultural Kosovo is a  fantasy.

We have the example of Bosnia before us. Stripped of all cant, it is now a good old fashioned League of Nations Protectorate, a mandated territory. It has the experience of several years of UN control. Yet the vast majority of the displaced populations in Bosnia have not returned to their homes and the various ethnic groups there lead largely segregated lives.

But the post bombing situation in Kosovo is unlikely to be anything like so favourable as I have described. The KLA have shown no more willingness to generally disarm than the  IRA. The agreement which was reached is not unambiguous.

Milosevic cannot be relied to keep his part of the bargain.  The Russians have shown that they are not willing to accept  Nato command unconditionally. Money in the quantities suggested as needed for rebuilding (anything between 15-25  billion pounds) may well prove to be too great a hurdle for  politicians to sell to their publics who are being told of  the need for cuts in welfare – The USA and Europe are already  squabbling over who should bear the cost of rebuilding  Kosovo.

Milosevic also has one great general political advantage; he  knows that political life amongst the Nato powers is ephemeral. While he may be in power in five years time, the  majority of his opponents will not. He can afford to sit and  wait until a propitious moment comes to regain all or part of  Kosovo. Milosevic’s position is not as strong as that of  Saddam Hussain in purely authoritarian terms, but he has a vital quality which Saddam does not, namely his authority does not rely entirely on force.

Before the war started the Nato leaders must have known that  a western led occupation of Kosovo would simply replace one   form of repression with another. At best they could expect  a replica of Bosnia: at worst, an ethnic cleansing of Serbian  Kosovans. Since the end of the war, all too predictably the  worst has occurred as the western disregard shown for the welfare of ordinary Serbs elsewhere in the Balkans has been  repeated. The peacekeeping force has stood ineffectually by  whilst Kosovo is cleansed of Serbs by the KLA and their associates.

Perhaps no one has won the war, but that is often the way of  wars. The real question is who has suffered the most damage.  At the moment it may look like Milosevic, not least because the Nato countries in truth had nothing material to gain and  everything to lose from the War. Yet Milosevic has reduced  the Rambouillet demands, probably tightened his control on  Yugoslav politics and large parts of Kosovo has been ethnically cleansed. The Nato countries have made  significant concessions and committed themselves to massive expenditure and the deployment of troops indefinitely. This  will both take money from their own electorates and influence  their future foreign policies. It is a strange sort of victory if victory it be for Nato.

For Britain there is much about which to be ashamed and worried. We have bombed defenceless targets which plainly  were not in any meaningful sense military. This places us in an impossible moral position in dealing with terrorist  action. What moral argument could we have against Serb  reprisal bombs in Britain? That it is wrong to bomb innocent civilians?

More worryingly Blair has shown himself to be an unashamed warmonger. I would like to believe that Blair’s public words were simply a cynical manipulation of the public to promote his reputation and were made in the certain knowledge that  Clinton would not commit troops to a land war. Unfortunately I think that Blair was anything but cynical in his belligerence. The Observer reported on 18 July that Blair had  agreed to send 50,000 British troops to take part in an invasion force of 170,000 if Milosevic had not conceded Kosovo to Nato. Incredible as this may seem, (and it was not  denied by Downing Street) such recklessness fits in with  Blair’s general behaviour. So there you have it, our prime  minister would have committed the majority of Britain’s armed  forces to a land war in which we have no national interest,  regardless of the cost, deaths and injuries. The danger  remains that Blair will find another adventure which does  result in a land war. Over Kosovo, he behaved like a reckless adolescent and nearly came a fatal political  cropper. Yet this government appears to have learnt nothing  from the experience, vide the unpleasant and malicious fanaticism in Blair and Cook’s declarations of their intent to both unseat Milosevic from power and bring him before an international court, vide the humiliation of Russia, vide the ever more absurd declarations of internationalist intent  since hostilities ceased. That adolescent idealists’ mindset could lead Britain down a very dark path indeed. It is also incompatible with a foreign policy that supposedly encourages  elected governments (however imperfect they are) over  dictatorships.

What other lessons does this war teach us? It shows above  all the utter powerlessness of the democratic process and  the sham of international law. In the two countries which have taken the lead, US and Britain, parliamentary support  was not formally sought nor given, funds voted or a  declaration of war sanctioned. The other members of Nato have  been impotent bystanders.

The American Constitution was designed to prevent aggressive  acts of war without congressional approval. That  constitutional guarantee has been severely tested since 1945, but perhaps never so emphatically as in the past months. If  an American president can commit such considerable forces to  a war regardless of Congressional approval, it seriously  brings into question the value of the constitutional  restraint. Where exactly would the line be drawn in the Constitutional sand?

In Britain, the matter was debated at the government’s  convenience but at no one else’s. Incredibly, many will  think, support for the war was never put to a vote in the  Commons.

As for international law, that has been shown in the most  unambiguous manner to be a sham. The war was fought without a  declaration of war, in contravention of the UN Charter and in  a manner guaranteed to cause significant civilian casualties.

Yet Judge Arbour at the War Crimes Tribunal does not indict  the likes of Clinton and Blair, only Milosevic. (Readers might like to note that formal complaints to Judge Arbour about Blair and Clinton have been ignored). Law which is not  equally applied is no law, but merely a tool of the powerful  against the weak. Moreover, there does not appear to be any  illegality at which the US would draw the line. Apart from  incitements to murder Milosevic, there have been newspaper  reports of attempts by the CIA to illegally enter Milosevic’s  bank accounts and drain them of funds (we honest folks call that theft). If governments do not obey the core moral and  legal commandments of their own societies, law does not  effectively exist.

If international law meant anything, the Nato action would  be deemed objectively illegal. It was so first because of an  absence of lawful international authority, there being no  UN sanction for the War. On a national level, neither the  British nor the American Parliaments sanctioned either the  action or the expenditure which permitted the action.

The war also drove a coach and horses through the UN Charter  and the Nato Treaty. The UN Charter was breached because it  prohibits action to amend a sovereign state’s borders. As for  the NATO treaty, this only provides for action to be  taken in defence of member countries. Clearly the Yugoslav  government had offered no direct threat to NATO members because there was no attempt to act outside the territory  of Yugoslavia. Moreover, the only NATO countries  which might have called for assistance to a perceived  threat – Greece and Hungary – did not do so and made it  clear that they were far from supportive of the Nato action.

In general terms, it was impossible before the war began to  make a convincing case that Yugoslavia could present a threat  to the peace of Europe. It is a country of ten  million souls, poor with an underdeveloped industrial base. Moreover, its natural poverty had been greatly  increased by years of civil war and UN sanctions.

Balkan history tells a single story: any of its peoples  which become possessed of the advantage of numbers, wealth  or arms will oppress as a matter of course any other of its  peoples. If the Albanians gain control of Kosovo, rest  assured that they will behave as abominably towards the Serbs  as the Serbs have behaved towards them. The disputed territory is Serb by history and Albanian by present  settlement. There is no absolute right on either side.

 

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