Right of Reply: Alex Salmond

The leader of the Scottish National Party responds to a recent article by David Aaronovitch
THERE IS no doubt in anyone's mind that Slobodan Milosevic is a brutal dictator with much innocent blood on his hands. That is not, however, the sole issue when the world considers that Nato bombing campaign.

The real issue is to come to a judgement as to whether the present campaign can succeed in doing anything effective about him, and, more importantly still, can save the people of Kosovo.

Of course bombing is not the cause of "ethnic cleansing" and David Aaronovitch in suggesting that such is my position weakens his whole argument. But his argument is weaker still whenyou consider his core point - his view that there is a direct parallel between opposition to the bombing and the appeasement of the Thirties.

It is not possible to relieve a humanitarian disaster just by dropping bombs from a distance.

That was not the tactics of the Thirties - the problem that confronted the Allies against Hitler was to re-arm fast enough to wage war, given the unpreparedness of previous years. That was total war - not the naive belief that one type of warfare could produce miraculous results.

I have nothing but admiration and support for our service men and women engaged in the task they have been ordered to carry out. My criticism is directed at those who issue the orders - the politicians. They have to decide whether their actions are to achieve the objectives they have set - and not at any human cost, but at a cost that can be borne.

I accept that many good men and women disagree with my perspective and with the growing number of people who take a similar position to mine. All I ask is that we judge the means by its effects.