Right of Reply: Correlli Barnett

The historian and writer responds to criticism of his stance on the Balkan war
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
IN HIS article ("There will be plenty of wrangling, but don't call this deal shoddy") about the critics of Nato's war against Yugoslavia, Donald Macintyre either misrepresents me or takes my words out of context. Certainly I predicted before the bombing even began that air strikes would prove "futile". But at that time Nato believed that a week-long zap against military targets would be enough to cow Milosevic. That zap did indeed prove "futile"; for weeks afterwards the air offensive produced no political results.

In the event, it took nearly 80 days of mass attack on Yugoslavia's civilian infrastructure to produce results - and then only through brokering by the Russians and the EU. The air offensive in its final form proves that air power is a clumsy means of political coercion.

Nor did I "denounce" (Macintyre's word) the eventual shoddy deal negotiated via the Russians and the EU. I was simply making the point that the deal was "shoddy" in the light of previous Blairite rhetoric about "good versus evil" and Milosevic having to capitulate unconditionally. For Nato has had to settle for far less than its demands at Rambouillet and Paris, which included giving Nato armed forces free range over the entire territory of Yugoslavia.

My view on this mess has been consistent: that Bosnia should have served as a warning to us not to get entangled over Kosovo, and that if we did get entangled, we would finish up to our necks in trouble - which we have. Apart from the current tangle in Pristina with Russian forces, and the military cost of semi-permanent occupation, there is the colossal bill for repairing all the damage - money better spent on our own Health Service, education and training, and sink housing estates.