Right of Reply: Michael Alexander

A former UK ambassador to Nato responds to a recent article by Robert Fisk
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ROBERT FISK is a much admired journalist, more widely versed than most in the horrors of conflict. His anger should always be taken seriously. But his piece ("We have lost this foolish war") verges on the absurd.

The war in the Balkans is tragic, but it is not foolish.

It has indeed gone "horribly wrong" in one vital respect: Allied governments failed to gauge correctly either the inhuman quality of Milosevic's brutality or the extent to which he is the prisoner of his personal and tribal history. This hardly makes it wrong to have decided, albeit belatedly, that he should be stopped by force.

The Kosovar Albanians had been suffering grotesquely. They are now suffering even more. But, perverse as the immediate consequences may have been, the war to end the suffering is very far from lost. The international community is stiffening its commitment and increasing its effort.

Nato is not a sinister and arrogant bureaucracy crouched in Brussels, churning out ghoulish horror stories or telling lies and concocting plans to bomb civilians. Nato is a voluntary alliance consisting of, and controlled by, 19 democratic nations. It is the only remotely effective international peace-enforcing structure: we should pause before too eagerly anticipating its failure.

Milosevic is a long way from winning this war. His prospects are dismal. In two weeks of conflict, the extent of his military success against Nato is the downing of one hostile aircraft and the "snatching" of three US soldiers. Even if he attempts a negotiated fudge, it is inconceivable that an Albanian Kosovo (surely Nato's bottom line) could be associated with any Belgrade administration involving Milosevic. He goes or Kosovo goes; either way Milosevic loses.