COLUMN INCHES

As Nato warplanes bomb Serbia, here is how some newspaper commentators responded.

THE TRUE lesson of Bosnia for Western politicians considering the Kosovan crisis is not, as some argue, that we should have intervened in the former Yugoslavia early on and in great force, but that the West should never have intervened at all.... Of course, governments now have to conduct foreign policy against a background of instant TV images of dead and wounded women and children.... From soft-hearted Western TV viewers the cry goes up: "Something must be done!"... Yet Kosovo is a far-off corner of the Balkans, peripheral to British security or prosperity. We are about to mire ourselves neck-deep in a swamp of unforeseeable political, religious, racial and military complications.... The calamitous farces at Rambouillet and Paris over Kosovo should surely mark the moment when the West, and Britain in particular, must begin to temper humanitarian emotion with business-like calculation of its own strategic and economic interest.

Corelli Barnett, Daily Mail

GIVEN HIS strong commitment to European institutions, Mr Blair was a surprisingly reticent European when it came to laying out the single binding reason why we are obliged to take on the risks of a long conflict in Kosovo: it is a part of Europe. The alternative to Western intervention is to accept that the Western ideals of basic human rights and freedom from persecution by the state do not apply to Yugoslavia. I do not believe that Europe should tolerate such ethical exclusion zones. A favourite argument of opponents of bombing is that since the West is neither able nor willing to use force to tackle injustice everywhere in the world, it should not do so in Yugoslavia. But Europe is the point: the Continent's future is our future. If we are not to fight a brutal aggressor after a delay similar to that which allowed the carnage of Bosnia, where would we fight?... There is no such thing as a "far-off corner of the Balkans" in a Europe that has a new Nato member in Hungary bordering on Serbia and in which refugees spill across open borders. The Iron Curtain is no longer there to shield us from such unpleasantness.

Anne McElvoy, Independent

NO AMOUNT of bombing will make Milosevic see sense in Kosovo. Why Kosovo? Why, of all the current civil wars and humanitarian horrors, is it Kosovo that now summons British troops to the colours? Or put it another way, why does a bloodstained shroud only have to wave over a Balkan village for otherwise intelligent people to take leave of their senses? ... The fact is, we should have left Kosovo's separatists to fight their own battles, as we normally leave separatists round the world. We should have offered such help as charity can supply. But charity no longer wins headlines. Only bombs do that. When the blood flows, we yearn to meddle. When the meddling is mixed with machismo, it gets out of hand. It has now brought Nato possibly and Kosovo certainly to a catastrophe. Of course the fault lies with the monstrous Milosevic, but not all the fault.

Simon Jenkins, Times

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC is a murderous, bone-age buffoon, with the political vision of Sooty and the looks and charm of a lumpfish. But does that necessarily mean we should go to war with Serbia?... The Kosovo Liberation Army is fighting for independence, nothing less. And it wants our pilots and then our soldiers and our money to help it.... The Serb regime is morally repulsive but the suffering we are seeing is also the result of the KLA's decision to engage in rebellion. It, too, is responsible for its own people's misery.... We could and should declare Milosevic a war criminal and cut off Serbia from all international contact while he is in charge. We could turn the money we would have spent on military action into aid for Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia, trying to surround the Serbs with more powerful neighbours. None of this is heroic or neat. But then neither is lobbing missiles from a safe distance at Belgrade.

Andrew Marr, Express

OPINION IS being pre-empted rather than appeased. The public have not reflected on what is about to happen. The new world has yet to be explained to them. In this world, there can be war without victory, and military engagement for purposes other than national defence. What's right for one case doesn't need to be right for all cases. But if we have the power to divert the slaughter of the Kosovars, should we risk using it? Yes.

Hugo Young, Guardian

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