Assault On The Serbs: Strange allies oppose the war

The Elder Statesmen
Click to follow
The Independent Online
NATO'S AIR strikes against Yugoslavia have tucked up some unlikely bedfellows among Britain's elder statesmen. Lord Healey, the former Labour defence secretary and one-time arch cold warrior, denounced the attacks. "It was a terrible mistake to attack a sovereign state without even consulting the United Nations," he said.

He is at one with his former opponent, Lord Carrington, formerTory foreign secretary Nato secretary-general and most notably failed United Nations peace envoy, who condemned the policy as "both mistaken and ill-conceived". Lord Carrington, who headed the Nato alliance from 1984-88, told the Lords: "I have the gravest misgivings on the course on which we are set."

But the usual voices of conflict, Baroness Thatcher, Lord Owen and John Major, have been unusually quiet.

In a BBC radio interview, Lord Healey forewarned of widening regional conflict: "This war may spread to Macedonia, dragging in Greece and Turkey, or to Slovenia, dragging in Italy. Nato has no long-term plan... it absolutely vital now that we resume negotiations."

Historians try to put the conflict in an even wider context. Niall Ferguson, tutor of modern history at Oxford University, said, "The 20th century seems determined to end more or less where it began. It was Serb-sponsored terrorism that provided the pretext for a coalition of great powers to go to war in the Balkans back in 1914, after years of internecine strife between the various Balkan states."

But Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis balked at President Bill Clinton's analogy with the world wars to justify the air strikes. "In both of the earlier situations, the problems were created by the involvement of the great powers. This is not violence from a great power but from a small power that fears becoming smaller," he said.

Former RAF air chief marshal, Sir Michael Armitage, warned this week: "If Nato ever did decide to send in ground forces it would be in for a real long haul."