So what are the principles? There is, of course, nothing new about a discussion of where, whether and when we ought to deploy British troops and risk British lives and British taxpayers' money. The traditional Tory principle is not bombastic. It is careful and cautious. It recognises that war is a terrible activity which should only be started after serious consideration and with the overwhelming support - even demand - of the British people.
A half-hearted war meant as a kindly gesture either to end a civil war or to help an ally whose cause we do not really share is dishonest. It will not end the civil war or aid the ally. It will merely put our servicemen at risk. War should only be attempted when the British national interest is seen to be in peril.
Two or more years ago many British people felt sadness and sympathy towards the inhabitants of former Yugoslavia. There ought to have been a proper dispute between the two main points of view: the let-us-do-something group, and the group that said this is nothing to do with Britain. If the British people's attitude then had gone further than mere sympathy and concern, they would have shown they were prepared to have risked their sons and the money that would otherwise have gone to schools and hospitals.
They showed this resolution 50 years ago and they showed it again over the Falklands. Their interest in Bosnia was greater than their emotion after reading a horror novel but not great enough to see their sons die and feel more pride than regret.
So there has been a policy of fudge and mudge. We have contributed thousands of British personnel on the ground in former Yugoslavia. Their role has been described as humanitarian. We have flown in some 23,500 tons of important supplies.
What have the British and the United Nations achieved? There is no sign of permanent peace. Much of the food that has been given has gone to the combatants and has saved money which can be used to buy more arms. So long as the troops have been there each faction has kept going, half in the belief that outside aid will come and ensure their victory. If you are a Croat, you can remember that your father fought with the Germans. If you are a Muslim, you remember the large numbers of Muslims in France and hope that they will exercise political influence on your behalf. If you are a Serb, you look, as your people have always done, to Russia. Intervention has not ended the fighting; it may even have prolonged it.
Our overriding concern is to get the troops back. We have lost 13. It is 13 too many for this particular foreign field.
The writer is Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West.Reuse content