Leading Article: A bad week for peace

Share
Related Topics
THERE CAN be no peace without justice, but what the International War Crimes Tribunal did in the name of justice last week is unlikely to advance the cause of peace. Nor, for that matter, is it likely to advance the cause of justice. No doubt Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor, acted from the best of motives, but the timing of the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic - though not the indictment itself - seems to have had as much to do with strategy as with the rule of law.

Milosevic is an evil and brutal man. Now that he has officially been charged with the murder of 340 Kosovans and the expulsion of 740,000 more from their homes, however, Nato spin-doctors will in theory have to remind themselves that he is an alleged genocidal tyrant. In law, he is innocent until proved guilty. This illustrates the difficulties, and indeed lunacies, that must be encountered when international law is invoked in support of what is an undeclared, and probably illegal, war. (The fact that the War Crimes Tribunal is a UN-backed body does not cancel the fact that Nato is acting in defiance of the UN charter.) Meanwhile, the central contradiction remains, and no amount of legal flummery can disguise or abolish it: in fighting to avert a humanitarian catastrophe we are helping to create a humanitarian catastrophe. Now the catastrophe is set to get worse, and all for that sake of "democracy, freedom and the rule of law", to quote the Prime Minister, who writes on page 19 today.

Tony Blair is an honourable, if in this case misguided, man, but the New World Order, on whose behalf he acts, is quite capable of mendacity and humbug. Judge Arbour's work for the War Crimes Tribunal is, of course, independent of the concerns of Nato strategists, but she has been dependent upon significant amounts of information released to her by US and British intelligence sources. In a powerful piece on page 19, Geoffrey Robertson says it is outrageous to describe the indictment as political. In our view, however, it is unthinkable that the timing of this co-operation from the secret services - which was so blatantly withheld from those investigating war crimes by Milosevic and others in Bosnia - was not influenced by wider strategic considerations.

The indictment will almost certainly strengthen Milosevic's determination to fight on. What else can be expected of an alleged war criminal facing a lifetime in jail? Certainly it will make it harder for Nato to do business with the Serb leader (though the agile minds in the State Department and the Foreign Office would no doubt find ways, if it suited them, of reaching an accommodation with an indicted war criminal). Of course, Nato could be gambling on a revolt in Belgrade, but there is no sign that any such thing is on the cards.

So a negotiated settlement looks less possible this week than last. According to the spin from Whitehall, the alliance is being prepared for a ground war. Most newspapers are in a mood for a real fight. Robin Cook's shuttle diplomacy - to Rome, Paris, Bonn - has apparently elicited new levels of support for moves towards an invasion. A possible sign of what lies ahead is that the units Britain has despatched to join what is still officially a "peace-keeping force" include the Paras, Marines and Gurkhas - not troops best known for their house-building and refugee counselling skills.

If Kosovo becomes sufficiently degraded to allow an invasion, the Nato forces will not be Swat teams swooping in to take out individual targets but rather the much blunter bludgeon of undiscriminating large artillery bombardments. A land war will mean more death and destruction. There would not be much left of Kosovo for the refugees to return to, even supposing they wanted to return, which is far from certain. It therefore still seems to us that, short of a push for total victory, of the kind which was unthinkable even in the Gulf War and no doubt would be in this one, the conflict will end with some kind of deal with Milosevic. Either that, or an end too grim to contemplate.

The alternative to going to war over Kosovo was not to do nothing but to continue to negotiate through diplomatic channels. But it has to be said that doing nothing might well have been better than what we are doing now - blustering, threatening, and risking the lives not only of many more Albanians and Serbs but (and in a cause that does involve the national interest) of our own men as well.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester is seeki...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Administrator - London - £26,000

£26000 per annum + 25 days holiday & further benefits: Ashdown Group: Telecomm...

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Prime Minister’s Questions: Yah Miliband versus Boo Cameron

John Rentoul
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella  

Zoella is a great role model - she changed my life

Vicky Chandler
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London