Letter: Balkan quarrels: common sense and lost causes

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The Independent Online
Sir: The letters from Lord Hylton and Conrad Natzio (31 December) only go to prove my contention that those who urge large-scale European military intervention in the former Yugoslavia are moved not by common sense but by emotion. For it would pose no direct threat to the European Community's security even if the Muslim states of the Middle East were to send in volunteers to aid the Bosnians, and even if Kosovo and the Sandjak also degenerate into civil strife. Are not the armed forces of the EC strong enough to secure its frontiers?

We should take heed of past experience as well as of the principles of 'total strategy'. Because the great powers had the wisdom not to become militarily involved in the Balkan war of 1912, it remained a purely regional conflict. Because, in 1914, certain of the great powers chose to involve themselves in another Balkan quarrel (to which Serbia was a party), the quarrel did indeed widen into a general European war.

It is perfectly plain from the maps printed in your newspaper that Bosnia as a state within its old frontiers is a lost cause, short of the deployment of Western armed forces on the scale of Desert Storm, at the least. Such an offensive campaign could not be like Desert Storm, a technologically updated Battle of Omdurman, but instead a long, slogging struggle with colossal logistical commitments and heavy casualties.

Faced with such a prospect, we would do well to heed the words of that great Norfolkman Sir Robert Walpole to Queen Caroline in 1734: 'Madam, there are 50,000 men slain this year in Europe and not one an Englishman.'

Yours faithfully,

CORRELLI BARNETT

Churchill Archives Centre

Churchill College

Cambridge

31 December

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