Letter: Military action in Sarajevo: false parallels, other cities and deadly claims

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Sir: Robert Fisk's sabre-rattling ('Another war, another word game', 7 February) is reminiscent of the pseudo-scientist who glances at the evidence of other people's experiments and ignores those which do not support the theory he wishes to advance.

It will be argued ad infinitum whether the Anglo-French surrender of Czech-Slovakia in 1938 increased or decreased the chances of defeating Nazi Germany's ambitions of world dominion, and no person adult at that time is likely to forget the shame we felt at the betrayal.

Many of us who were young and bold would have preferred the huge gamble, advocated by Winston Churchill, of intervention before our programme of re-armament had gained momentum. Many others were influenced more by the vociferous Peace Pledge Union and its sympathisers.

It is difficult to comprehend what is shameful about Malcolm Rifkind's reference to the known fact that Hitler's 100,000 troops failed to conquer Tito's irregular forces. Mr Rifkind might have added that the Nazis had not merely superiority but monopoly of air power, armour, modern artillery and military transport. It is less shameful to face facts than to deny or ignore them.

Regarding Mr Fisk's parallel with the Gulf war, if the United States were to offer nine-tenths of the air, naval, ground forces and logistical support necessary to defeat the warring factions in Bosnia and as far further into Serbia and Croatia as might prove necessary, no doubt Britain and France would be each willing to provide a token brigade, despite their paucity of troops trained in mountain warfare. They would be even more willing if an oil-rich country were prepared to bear a substantial part of the cost.

In such a war the slaughter would inevitably be catastrophic, not least among civilians, who, as the Nazis discovered, are often indistinguishable from irregular forces. It would be difficult to put a time limit on the period during which an army of occupation would be essential, and equally difficult to impose a lasting peace settlement. Talk of air strikes without ground action is a cruel irrelevance.

Yours faithfully,

H. R. POOLE

West Kirby,

Merseyside

7 February

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