Letter: Soporific response to Balkans fighting

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The Independent Online
Sir: On 28 January, I watched Douglas Hurd give evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on British policy towards the former Yugoslavia. For much of the time he talked about what the UK could not do, arguing persuasively against military intervention.

How, then, does he expect the carnage to stop? His strategy seems to consist largely of waiting for self-interest to bring people to their senses: a typically Conservative assumption about human nature, perhaps.

One phrase summed up this approach. 'They will look at their economies,' he said, 'and realise that lounging around with a Kalashnikov is not a sensible way of life.' This will strike many people as a remarkably complacent, not to say soporific, approach.

Unfortunately, there is no 'lounging around' going on, except perhaps in the Foreign Office: people are tearing each other apart and dying and suffering on an enormous scale. And it will long have occurred to many Serbs, Croats and Bosnians that the war is an economic as well as a human disaster.

But independent voices of reason and peace have been excluded from the Vance-Owen peace process, and the independent media, in both Serbia and Croatia, have received next to no backing or assistance from the West. What would this have cost us? Not much money, and not a single life. It would not have ended the war, but it would have helped create and foster the conditions in which a solution could be found.

Add to this the miserable failure to make sanctions work and turn the economic screw, and the conclusion is hard to avoid that Western governments have consistently failed to act in their own self-interest, and can no longer afford to wait for others obligingly to dig them out of a diplomatic and policy hole.

Yours sincerely,

SEAN HOWARD

The British American Security

Information Council

London, WC2

29 January

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