Letter: The Balkans crisis in historical perspective

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The Independent Online
Sir: Although Lord Blake's article ('Steer clear of the Balkans', 24 August) is of interest in attempting to draw historical parallels between the current atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and the Balkan crisis of 1876, it nevertheless fails to argue convincingly the case for nonintervention.

The underlying tenet of Lord Blake's argument is that had Disraeli followed the course of intervention, then Britain would have become embroiled in a war with Turkey, which in turn would have exposed that most precious jewel in the British Empire, India, to Russian expansionist aspirations.

In 1992, however, Britain has no colonial interests that could be conceivably undermined or threatened by committing 1,800 troops to Bosnia-Herzegovina. In fact, besides the obvious and not inconsiderable merits of giving aid to innocent and helpless victims of a cruel and futile war, British, as well as US and French military intervention under the auspices of the United Nations could result in convincing the Serbian leadership that mindless imperialism under the banner of racial purity is intolerable to the West.

Ironically, therefore, intervention may result in the exact opposite of Lord Blake's hypothesis; once the Western military presence is established in Bosnia- Herzegovina, the Serbs are likely to consider the stakes too high for military engagement on any scale. Intervention could be the first step towards restoring the status quo ante in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW1

24 August