LETTER: Tito's legacy foretold

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The Independent Online
From Mr Ian McDougall

Sir: Those who equate the effects of Croat repossession of Krajina with Serb ethnic cleansing are entitled to their views. But Serb cleansing is a direct product of the Greater Serbia policy, which originated when Serbia was still under Turkish rule and which was emphatically restated after the death of President Tito - himself not a Serb. By re-establishing their control of Krajina, the Croats have reversed one of the effects of that policy and demonstrated that a country which is attacked tends, however tiresomely in the eyes of some, to defend itself.

When I lived and worked in Serbia as a BBC foreign correspondent in Tito's heyday, it was axiomatic among my colleagues that his death would shatter the considerable ethnic harmony that then prevailed among ordinary people. This has now come to pass by courtesy of the politicians - especially President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, who cut his teeth on Kosovo in the late Eighties by intimidating the Albanian ethnic population and went on to take his better-publicised bites at Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia.

If, many years ago, the West had taken the view that Hitler's campaigns for a Greater Germany were no more culpable than the defence put up by his victims, we might be living today in a different world. But generally speaking, public opinion no longer sympathises with the view that faraway peoples are six of one and half a dozen of the other when it comes to the rights and wrongs of a conflict. We have noticed that old-fashioned words such as aggression do have a meaning, and that it includes a moral attitude. If there had been no aggression in the case of the former Yugoslavia, it would still be at peace today and there would not have been a single refugee.

Yours sincerely,

Ian McDougall

Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire