12 March 2006


I'm not shedding any tears for Slobodan Milosevic, a vile monster whose megalomania and cynical manipulation of Serb nationalism turned the disintegration of Yugoslavia into bloody carnage. But it is a pity his death has cheated the process of justice. There are good pieces by Brendan Simms in the Sunday Times (here), Nerma Jelacic in the Observer (here) and Mark Thompson in the Sunday Telegraph (here). Thompson, who reported brilliantly on the end of Yugoslavia for Tribune and the New Statesman, reminds readers of the part played by British, French and American appeasement in sustaining Milosevic in power in the early 1990s, when limited military intervention could have stopped him in his tracks:
John Major was at a loss over the Balkans, while Douglas Hurd was firmly pro-Serb, as were the French president Fran├žois Mitterrand and his foreign minister Roland Dumas. This trio probably saved Milosevic's bacon in the crucial first year of war. They couldn't save his public reputation, which vied with those of Hitler and Pol Pot.

Then David Owen decided, as senior European negotiator, that he had no alternative but to engage with Milosevic - and so promoted him as the key to peace. After Owen stepped down, the baton passed to Bill Clinton's envoy, Richard Holbrooke. Like other sophisticated diplomats, these men thought they had a special bond with the butcher of Belgrade (an entirely apt tabloid tag).

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