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Kosovo and the hubris of Tony Blair He gave Britain a dangerous taste for 'just' wars

There are a lot of Balkan children named after him, but Tony Blair is no hero. Credit: ARMEND NIMANI/AFP via Getty Images

There are a lot of Balkan children named after him, but Tony Blair is no hero. Credit: ARMEND NIMANI/AFP via Getty Images


March 1, 2023   8 mins

When a civil servant first suggested to Tony Blair that he needed to be aware of the evolving situation in Kosovo, the prime minister’s response was much the same as anyone else’s would have been: “You’d better give me a note on it. Starting with: where is it?” Even now, a quarter of a century on from the outbreak of the Kosovo War, few of us could answer accurately.

Kosovo then was a province in the south of Yugoslavia, a landlocked area slightly smaller than the Falkland Islands. It was officially part of Serbia — the largest of the Yugoslav republics — but was heavily disputed: 90% of the population were Albanian by ethnicity, Muslim by faith. And Kosovo had, for differing reasons, a revered place in the histories of both Serbia and Albania, integral to each’s sense of national identity. As George Orwell noted in 1945: “Yugoslav politics are very complicated and I make no pretence of being an expert on them.”

The Kosovars were a small minority in Yugoslavia, who had long faced discrimination, and long sought independence. That had seemed an implausible hope, but by the time the province came to Blair’s attention, things were looking very different. In the first half of the Nineties, Yugoslavia had been ripped apart, with Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia splitting to become independent countries, the latter two after wars of a bloodiness not seen in Europe since 1945. The Kosovars were still a minority, but — with Yugoslavia reduced from six constituent republics to just two, Serbia and Montenegro — they now made up a fifth of the country’s population. Not so small anymore.

In 1995, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began armed actions; by 1998, the insurgency had escalated into serious conflict. The Yugoslav military was attempting to suppress the KLA by terrorising the population: hundreds were killed, thousands raped, and hundreds of thousands displaced. This was the point at which the situation forced itself into the international spotlight, provoking a sense of horrified dĂ©jĂ  vu: the earlier Yugoslav Wars had cost the lives of up to 150,000, and made the term “ethnic cleansing” common currency. Many in the West were, retrospectively in some instances, feeling ashamed that such destruction had been allowed to run rampant in Europe. Then, the United Nations had tried to contain the killing with an arms embargo and the deployment of some ineffective peacekeepers; mostly they had looked on sorrowfully. And now it was happening again.

“I saw it as essentially a moral issue,” wrote Blair in his memoirs. There was a humanitarian disaster unfolding, and — as in Ukraine today — the blame lay at the feet of one man: in this case the president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Miloơević. Action was needed. By June 1998, Britain was talking with its Nato partners about the possibility of an air and land operation; it was another nine months before, in March 1999, Nato began bombing Yugoslavia. “We have learned from bitter experience not to appease dictators,” explained Blair, who largely drove the initiative. “We tried it 60 years ago.”

There was — again, as today — political consensus, with backing for the government’s actions from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, then led by William Hague and Paddy Ashdown respectively. Even Blair’s own party was mostly in support. A few on the Left pointed out that the lack of UN authorisation made the bombing entirely illegal, but a motion condemning Nato’s actions was signed by just six of the usual suspects, including Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Notably absent was Ken Livingstone, who joined Blair in comparing Miloơević to Hitler. Robin Cook and Clare Short — who would both later resign from the cabinet over Iraq — were fully on board, the former as foreign secretary, the latter dutifully doing the media rounds to defend the government.

Television news played its part in preparing the public for military action, with extensive coverage of the appalling suffering being endured by the Kosovars. In the press, the most notable cheerleaders were to be found at the Guardian. As early as April 1998, an editorial was calling for “intervention if only on humanitarian grounds” and for “the deployment of troops”. On the eve of the bombing, the leader column was headlined: “The sad need for force.” We have become familiar with that sense of sorrowful necessity in the last 12 months.

It was confidently predicted that 72 hours of bombing would be sufficient to force Miloơević into retreat. That didn’t happen, and the days stretched out into weeks and months. Along the way, there was a series of Nato errors: the accidental strike on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade; a cluster bomb aimed at an airfield that hit a market, killing more than 60 Serbian civilians; the deaths of 87 Kosovar refugees in a bomb attack on the village of Koriơa. In the face of these blunders and the absence of a swift victory, Blair ramped up the moral rhetoric: “This is no longer just a military conflict. It is a battle between good and evil; between civilisation and barbarity.” To prove the point, Miloơević was indicted for crimes against humanity by a UN tribunal.

But the public was losing faith. Although an early opinion poll showed two-thirds supporting the use of ground troops, the Labour Party’s own focus groups reported far less enthusiasm. At a time when public spending was still under tight control, people wanted to know, why was money being spent on waging war? Philip Gould, Blair’s much-trusted pollster, urged him to ignore the findings and carry on, but press secretary Alastair Campbell was furious with the electorate’s lack of gratitude: “It made you wonder why we bothered sometimes.”

In the event, it took 78 days before Miloơević agreed an unconditional withdrawal of Serbian troops, and even then, it was Russian diplomacy and the threat of a Nato land invasion that proved decisive. There was a limit to what bombing alone could do (as Martin McGuinness of the IRA helpfully pointed out). Nonetheless, the operation had achieved its objective. Indeed, it went further. So damaged was Miloơević’s standing among Serbs that the following year he lost the presidential election and was dragged from office. (He was subsequently extradited to The Hague to face charges of war crimes, dying before the trial could conclude.) Regime change had not been the war’s aim, but it was achieved.

Insofar as Kosovo is remembered, it’s seen as, to use Blair’s description, “a just war”. The comparisons between Yugoslavia and Nazi Germany were historically illiterate — and tone-deaf, given the history of the country in the Forties — but there was a clear aggressor, who everyone agreed had to be defeated. It was also, from a British perspective, a clean war. There were around 13,500 dead, most of them civilians, but Nato had no combat fatalities at all. And it was welcomed by those in whose name it was being fought. Hundreds of thousands were displaced, but it was notable that they blamed Miloơević, not Nato. The Kosovars were overwhelmingly in favour of the military intervention, and Blair in particular was seen as a hero. When he visited the capital, Pristina, a few weeks after the cessation of hostilities, he was greeted by huge crowds, chanting his name, waving Union Jacks and presenting him with flowers. “Tonibler” and “Bler” became popular names for male children born in Kosovo that year (as with the Kosovan footballer Bler Thaçi).

“War is never civilised,” said Blair in his moment of triumph. “But war can be necessary to uphold civilisation.” It was the kind of paradox that appealed to him and was so integral to his oratory: the civilising war, the imposition of democracy. The victory, he believed, confirmed his “doctrine of international community” — which he outlined during the conflict: those with military power, he argued, had the right, indeed the duty, to intervene where possible against “a despotic, dictatorial regime”, even if there was no “immediate threat to our interests”.

It was the philosophy that later fed his fervour for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and of Iraq in 2003. There was the same talk of good and evil, of how we should never appease dictators; the same predictions of swift success. And in the case of Iraq, there was a similar failure — much more controversially this time — to get UN backing. But by now, Blair was, said Labour’s ex-deputy leader Roy Hattersley, in a “messianic mood”.

Neither of those ventures, of course, ended well. There was no repeat of the welcome in Pristina, and the unforeseen consequences were catastrophic. The destabilising of Iraq led to the emergence of Islamic State; Afghanistan reverted to Taliban control as soon as western troops departed. Nor was Nato’s later bombing of Libya in 2011 any more positive: Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, but then another, longer and more costly, civil war broke out. All are, by any normal measure, failed states. The Foreign Office currently advises British citizens not to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya.

It also advises against all but essential travel to northern Kosovo, and there’s a warning for the whole country: “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks.” Media attention has long since moved on, but even with the continuing presence of KFOR — the Nato-led peacekeeping force, now much reduced in numbers — Kosovo is still not stable. Maybe that was inevitable. In public, this was “a battle between good and evil”. In private, Blair acknowledged that “the KLA were not much better than the Serbs”. The Nato victory was followed by Kosovan retaliation. There was an exodus of Serbs and Roma in a further wave of ethnic cleansing; churches were attacked, just as mosques had once been; and there have been frequent outbreaks of violence over the years: more than 200 KFOR personnel have lost their lives.

There have also been knock-on effects internationally. In 2004, Amnesty International published a report revealing how women were being trafficked into the province from Albania to work as prostitutes, meeting the demands of the 50,000 peacekeeping troops stationed there. And it wasn’t just adult women. “I was forced by the boss to serve international soldiers and police officers,” a 12-year-old Albanian girl told the researchers. Amnesty concluded that the UN and Nato forces were “not only failing to protect the human rights of the women and girls, but are in many cases themselves using them for sexual gratification and are even allegedly involved in trafficking itself”.

By the time the report was released, the sex industry created for KFOR had grown, becoming the centre of a network that sold woman and girls into prostitution in western Europe — 1,400 were being smuggled into Britain every year, it was estimated. When in 2005 ex-cabinet minister Harriet Harman analysed the successful prosecutions for people trafficking, she concluded that, “in nearly every case the culprit was Albanian or Kosovan, some of whom had been allowed in as refugees”.

The legacy of Kosovo was also seen in the transformation of Nato, now an organisation prepared to initiate war beyond the UN: a fact that ensures Kosovo still has traction in Russian propaganda. Answering western criticism of the invasion of Ukraine last year, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was quick to talk of Nato’s “illegal use of force” in 1999. And, in the context of Ukraine, it’s hard not to see Blair in Pristina as the model for Boris Johnson, or indeed Keir Starmer, in Kyiv. (How envious they must be to see all those Toniblers.) Adoring crowds and moral certainty are a seductive combination, particularly for a politician feeling a lack of honour in his own land.

Ukraine, of course, is not Kosovo. In one sense, the argument today is even more clear-cut: Ukraine is an independent, sovereign nation, whereas Kosovo had no such status. (Indeed, it is still not recognised by all member states of Nato.) The Yugoslav claim that its forces were suppressing an internal terrorist threat carried some weight; the same is evidently not true of the invasion of Ukraine. The real difference, though, is the nature of the opponent. Blair’s interventionism depended, he said, on answering the question: “Are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake?” Nobody seriously thinks that Nato taking on Russia directly is either sensible or prudent.

Nonetheless, the rhetoric remains, despite all that has happened since Kosovo. The Ukraine War is seen in the moral terms advocated by Blair. Emotion is the order of the day, realpolitik is out of favour, and the political and media consensus is that this is again a fight between good and evil. The danger is of over-simplification. It is not hard to identify an evil, but good is a much less clearcut phenomenon. “War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian distress,” conceded Blair. More than that, it brings unintended consequences, which can amount to evils.

If Blair’s military adventuring had ended with Kosovo, foreign policy would be seen as a minor part of his legacy, rather than the dominant note that it now is. And the Kosovo War would be regarded as a qualified success, the negatives — including the lack of an exit strategy — outweighed by the positives. Few doubted that the cause was just, and most agreed that the violence and the death toll would have been worse had Nato not got involved. It might even be remembered for making the case for Blair’s doctrine of liberal intervention. There was an emergency, a clearly defined solution, and a task that was accomplished. There was also, however, the hazardous, illusory hope that the solution could be replicated in very different circumstances.


Alwyn W. Turner is a cultural and political historian.

AlwynTurner

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polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

God save us from Blair and his morals.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Amen to that!

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Going to war only for “moral” ends seems a poor justification for me. Shouldn’t there also be some actual national interest involved ? Without that, it becomes very hard to define an endpoint and exit strategy. And is arguably why Blair’s wars of “liberal intervention” (none of which I supported) all ended in chaos and failure. As the author notes, almost none of the countries he intervened in are now safe to visit. Result !
All the chaos and destruction and huge waste of lives and money from Blair’s wars are a very high price to pay for the single gain of seeing his reputation trashed.
Before we get into comments about Ukraine, my personal view about Ukraine is that there is a UK national interest at stake and that it is not purely about morality (thiough there is clearly a moral aspect for some of us).

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Ordinarily I find myself in agreement with the mood on Unherd, however on this occasion I think I find myself going against the grain. It may very well be that Blair (and other Western leaders) had and still have a certain vanity and an instrumental view of foreign conflicts as taking them to, ‘seats at the top table.’
However whilst such a view may chime with both internet talkboard knock-about and the victimhood mentality entrenched in the Balkans I don’t at all see it as the full story.
Indeed events in Kosovo came very soon after events in Bosnia. It is not exactly difficult to see why Western leaders would not want a repeat of Bosnia and how they would see the prospect of a further conflict in the region as far from theoretical. Conflict spread easily from Slovenia to Croatia to Bosnia to Kosovo. It’s not vanity to want to avoid the flows of refugees, the cost and the dislocation of a further conflict.
But ultimately what I think this article does not really address is old fashioned politics – power and interests. What was the Western and NATO interest in Kosovo and ex-Yugoslavia more broadly? To put it down to vanity is too easy. The interest was a show of NATO power per se. For good or for ill intergovernmental NATO had become the prime security organ and if it did not act in Kosovo then NATO (and de facto US) primacy would have been undermined. It was a very political intervention and, as NATO has found out in Ukraine it set some very dubious precedents about the targeting of civilian infrastructure. What Yugoslavia did show was how unready the EU was to take a role, even in a European conflict. In Kosovo KFOR was absolutely not a classic ‘peacekeeping’ role and the UN resolution made no mention of NATO.
But what we have seen flow from Kosovo into Ukraine is the maintenance of NATO as the prime mover in security affairs. The reaction of Sweden and Finland was to join NATO rather than cross their fingers and hope that neutrality would work. To the extent that power and interest in Kosovo were about keeping NATO as the main player in Western security then it was a great success.
From a narrowly focussed perspective on Blair, it is hard now with 15 years of hindsight to imagine how his time leading the UK could have been much worse. But to reduce Kosovo to a vanity exercise seems to me to be very wrong-headed.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Amen to that!

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Going to war only for “moral” ends seems a poor justification for me. Shouldn’t there also be some actual national interest involved ? Without that, it becomes very hard to define an endpoint and exit strategy. And is arguably why Blair’s wars of “liberal intervention” (none of which I supported) all ended in chaos and failure. As the author notes, almost none of the countries he intervened in are now safe to visit. Result !
All the chaos and destruction and huge waste of lives and money from Blair’s wars are a very high price to pay for the single gain of seeing his reputation trashed.
Before we get into comments about Ukraine, my personal view about Ukraine is that there is a UK national interest at stake and that it is not purely about morality (thiough there is clearly a moral aspect for some of us).

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Ordinarily I find myself in agreement with the mood on Unherd, however on this occasion I think I find myself going against the grain. It may very well be that Blair (and other Western leaders) had and still have a certain vanity and an instrumental view of foreign conflicts as taking them to, ‘seats at the top table.’
However whilst such a view may chime with both internet talkboard knock-about and the victimhood mentality entrenched in the Balkans I don’t at all see it as the full story.
Indeed events in Kosovo came very soon after events in Bosnia. It is not exactly difficult to see why Western leaders would not want a repeat of Bosnia and how they would see the prospect of a further conflict in the region as far from theoretical. Conflict spread easily from Slovenia to Croatia to Bosnia to Kosovo. It’s not vanity to want to avoid the flows of refugees, the cost and the dislocation of a further conflict.
But ultimately what I think this article does not really address is old fashioned politics – power and interests. What was the Western and NATO interest in Kosovo and ex-Yugoslavia more broadly? To put it down to vanity is too easy. The interest was a show of NATO power per se. For good or for ill intergovernmental NATO had become the prime security organ and if it did not act in Kosovo then NATO (and de facto US) primacy would have been undermined. It was a very political intervention and, as NATO has found out in Ukraine it set some very dubious precedents about the targeting of civilian infrastructure. What Yugoslavia did show was how unready the EU was to take a role, even in a European conflict. In Kosovo KFOR was absolutely not a classic ‘peacekeeping’ role and the UN resolution made no mention of NATO.
But what we have seen flow from Kosovo into Ukraine is the maintenance of NATO as the prime mover in security affairs. The reaction of Sweden and Finland was to join NATO rather than cross their fingers and hope that neutrality would work. To the extent that power and interest in Kosovo were about keeping NATO as the main player in Western security then it was a great success.
From a narrowly focussed perspective on Blair, it is hard now with 15 years of hindsight to imagine how his time leading the UK could have been much worse. But to reduce Kosovo to a vanity exercise seems to me to be very wrong-headed.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

God save us from Blair and his morals.

M Lux
M Lux
1 year ago

What I find particularly interesting about the US/UK interventions in Yugoslavia is how they were honing their media playbook even back then. Create a narrative that “streamlines” (i.e. erases) the messy bits of a given conflict (“we’re always the good guys!”), turn the dial of moral righteousness up to 11 (“they’re so evil!”) and you’ve got yourself a recipe for fabricating consent/support.
This gets repeated so often, you’d think people would’ve caught on (or at least gotten tired of it), but alas, here we are again.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  M Lux

Interesting too that there’s always plenty of money for these hobby wars. Jimmy Dore has pointed out that you could solve homelessness in the USA with just 20% of whet the Biden regime has spent in Ukraine.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  M Lux

Interesting too that there’s always plenty of money for these hobby wars. Jimmy Dore has pointed out that you could solve homelessness in the USA with just 20% of whet the Biden regime has spent in Ukraine.

M Lux
M Lux
1 year ago

What I find particularly interesting about the US/UK interventions in Yugoslavia is how they were honing their media playbook even back then. Create a narrative that “streamlines” (i.e. erases) the messy bits of a given conflict (“we’re always the good guys!”), turn the dial of moral righteousness up to 11 (“they’re so evil!”) and you’ve got yourself a recipe for fabricating consent/support.
This gets repeated so often, you’d think people would’ve caught on (or at least gotten tired of it), but alas, here we are again.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 year ago

I’m glad you mentioned the bombing of the Chinese embassy by NATO. NATO was lucky China was way behind economically and militarily back then. If such an incident occurred today, World War Three may break out.

Also I’d never known about how much sex trafficking had been going on to gratify the peacekeepers. I was aware how prevalent Kosovans/Albanians were in organised crime in the UK but this was new to me so thanks for highlighting.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 year ago

I’m glad you mentioned the bombing of the Chinese embassy by NATO. NATO was lucky China was way behind economically and militarily back then. If such an incident occurred today, World War Three may break out.

Also I’d never known about how much sex trafficking had been going on to gratify the peacekeepers. I was aware how prevalent Kosovans/Albanians were in organised crime in the UK but this was new to me so thanks for highlighting.

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
1 year ago

Tonibler strikes again. He has quite a charge sheet, doesn’t he.

M Lux
M Lux
1 year ago

Britains reigning war crime champion.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago

Maybe Unherd can do a weekly digest on every one? Even the GFA is looking more like an accommodation for the lucrative employment of ageing warmongers, seeking a more comfortable old age.
John Hulme, Mairead Corrigan, Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown – always remembered.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dustin Needle
M Lux
M Lux
1 year ago

Britains reigning war crime champion.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago

Maybe Unherd can do a weekly digest on every one? Even the GFA is looking more like an accommodation for the lucrative employment of ageing warmongers, seeking a more comfortable old age.
John Hulme, Mairead Corrigan, Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown – always remembered.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dustin Needle
Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
1 year ago

Tonibler strikes again. He has quite a charge sheet, doesn’t he.

Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago

Blair honestly inspires me to vomit – he should be in jail for genocide and other war crimes, and for treason against the people of the UK.

Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago

Blair honestly inspires me to vomit – he should be in jail for genocide and other war crimes, and for treason against the people of the UK.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

In 1946 both Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel and Generaloberst Alfred Jodl were HANGED for ‘initiating and waging wars of AGGRESSION’.

Both the wretched Tony Blair and his lickspittle colleague and ardent co- conspirator Bush Jnr SHOULD have suffered the same fate.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
andrew harman
andrew harman
1 year ago

Don’t you mean Jodl?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Yes! 
.Off to ‘Specsavers’!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Yes! 
.Off to ‘Specsavers’!

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

Wilhelmina? Was he trans?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

Thanks!
That damned ‘predicted’ text Gremlin is obviously TRANS!
I shall have to be more careful.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

Thanks!
That damned ‘predicted’ text Gremlin is obviously TRANS!
I shall have to be more careful.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
andrew harman
andrew harman
1 year ago

Don’t you mean Jodl?

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

Wilhelmina? Was he trans?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

In 1946 both Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel and Generaloberst Alfred Jodl were HANGED for ‘initiating and waging wars of AGGRESSION’.

Both the wretched Tony Blair and his lickspittle colleague and ardent co- conspirator Bush Jnr SHOULD have suffered the same fate.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

I am surprised there’s no mention of Blair’s other foreign escapades here like the invasion of Sierra Leone in 2000, the biggest UK deployment since the Falklands War.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

I am surprised there’s no mention of Blair’s other foreign escapades here like the invasion of Sierra Leone in 2000, the biggest UK deployment since the Falklands War.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago

”And, in the context of Ukraine, it’s hard not to see Blair in Pristina as the model for Boris Johnson, or indeed Keir Starmer, in Kyiv. (How envious they must be to see all those Toniblers.)”

Perfect!

Boris seeing himself proudly walking the Kyiv streets as Ukrainian woman in traditional dress throw flowers to him, wile behind them ranks of Ukrainian men stand uniformed and at attention, saluting him, with their polished AK 47s held across their chests…… (and knowing Princess nutnut is watching the scene on BBC, glowing with pride, back home with the little ones)

I think you have found the actual reason Boris has created this WWIII from a regional conflict which was none of his business.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Boris told Putin to invade a sovereign nation did he? He must have had more influence than I realised

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

No, but he scuppered a potential peace deal which now looks completely out of reach. Why, one wonders? To keep the MIC in business, to have another go at ‘regime change’? Sadly, our leaders learn nothing from history.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

No, but he scuppered a potential peace deal which now looks completely out of reach. Why, one wonders? To keep the MIC in business, to have another go at ‘regime change’? Sadly, our leaders learn nothing from history.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Boris told Putin to invade a sovereign nation did he? He must have had more influence than I realised

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago

”And, in the context of Ukraine, it’s hard not to see Blair in Pristina as the model for Boris Johnson, or indeed Keir Starmer, in Kyiv. (How envious they must be to see all those Toniblers.)”

Perfect!

Boris seeing himself proudly walking the Kyiv streets as Ukrainian woman in traditional dress throw flowers to him, wile behind them ranks of Ukrainian men stand uniformed and at attention, saluting him, with their polished AK 47s held across their chests…… (and knowing Princess nutnut is watching the scene on BBC, glowing with pride, back home with the little ones)

I think you have found the actual reason Boris has created this WWIII from a regional conflict which was none of his business.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago

I regret to inform the editor of Unherd that the regular contribution from the Blair Foundation for open reporting is being witheld pending staff re-education and reparations.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago

I regret to inform the editor of Unherd that the regular contribution from the Blair Foundation for open reporting is being witheld pending staff re-education and reparations.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

Last week, I read a book about approaches to war by Orthodox Chrisitans. It was a dry, academic collection of writings but it raised interesting questions about the varying attitudes of war among the Latin West and war-torn Byzantine Empire / Eastern Orthodox countries. The latter never formalised their theologies of war like Aquinas did at Rome. Just War Theory is unique for the Latin West, the civilisation which justified the Crusades (for understandable reasons). Of course, the Reformation happened and the Anglo world took on a Protestant bent – but enjoyed a geographical primacy many mainland European and Middle Eastern countries simply don’t have. When WWI broke out, I believe a superior in the Anglican church rebuked Germany’s attempt at Just War Theory, giving a succint perspective over the BBC about the nuances in ‘just war theory.’
My point: Blair’s moral posturing, as well as Johnson’s stance on Ukraine, are firmly in line with Anglo approaches to diplomacy and war. Heck, who can forget Churchill’s speech about never surrendering and fighting on the beaches? Or Roosevelt’s “The Arena” analogy, where boxers and warriors are praised over mere critics? None of this is necessarily bad. It’s admirable – we want to stand up to bullies. But these bulldozzing attitudes rarely help in the Balkans, the Middle East or Eurasia.
The Anglosphere does have a tradition of rationalism, hard work, diplomacy and using evidence. Perhaps our leaders should strike the ideal balance between those and the Churchillian characteristics we all know – and (mostly) appreciate. I really don’t want to be negative about the Anglosphere – rather, I wish to illustrate a hopeful direction so tragedies like Iraq never occur again.

Charles Levett-Scrivener
Charles Levett-Scrivener
1 year ago

“When WWI broke out, I believe a superior in the Anglican church rebuked Germany’s attempt at Just War Theory, giving a succint perspective over the BBC about the nuances in ‘just war theory.’”
The BBC did not exist in WW1 do you mean WW2?

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

Ah my mistake – It was WWI, It wasn’t the BBC – I think it was some broadcast.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

Ah my mistake – It was WWI, It wasn’t the BBC – I think it was some broadcast.

Lukas Nel
Lukas Nel
1 year ago

Which book was it? Sounds interesting

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Lukas Nel

Orthodox Christian Perspectives on War. University of Notre Dame Press, 2017. The authors vary depending on section. It is an academic text, so $$$ but check your local / state library or alumni for digital access.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Lukas Nel

Orthodox Christian Perspectives on War. University of Notre Dame Press, 2017. The authors vary depending on section. It is an academic text, so $$$ but check your local / state library or alumni for digital access.

Charles Levett-Scrivener
Charles Levett-Scrivener
1 year ago

“When WWI broke out, I believe a superior in the Anglican church rebuked Germany’s attempt at Just War Theory, giving a succint perspective over the BBC about the nuances in ‘just war theory.’”
The BBC did not exist in WW1 do you mean WW2?

Lukas Nel
Lukas Nel
1 year ago

Which book was it? Sounds interesting

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

Last week, I read a book about approaches to war by Orthodox Chrisitans. It was a dry, academic collection of writings but it raised interesting questions about the varying attitudes of war among the Latin West and war-torn Byzantine Empire / Eastern Orthodox countries. The latter never formalised their theologies of war like Aquinas did at Rome. Just War Theory is unique for the Latin West, the civilisation which justified the Crusades (for understandable reasons). Of course, the Reformation happened and the Anglo world took on a Protestant bent – but enjoyed a geographical primacy many mainland European and Middle Eastern countries simply don’t have. When WWI broke out, I believe a superior in the Anglican church rebuked Germany’s attempt at Just War Theory, giving a succint perspective over the BBC about the nuances in ‘just war theory.’
My point: Blair’s moral posturing, as well as Johnson’s stance on Ukraine, are firmly in line with Anglo approaches to diplomacy and war. Heck, who can forget Churchill’s speech about never surrendering and fighting on the beaches? Or Roosevelt’s “The Arena” analogy, where boxers and warriors are praised over mere critics? None of this is necessarily bad. It’s admirable – we want to stand up to bullies. But these bulldozzing attitudes rarely help in the Balkans, the Middle East or Eurasia.
The Anglosphere does have a tradition of rationalism, hard work, diplomacy and using evidence. Perhaps our leaders should strike the ideal balance between those and the Churchillian characteristics we all know – and (mostly) appreciate. I really don’t want to be negative about the Anglosphere – rather, I wish to illustrate a hopeful direction so tragedies like Iraq never occur again.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
1 year ago

Oh what tangled web we weave / when first we practice to deceive!

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
1 year ago

Oh what tangled web we weave / when first we practice to deceive!

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

Virtue signaling with other people’s lives.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

Virtue signaling with other people’s lives.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Before the bombing of Serbia, the UN had been discredited by its failure to defend Bosnian Muslims from rape and murder. With no sign that it would defend the Kosovans any better, the UN was widely seen as irrelevant to the debate on the morality of bombing Serbia to save Kosovan lives. This and the fear of losing funding probably prompted the UN to get its act together and consequently UN arms inspectors played so prominent a role in Iraq in 2003.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Before the bombing of Serbia, the UN had been discredited by its failure to defend Bosnian Muslims from rape and murder. With no sign that it would defend the Kosovans any better, the UN was widely seen as irrelevant to the debate on the morality of bombing Serbia to save Kosovan lives. This and the fear of losing funding probably prompted the UN to get its act together and consequently UN arms inspectors played so prominent a role in Iraq in 2003.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

The danger of ambitious men like Blair (or women like Hillary Clinton) is that their ambition cannot be sated. The more power and adulation they get the more they crave. That’s why political power needs to be dispersed, not concentrated. When was the last time Switzerland pauperised itself with a pointless war in the Middle East?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

The danger of ambitious men like Blair (or women like Hillary Clinton) is that their ambition cannot be sated. The more power and adulation they get the more they crave. That’s why political power needs to be dispersed, not concentrated. When was the last time Switzerland pauperised itself with a pointless war in the Middle East?

Matty D
Matty D
1 year ago

The logic of the author’s argument is that the non-intervention by the collective West in the Rwanda genocide in 1994 was the right approach. The outcome? 500-600 thousand people were murdered. Anyone writing snide pieces like this (or posting supportive comments below) needs to address this point. Otherwise, the argument is invalid.

Andrew M
Andrew M
1 year ago
Reply to  Matty D

Rwanda is slap bang in the middle of Africa. Couldn’t the surrounding African countries intervene for the sake of humanity?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew M

“Pigs might fly”.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew M

“Pigs might fly”.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Matty D

If we’d intervened you can bet there would be a conga line of Guardianistas protesting against the ‘neocolonialism’ of the west.

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Matty D

What do you suggest are the criteria for intervening?

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Matty D

The French and Belgians had their proxies fighting in Rwanda. The Belgians supported the Tutsis, the historical rulers in Rwanda, and the French supported the Hutu militias.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France_and_the_Rwandan_genocide#:~:text=France%20actively%20supported%20the%20Hutu,four%20decades%20of%20anti%2DTutsi

Andrew M
Andrew M
1 year ago
Reply to  Matty D

Rwanda is slap bang in the middle of Africa. Couldn’t the surrounding African countries intervene for the sake of humanity?

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Matty D

If we’d intervened you can bet there would be a conga line of Guardianistas protesting against the ‘neocolonialism’ of the west.

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Matty D

What do you suggest are the criteria for intervening?

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Matty D

The French and Belgians had their proxies fighting in Rwanda. The Belgians supported the Tutsis, the historical rulers in Rwanda, and the French supported the Hutu militias.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France_and_the_Rwandan_genocide#:~:text=France%20actively%20supported%20the%20Hutu,four%20decades%20of%20anti%2DTutsi

Matty D
Matty D
1 year ago

The logic of the author’s argument is that the non-intervention by the collective West in the Rwanda genocide in 1994 was the right approach. The outcome? 500-600 thousand people were murdered. Anyone writing snide pieces like this (or posting supportive comments below) needs to address this point. Otherwise, the argument is invalid.