April 8, 2002
Friends In the West
sometimes think the luckiest thing about America is that she doesn't
have within her borders 'pro-Americans'. That is to say, she doesn't,
to any degree of public visibility have that troupe of people, who,
for whatever amongst a wide range of reasons, take it upon themselves
to be America's 'buddies' overseas. To take an example to hand, here,
as far as I can present them to you, are the opinions of one of the
academics who taught me at university, presented in the form of his
recent book, Unfinest
Hour. This examines the vexed subject of Britain's involvement
in the Balkans in the early 90s, and the decisions taken, erratically
in our national interest, by the then Conservative government headed
by John Major and foreign secretary Douglas Hurd. It perhaps goes
without saying that in his own conception, the author, Dr.Brendan
Simms, is both a realist and a conservative.
assumption in Dr.Simms's book about Britain's role in Bosnia is
wrong. And the assertions aren't much better, but at least they
have the decency to be out in the open. What wrecks Unfinest
Hour, what stops it from being the hymn to American virtue the
author intends, is that from start to end he tells himself that
he is a conservative, a realist and a student of history. Yet the
story he tells us is that of the liberal Dream of Bosnia. And few
other leftovers from the 1990s manage to combine quite so much historical
unreality and mondialist mystagogy.
narrative, for Dr.Simms, is a simple one. Bosnia fell prey to
a unpleasant neighbour in Serbia; Britain wasn't hugely keen on
getting involved, and, to that end, didn't want others sucking
her in; America saw the moral truth about the conflict, wanted
to get involved, was forestalled by Britain, but, eventually,
came to the rescue of Bosnia. The principal technique is omission.
Hence nowhere do we read of what the United States was up to,
in this timeframe, in any extra-Balkan context, which and
to give Dr.Simms his due, it's not easy even then helps
if you are determined to cast Bill Clinton's foreign policy as
being moral. Nor is there even a cursory history of how
Bosnia came into being this matters because, if the war
is to be presented in suitably outraged terms, the status of the
participants is crucial to the Simmian argument.
evidently annoyed the Newton Sheehy Lecturer in International
Relations more than having read through all the coverage of the
Bosnian war and coming across lines like, 'they're all at it,
always have been', or, worse still, 'it's civil war, madness to
get embroiled'. Every prejudice the professional academic possesses
is thereby given target. Centuries of peace are adduced, and,
more pertinently, the awful shade of Slobodan Milosevic, demon
king and NatWest customer, is recognised and brought vigorously
to our attention. However, to get all fussed about whether it
was a civil war or an 'illegal war of secession' can never ultimately
be anything more than an exercise in, 'well here's the moment
I pick my team'.
the war is seen as one of Serbian aggression, or for that matter,
as Simms also puts it, an 'illegal secession', we need to know
what we're supposed to be feeling an affinity with. Brendan Simms
never tells us. He never says why the Bosnia that seceded, slowly
and softly, from Yugoslavia was such a good cause. Given that
he exalts the war against Serbia over Kosovo, it's hard to see
why those terroristic splitists were white men, whereas
the vile Bosnian Serb had to be kept in 'multi-ethnic' Bosnia,
by us, for his own good. Still, the point is, what was so moral
about defending Bosnia, other than that instrumental in this was
an opportunity for Serb slapping?
to suggest that concern for Bosnia per se is the meat of
the book would be deeply misleading; what really is at stake here
is . . . anti-Americanism. This is everywhere. The war gave 'many'
Tory MPs the first chance to vent it in forty years. As for the
army, ours that is, its 'officer corps are still riddled with'
the cancer. This doesn’t actually lead Simms to suggest that we
should, for our own good, be subject to armed American intervention
in order to save us from these uniformed fanatics, but it's a
close run thing. When he details how the Foreign Office worked
effectively the American political machine in pursuit of British
objectives, Dr.Simms affects horror. Of course, when a British
diplomat dissents from the policy of his employers and sides with
the US, that’s exemplary, Nutting-over-Suez form.
the problem with America's dupes overseas is that they believe
the lies Americans tell about themselves, even when, as is the
case with a good many conservatives, most Americans don't credit
them for a second. It's faintly shocking to see every statement
by British politicians paraded as being just so. Never is allowance
made for the possibility that policy X (with recognisable outcome
Y) was being pursued for anything other than publicly stated reason
Z. Take this approach to international relations and frankly,
you could paint, oh, the Danes as being villains, let alone Douglas
baffled as to the precise point of the peculiar and repetitious
discussion of the ethnic ancestry of some of the British participants.
There are only so many times in one book that we we need to be
told that Major Mike Stanley’s 'real' name is Milos Stankovic.
If we hear this of the interpreter, what of the author? Is it
relevant that an anti-British, pro-German book which attacks the
army for its supposed anti-catholicism has been written by a southern
Irish, Roman Catholic of part German extraction? I imagine not.
Unfinest Hour culminates in America's great achievement, Dayton,
when the Sarajevo government got less than anything the wicked
David Owen had offered them. But then we know we can't trust someone
guilty of 'obsessive feuding with Washington'. Dayton's great
merit, patently, lay in the fact that although the good guys got
less, they got it after the Bosnian Serbs had gotten a
of the more bizarre results of the Anglo-American military tension
[our fault not theirs, for bugging us, or covertly shipping
arms] was [General] Rose's cordial relations with the Russians.'
Why, you might ask, was that ipso facto bizarre? This neatly laid
out prejudice, like all the others, serves to show that America’s
foreign friends wish her a whole heap a feudin'. With friends
like Brendan, America gets rather more enemies than she presently