WHAT IS GOOD FOR AMERICA ...
International Conference: AMERICA'S INTERVENTION IN THE BALKANS
Chicago, February 28th - March 2nd, 1997
Address by Sir Alfred Sherman Chairman
"Sherman is best known as Margaret Thatcher's guru, co-founder of the rightwing Centre for Policy Studies and the man who did as much as anyone else to roll back of the frontiers of the Tory state from 1979."
Quote from The Guardian, November 10, 2000
The war in Bosnia was America's war in every sense of the word. The
US administration helped start it, kept it going, and prevented its early
end. Indeed all the indications are that it intends to continue the war
in the near future, as soon as its Moslem proteges are fully armed and
trained. How it did so is common knowledge. Why it did so, and the implications
for American defense and foreign policy generally remain to be elucidated.
The facts are clear. In 1991, the break up of Yugoslavia, initiated
by Germany which was reunified and dominant in the European Union, led
to conflict in Croatia and brought the future of Bosnia onto the agenda.
It had become clear that whereas a united secular Bosnia was feasible within
Yugoslavia - any Yugoslavia - its perpetuation as a sovereign State created
serious difficulties. A strong current of Moslem opinion led by Alija Izetbegovic
desired to restore the status quo ante 1878, when Bosnia was a Moslem
province ruled by the Sheriyat, with its Christian majority in subjection
and subordination, and the whole province in constant turmoil.
Under Yugoslav rule, the Moslem minority enjoyed civil rights by Western
standards, but these were basically unacceptable to committed Moslems,
for whom Moslem rule independent of infidel power was a religious prerequisite.
(This is clear from all Moslem theology and its associated political writings.
It colors all statements by Moslems in Yugoslavia since 1878. It was repeated
in their own publications, e.g., the periodical Islamska Misao
and in Izetbegovic's Islamic Declaration, though bien pensauts
are as reluctant to take it seriously as an expression of intent as their
predecessors were to take Mein Kampf seriously.)
At the outset of the present crisis the Croats of Bosnia wished to create
their own state in association with Croatia. The Serbs, for their part,
wished to avoid being placed under foreign rule, having suffered for several
hundred years under Roman Catholic and Moslem misrule, including the clero-fascist
Ustasa regime which in 1941-45 perpetrated genocide against the Serbs of
Croatia and Bosnia with active Moslem participation. It is not generally
known or remembered that during the first world war, when the Germans occupied
Serbia after the Austro-Hungarians had failed to conquer it, and handed
out areas to Hungarian, Bulgarian and Albanian occupation a third of the
Serb population was murdered, or died of starvation and disease. At all
events, the European Union having broken up Yugoslavia on German prompting
and thus unleashed war in Croatia, called meetings to prevent the same
thing happening in Bosnia. Lord Carrington, one time British Foreign Secretary
and Secretary-General of NATO, was chairman of this endeavor working closely
with the Portuguese Foreign Minister in Lisbon, under the Portuguese Presidency.
Carrington's task of damage limitation was made all the more difficult
when Izetbegovic, a militant fundamentalist, declared that the independence
of Bosnia was a great event, second in his Moslem calendar only to 1453
- the fall of Constantinople.
However, Lord Carrington, who had fought through the second world war
and regarded wars as worth avoiding, was able by inspired chairmanship
to broker an agreement, initialed by leaders of the three delegations:
Serb, Croat and Moslem, who returned to their respective strongholds committed
to seeking ratification from their assemblies.
It was then that America acted fatefully. For whatever reasons -- which
remain to be adduced -- Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger,
who knew Yugoslavia well from his term as Ambassador there and as banker
subsequently, instructed Warren Zimmerman, U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade,
to fly post-haste to Sarajevo and persuade Izetbegovic to renege on the
agreement, promising him all political, diplomatic and military aid if
he agreed to do so. Izetbegovic was persuaded. He stationed his green-berreted
snipers on the roofs of central Sarajevo, reneged on the agreement, appealed
for support in the Moslem world; the Bosnian war began. It has yet to end.
As in Greek tragedy, one action by a protagonist, Eagelburger, set a train
of events irrevocably in motion.
During the years that followed, America pulled the strings from the
background, encouraging the world-wide Moslem agitation in favor of Izetbegovic.
They brought the Russians -- who entertained futile hopes of large-scale
western investment and aid -- into line. Washington kept pressing EU members
like Britain and France, which had serious misgivings, to accept its faits
accomplis. The U.S. encouraged and facilitated the dispatch of arms to
the Moslems via Iran and Eastern Europe -- a fact which was denied in Washington
at the time in face of overwhehning evidence. America used NATO and UNPROFOR
as their policy instruments, and blocked all peace moves, of which there
were several between 1992 and 1995. Then, having effectively prevented
the EU from reaching agreement -- which all but Germany, now intent on
its third Drang nach Osten, wanted -- the United States was able to corral
them into a military offensive sparked off by staged incidents reminiscent
of the Battleship Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It was the U.S.
which organized the UN sanctions against Serbia-Montenegro on the basis
of one such staged incident.
But why? Here we have the most powerful country on earth at the present
time deeply involved off its own bat in Balkan affairs, which bear absolutely
no relationship to American security, extending its power into Eastern
and South Eastern Europe, involving itself deeply in a number of long-standing
and perhaps incurable national contlicts, between Serbs and Croats, Christians
and Moslems, (Slav) Macedonians and Greeks, Slovaks and Hungarians, Hungarians
and Romanians, Romanians and Ukrainians, among others. Why, for that matter,
is the U.S. pressing Czechs, Poles, and Hungarians to join NATO at this
We have the American C in C of forces in Europe arguing that the diminution
of the Soviet threat is no reason for phasing out NATO but on the contrary
increasing its political role in Europe; in other words, NATO is to be
an instrument of American policy, whatever that policy might be. This entails
the militarisation of foreign policy, the very antithesis of the American
tradition in international relations.
The newly appointed Secretary of State Madeline Albright, speaking as
US Ambassador to the UN, stated unequivocally that the US policy in Bosnia
was the foundation of its policies for Europe. Think of the implications:
lying and cheating, fomenting war in which civilians are the main casualty,
and in which ancient hatreds feed on themselves, involving America in a
maelstrom easier to enter than to leave, and above all risking long-term
conflict with a Russia which is only partly broken from its recent imperialist
I ask you to hypothesize the basis of US world policy, political, military
and economic. It must balance objectives against costs. The overwhelming
objective is US security. This is partly geographical. What occurs in the
Caribbean Basin is more immediately relevant than the East Asian mainland.
One can understand the principle of US involvement in Cuba and Haiti, even
though one need not necessarily approve of the particular policies.
America is of necessity involved in hemispheric affairs. America has
traditionally been involved in "North Atlantic", i.e., European, affairs,
to the extent of two world wars and the cold war. But what is the relevance
of the Balkans and Black Sea? And what is the point of creating and arming
a militantly Moslem polity in the Balkans which ineluctably gives Iran
a foothold there and a route into Central and Western Europe for subversion
I can find no rational reasons for doing so. I note one aspect of US
foreign policy. Because the USA is a very large country, of whose inhabitants
relatively few travel abroad and fewer still interest themselves in world
affairs, while major foreign policy issues are given massive attention
by the White House, legislators, media and academe, for better or worse,
less import issues are left to minor interest groups. But they can lead
Uncle Sam by the nose. Until the last presidential elections but one, Secretary
of State Baker favored the preservation of Yugoslavia as an entity. It
was when he took over belatedly as Pres. Bush's chief campaign manager,
and Eagleburger was given a free run, with his own personal Balkan agenda,
the Serbophobes and Islamophiles came out of the woodwork, and committed
Uncle Sam for years to come.
The US has traditionally worked with some ugly despotisms, and is still
doing, so, viz. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, various Latin-American regimes
considered a lesser evil, various unpleasant regimes in Asia, including
Pakistan. In any case, democracy cannot be imposed. There are occasions
when democracies can be given a helping hand, and others when intervention
is counter-productive. But to intervene in favor of Clero-Fascism and Islamic
fundamentalism, to help expel Serbs from land they have inhabited as majorities
for centuries, and to adopt the German-Hungarian drive to reverse what
is left of the Versailles provisions, does not make sense. Why then? I
go back to the Spanish American war as an analogy, and to "Manifest Destiny".
The USA, with the Civil War and reconstruction behind it, wanted to flex
its muscles. It was the period when half the Navy wanted to take on the
British. But the Spanish Army was an easier hit. The remnants of the Spanish
Empire in Cuba, the Philippines and the Pacific were no conceivable threat
to the USA. Nor were the inhabitants groaning under Spanish yoke. They
were treated as Spaniards. Even today, most inhabitants regard Spanish
rule as a golden age.
Cuba's ills, which led to Castro's Communist dictatorship which generated
the greatest threat to America in its history, were a result of U.S. aggression
which tore Cuba away from the mother country, and left it with independence
which it had not sought and was unprepared for. The Philippines, with a
hard-working intelligent population, were unable to adopt American mores,
but live in a miasma of corruption and violence. Spain itself was convulsed
by defeat, which stripped it of its last outposts. These convulsions lay
at the basis of Spain's unhappy twentieth century: the Primo de Rivera
dictatorship, the Republic it egdendered, the militaiy uprising, civil
war and Franco dictatorship from which Spain is only now recovering and
finding its place in the world.
The temptations of imperial arrogance are not new, even in the U.S.
They should not be forgotten just because America was, in some part, protected
from this arrogance by the genuine weight and burden, more imposed than
chosen, of defending the Free World against Nazi Germany and Stalinist
Russia. The end of the Cold War has stripped off this protection. Yet the
White House has chosen a Secretary of State who is a Cold War junkie, a
connoisseur of confrontation, a woman living too passionately in the past,
eager to seize the first opportunity to show how the old battles should
have been fought, how the West should have Won at Munich. Do not be surprised
if all the talk of leadership, resolve, firmness and New Interests is a
preparation for war and the nomination of new enemies.
To present the USA as the world's poticeman, judge, jury, and DA may
or may not go well into campaign rhetoric, but the idea is endlessly seductive
for the Washington community of foreign policy professionals - often poorly
educated, high on excitement and low in statesmanlike patience. They fear,
quite imationally, that the world will happily pass them by unless America
imposes herself, rises to 'the challenge' and throws her weight about.
Albright's heroes are Truman and Marshall. She makes it clear they are
also her models. But where is her USSR? The foreign policy community wants
the feel-good factor, the winning-the-Cold-War glow, to go on and on. But
to live for the adrenaline and glory of yesterday and yesteryear is to
ride for a fall and to walk with Hubris.
Can the yearning to be the world's policeman be the basis of policy?
In formal terms, perhaps not. But if the poison is at work, it may be detected.
Clinton knows that he should always deny the charge. Throughout the Bosnian
Intervention he was the respectable front-end of the Lake-Albright program.
Inside the State Deparrment and the CIA there is always room for the pretense
that policy is more limited and calculated that the passions and arrogance
which may drive it. German policy before 1914 was sometimes defined, on
paper, by men more rational and cool than those who took the initiatives
and made the choices. Such draftsmen and spokesmen may be employed in Washington.
But Mr Lake will wrestle with pragmatic formulas as Pilgrim wrestling with
Sin. The power an prestige of America is in the hands of people who will
not resist the Temptation to invent new missions, lay down new embargoes
and fabricate new courts. For the time being, they control the United Nations,
the World Bank, most of the world's military high-tech weapons, and the
vast majority of the satellites which watch us from every quadraut of the
skies. This is the opportunity they sense, and we must ask what ambitions
they will declare next.
The pursuit of World Importance for the sake of World Importance is
the Great Temptation in human history, the path of ruin that winds from
Xerxes, the Persian King of Kings, to Hitler, the Austrian corporal-tyrant.
It is the path which George Washington forbade America ever to take. The
American People will never chose it, but can they prevent it? The American
foreign policy elite is locking itself onto this path, and their co-conspirators
in the media corporations are calling it a pilgrimage. Bosnia was the acid
test. They knew why they should not go in; they knew the damage it would
do to their oldest alliances; but they could not resist. The combination
of high moral purpose, however fudged up by the media, and the chance to
show Europe that Only America Decides was just too intoxicating.
At the time of writing, the USA is uniquely powerful. It will not always
be so. In the course of time, Russia may gain its potential strength, and
there is very little the USA can do about Chinese developments one way
or the other. It might save the Chinese Republic in Taiwan for better times,
but that would need a great measure of commitment, which will be less likely
if the Balkan war turns hot, and a flow of body bags begins. America is
very vulnerable to body-bags, because the Americans, unlike the British
and French, for example, have no sense of imperial mission which justifies
losing young men in foreign fields. The outcry against the Helms-Burton
Act, whose target was Castro's Cuba, forced Clinton to delay application
of its main provisions.
A law of history is that power tends to generate countervailing power.
It is not for me to trace how this will come about. We can do little more
than guard against arrogance and over-extension and minimize the pointless
sacrifices they usually entail. I am proud to have taken part in this struggle,
the struggle to bring the powerful to their senses before they plunge into
reckless, ruthless folly. This struggle carries no guarantee of success,
for it is the quest for sanity that epitomizes the struggle of suffering
humanity throughout the ages.