Tony Blair’s chapter on Kosovo: a travesty

I shan’t buy Tony Blair’s book: judging by the extracts I have read, it would do bad things to my blood pressure.  But I have read the Kosovo chapter, which is about as mendacious and misleading an account of a major international event as it’s possible to imagine. Don’t groan that it’s all ancient history now, no longer worth our attention.  It led on directly to Iraq, and if we’re not going to allow that blunder to happen again, it’s important to learn the real lessons from Kosovo, and not to allow the perversely distorted and self-serving account offered by Mr Blair to become the accepted wisdom.

In A Journey Tony Blair, who boasts openly of having been the principal cheerleader for the NATO attack on Yugoslavia in 1999, skates smoothly over the preceding conference at Rambouillet, at which a pretext for military action against the Serbs in revenge for Bosnia was shamelessly manufactured;  claims falsely that when the bombing was getting nowhere he persuaded his friend Clinton to agree to an invasion by land forces (Clinton in fact never agreed to any such thing: the Congress would never have agreed to it: and there was never the smallest possibility of getting NATO agreement to it);  and then asserts that it was because of the “prospect of ground troops” that Milosevic “retreated in disarray”, whereas Milosevic knew there was no such prospect;  and ascribes Milosevic’s “capitulation” to a visit to Belgrade by “the UN negotiators led by President Ahtisaari of Finland”.  Actually the UN never authorised the NATO attack (which was therefore illegal under international law) and never sent negotiators under Ahtisaari or anyone else to negotiate with Milosevic.  When three months of NATO bombing all across Yugoslavia was clearly no nearer to securing Milosevic’s acceptance of the ludicrous ultimatum issued at Rambouillet, and with Blair clamouring for an utterly unreal escalation of the air attack to a full-scale ground invasion, Clinton quietly secured Yeltsin’s agreement to send the former Russian prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, to join the American diplomat Strobe Talbott, US Deputy Secretary of State, and Martti Ahtisaari, the Finnish President and experienced UN negotiator, to go to Belgrade with a radical revision of the Rambouillet demands, to which Milosevic, knowing that with the Russian now involved the game was up, soon acceded.  If Clinton and Blair had been prepared from the start to accept Russian participation in the search for an end to the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, the eventual Talbott-Chernomyrdin-Ahtisaari settlement could have been achieved three months earlier without a bomb being dropped, a rocket fired or a drop of blood spilled.

Blair’s book’s account also implies, again falsely, that the Serbs were driving Kosovo Albanians out of Kosovo as refugees into neighbouring countries before the NATO attack began (in fact the NATO attack precipitated it, so the exodus can’t be cited as an excuse for the NATO attack).  And, finally, he claims that the eventual fall of Milosevic from power was a result of the NATO action, whereas there’s good evidence that NATO’s attack actually strengthened Milosevic’s position with his fellow-Serbs, and his later electoral defeat occurred well after the dust had settled on Kosovo.  The passages on  pages 227 and 242 of the Blair book encapsulate the principal misrepresentations and distortions of the whole account of the Kosovo disaster.

Blair’s potted history of the Kosovo affair unaccountably omits to mention that the British government’s legal advisers were warning that the proposed NATO attack on Yugoslavia for the proclaimed purpose of forcing Milosevic to obey the demands of the Rambouillet ultimatum would be unlawful under the Charter, the supreme instrument of international law — until the Americans, and Tony Blair himself, persuaded them to change their advice (as one of the Americans involved incautiously revealed in a newspaper article later [James Rubin, press spokesman for US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the time of Rambouillet and the NATO attack on Serbia, Financial Times, 29 Sep 2000: quoted here])  Does that ring some kind of bell?

If some of this sounds strangely familiar, that could be because the Kosovo war was a curtain-raiser for Iraq.  Blair — as his book makes unashamedly clear — contrived to convince himself, and an improbably large number of others, that the ending of Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo had been achieved by the use of force (and the threat of even greater force): and that he, Blair, had been the principal author and protagonist — as indeed he was — of the whole triumphantly successful operation — as in plain fact it was not.  The lesson he managed to learn from Kosovo was that you could use force against another country without UN authority and without the excuse of acting in self-defence, and get away with it.  To exalt and justify the NATO attack with the trappings of a Doctrine, he invented a prototype of the purely illusory “right of humanitarian intervention”, launched in a notorious speech in Chicago in April 1999, shortly after the start of the NATO assault.  Hailed as their heroic saviour by the Kosovo Albanians, Blair became a fervent apostle of the use of force in international affairs, where necessary without regard to international law.  His book vividly illustrates how a comprehensive misreading of Kosovo encouraged his tendency to self-deception, solipsistic moralising and a messianic belief in his personal destiny, culminating inexorably in his decision to join the most unprincipled American president in living memory in the tragic aggression against Iraq.

The NATO attack on Yugoslavia over Kosovo was:  unnecessary;   illegal and in plain breach of the UN Charter;  publicly justified by fraud and deception (namely, the deliberate misrepresentation of what really happened at Rambouillet);  responsible for well over 12,000 deaths, the great majority of these being of innocent civilians;  the cause of  enormous damage to the economic infrastructure of all the countries of the region;  and, in the end, wholly unsuccessful, since it was not the NATO military action but quiet US-Russian-Finnish diplomacy — in which Blair and the UK played no part whatever — that finally forced Milosevic to end the ethnic cleansing and to withdraw his forces from Kosovo.

All this, you might say, is now water under the bridge, and (to mix the liquid clichés) relatively small beer compared with Iraq.  But we still need to understand what really happened to make Iraq possible, and to identify the factors in that criminal blunder which contributed to it, so that we can try to minimise the risk of such a thing ever happening again.  Kosovo was one such factor, with its numerous Iraqi echoes.  The single word “therefore” makes a lethal and incontrovertible point in a question posed by the writer Thomas Powers in the August 19 issue of the New York Review of Books, referring to Iraq, but equally applicable to Kosovo, and referring to a president, but equally applicable to a prime minister [emphasis added]:

What is the proper response to a president who has conspired to launch an unjustified and therefore illegal war against another country?  The more clearly the matter is stated, the more troubling are its implications.

It’s tempting to say that 11 years later it’s time to ‘move on’.  But we still haven’t even begun to consider seriously those “troubling implications”, and before we can possibly do so, the untruths and evasions in Tony Blair’s book need to be exposed, so that we may at long last face the reality of what went so badly wrong.


13 Responses

  1. Pete Kercher says:

    Thankyou, Brian, for a lucid debunking of Blair’s revolting self-congratulation (for causing the deaths of thousands of innocents).
    You make a compelling case for Blair to be dragged before the International Court at the Hague. Surely if Milosevic can be tried there, the same applies to all the war criminals involved in the ugly, self-seeking exploitation of human suffering that is such a stain on the history of Europe in general and the Balkans in particular.
    Of course I would expect this to be an uphill battle, as even a hint of an accusation levied at Blair would create the undeniable precedent that Bush will b e the next for his illegal warmongering in Iraq.
    So, the obvious question is this: is this even remotely possible, or are we obliged to admit that the entire framework of international law is hopelessly hypocritical? Because that is the conclusion if Blair and Bush are never brought to justice.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Pete. But I don’t think it’s hypocritical for international law not to attempt the impossible. I suppose that if international law is ever enforced by some form of world government and expanded to regulate the behaviour of individuals and not just that of states and governments, and if international law criminalised personal responsibility for causing a state to use force against another state in contravention of the UN Charter, then Tony Blair and George W Bush would be prime candidates for prosecution in some kind of international court. But until those conditions are satisfied, I don’t see any realistic prospect of this happening.

    Moreover, because those conditions are not, or not yet, satisfied, I have serious reservations about the various ad hoc tribunals set up in recent years to try individuals accused of war and other crimes in specified countries and areas. When crimes such as the crime of aggression or genocide have been committed by whole states or governments and their armed forces or militias or ordinary citizens, it seems to me impossibly invidious to single out for trial and punishment a handful of individuals, where perhaps thousands of others go unpunished. Let’s stick to prosecuting those who are accused of committing crimes under ordinary national criminal or common law, such as murder, GBH, conspiracy to commit various crimes, and so forth. I don’t see why Blair should be prosecuted for his complicity in aggression against Serbia in 1999 or against Iraq in 2002 without all the members of his Cabinet (or government) at the time being prosecuted too, plus all the MPs who voted for those wars, plus the newspaper editorialists who supported it, the air marshals and generals and brigadiers (and WOs and NCOs? ORs?) who took part in them… In short, if it’s impossible to draw a line at any meaningful point, the whole exercise begins to look misconceived.

    Exposure and ruined reputations have to be punishment enough, I’m afraid. But I have some sympathy with the opposite view!

  2. Leo says:

    A great article, Brian, and i agree totally with Pete’s point about how the unlikeliness of either Blair or Bush being held criminally accountable for their illegal actions points towards the naïvety of believing there is an international rule of law, however much we may wish there to be one. My favourite anecdote about Blair (in so far as it demonstrates his mendaciousness) is still the one of him explaining to someone in private, when asked why he wanted to invade Iraq rather than any of the other horrible dictatorships in the world, that he’d ideally like to ‘get’ them all, but that circumstances just happened to give him the opportunity to ‘get’ Saddam Hussein. I can’t remember who told it; i think it may have been Douglas Murray or someone like that.
    Also, I was wondering if you’ve read Susan Woodward’s book on the Yugoslav wars, ‘Balkan Tragedy’? If so, as someone who seems to know a lot about the conflict, what’s your view of the book? If not, i hesitate to recommend a book i’m only halfway through, but i’ve just found the depth of the analysis and the quality of the scholarship astonishing.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Leo. No, I haven’t read Susan Woodward’s book, although I have seen some fairly negative reviews of it — see for example, which accuses her of a degree of pro-Serb partisanship that allegedly undermines her judgements overall. I haven’t read the book so I have no view about the rights and wrongs of that criticism, but I have found that through having sought in blog posts, speeches, articles and letters to the newspapers to question the received wisdom about the Kosovo war, I have had to fight hard to avoid being folded into the embrace of passionate Serbian nationalists (from many different countries) of whom I am definitely not one.

    For the reasons in my post, I think the NATO air attack on Yugoslavia was a criminal blunder that actually made an extremely bad situation worse and which in itself only exacerbated the problem. But I would never suggest that the Serbs were innocent of the crimes of which they were accused: they overreacted brutally and quite without any possible justification to the KLA’s acts of terrorist provocation, and the ethnic cleansing which they undoubtedly undertook in Kosovo was indefensible by any standards. The fact that KLA terrorism was also indefensible (and, worse, ultimately successful!) can’t excuse the crimes also committed by the Serbs, whose behaviour elsewhere in the Balkans under the malign leadership of the scoundrel Milosevic was also in the highest degree appalling. In short, hardly any of the participants in this shabby saga emerge from it with any credit, with the possible (and perhaps surprising) exception of the Russians.

  3. Pete Kercher says:

    Brain, when you write “I don’t think it’s hypocritical for international law not to attempt the impossible“, I read “The Emperor is wearing no clothes”. If the law is not the same for everybody, applied equally to everybody, it is hypocrisy: no more and no less. Of course, we cannot afford to say so if we want to avoid the complete collapse of our international law system, as opposed to the partial collapse that we can now witness every time that some trigger-happy messiah in the White House (or N° 10) gets it into his head that his (divinely-inspired?) personal message is more important than the established mores of world peace. I agree that the “international community” therefore has no right to single out individuals and subject them to trial, simply because they lost a war. The obvious parallel is of course the glaring hypocrisy that screamed injustice to anyone with even a modicum of social conscience when the Nazi leaders were put on trial and, instead of standing alongside them, equally and justly accused of mass murder, the Soviet leaders were among their judges. Of course we could discuss the evident differences (the Soviets did not establish mass murder camps on occupied territory, to eliminate certain ethnic or social groups… no, they didn’t bother with camps, but just murdered millions of identified ethnic and social groups, their own citizens in their own territory, on the base of the quota system…), but the fact remains that the winners rewrite history, make new rules and then base their judgements on them ex post factum, whether it’s the Soviets in 1945 or the Americans (with Blair & Co clinging pathetically to their coat-tails) in the 1990s. And that is the stuff of hypocrisy.
    I am often in Serbia these days, where I work closely with people whose lives were changed drastically by the Anglo-American war of aggression. They are ordinary people who, remarkably, bear no grudges. I find myself doubting that the British and Americans would be able to pick up the pieces and start all over again, without any such grudges, had they been on the receiving end of such a brutal attack. All the overspun hype about 9/11 rather indicates that they would not, nor can I imagine the British press preaching reconciliation and forgiveness to its xenophobic caveman readers.
    Even so, despite this evidence of putting the past behind them, I wonder how relatives of the thousands of people murdered by Bush and Blair feel about their aggressors having to suffer no more than a slightly dented reputation….

    Brian writes: Thank you again, Pete. I can’t disagree with anything you say. It’s just a pity that collective crimes, for which widely varying degrees of responsibility are shared by dozens, hundreds or thousands of people, don’t lend themselves to individual trials and punishments without an unacceptable degree of capricious and invidious selectiveness, since there’s no rationally defensible place at which to draw a line. We should also note that those who knew what was about to happen, or what was actually happening, yet did nothing to prevent it or protest about it, must also bear some responsibility, however much personal courage might have been required to take action. Not everyone has the guts of a Robin Cook or a Clare Short. That swells the numbers of the guilty to even higher figures. (And it’s often forgotten that Robin Cook played a leading role in the fraud and deception practised at the Rambouillet conference which set up the Serbs for the NATO attack over Kosovo.)

  4. Leo says:

    Thanks for that link, Brian. I have to say, while some of the criticisms seem reasonable, having gone back to the book and read the surrounding text of some of those quotes, i think there’s a fair degree of things being taken out of context going on. Some criticisms read as particularly ill-judged – accusing Woodward of not understanding the federal nature of Yugoslavia, when she spends several chapters analysing how it was precisely a dynamic of antagonism (of a complex kind) between the devolved federal states that accelerated the tensions and specifically advantaged political nationalists. I won’t defend the book too much, given i haven’t finished it. It was, however, recommended to me by Perry Anderson in an essay of his on Timothy Garton Ash, Foreign Affairs magazine and the social science library at Oxford, which stocks about 15 copies and which i can only therefore assume means it’s a core text for anyone studying the area.
    I agree entirely with the second part of your response, but i think it’s important that the lessons we learn from the Yugoslav wars are not only about counterproductive Western intervention, but also about the destabilizing effects of rapid, austere economic reforms and the potential for explosions of nationalism in rather unlikely places.

    Brian writes: Thank you again, Leo. Perfectly fair comments. You have read half of the book in question and are therefore much better placed to assess its reliability and the validity or lack of it of the review which I cited than I am, not having read the book at all. Your last paragraph seems to me absolutely right and worth saying.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Brian, whilst I agree with much of your analysis, especially that Blair was quite wrong to claim that it was the threat of a ground invasion that drove Milosovic to back down, I can not accept your related argument that it was only after the onset of the NATO bombing that the Serbs started to drive the Kosovo Albanians out of the country. My understanding reinforced by both the oral and written(HR reports) evidence before me in numerous asylum appeals I heard asan Immigration Judge, was that the Serbian led government persistently increased the pressure on the Albanian majority from about 1995. On eexample was the closure of all Albanian medium schools. By early 1998 there was quite widespread fighting between th JNA (Yugoslav national army) and the nationalist gurrilla groups. Often whole villages were burnt and many young men were detained  whilst the Serb militias behaved even more harshly. In those circumstances i is hardly suprise that many Albanians fled from the Territory.
     I do, of course, accept that after the NTO bombing started the plight of the Albanian majority became far more dire.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Jeremy. I have never seen any evidence in any contemporary or later account of this affair that Kosovo Albanians were being driven out of Kosovo and creating a refugee problem in neighbouring countries before the start of the NATO attack. Of course the Serbian army and police were responding with unpardonable brutality to KLA terrorist attacks in Kosovo, driving Kosovo Albanians from their homes, burning villages, and engaging in ruthless ethnic cleansing especially in the areas bordering on Serbia proper — that’s what precipitated the crisis. But the victims of ethnic cleansing were taking refuge wherever they could inside Kosovo, and often returning to what was left of their homes and villages once the Serbs had moved on. No-one can safely assert, of course, that not a single Kosovo Albanian ever fled across the border into a neighbouring country in the period before the NATO attack, but I believe the general consensus is that the mass exodus and consequent refugee problem, involving huge suffering and deprivation for numerous refugees, began only after the NATO bombs and rockets began to fall on Serbia. Even Blair accuses Milosevic of exploiting the NATO attack to drive the Albanians out of Kosovo, while at the same time giving the impression that the exodus of refugees was one of the acts of oppression that forced NATO to intervene.

    Every authoritative account I have ever read of the conflict has confirmed that this was the sequence of events, and I have never seen it challenged (until now!). It’s difficult to prove a negative, of course, and it’s possible that extensive research might produce evidence that the hitherto generally accepted version has been wrong all along. Until someone produces that, however, I’ll stick with the conventional wisdom on the point.

  6. Brian says:

    Some of the comments appended to this article as it appears in Labour List ( make interesting reading — including my responses to some of them, in which I accept the challenge to produce my evidence by listing or quoting some of my sources and other documents that contain links to additional sources.

  7. Thanks for the comparison Brian, many have already forgotten the lax decision making that surrounded the bombing of Kosovo. Here is a snippet from the socclaed peace talks at Ramboulliet then, ending in calamity. It was relayed to me by a member of the German delegation with Joshka Fischer, then foreign minister.

    The Serbian delegation, meeting the German Greens by chance in one of the corridors between meetings, played on their public image as ‘soft peace loving Greens’ teasingly talking amongst themselves about the peacenik dividend within the German delegation, in English, whilst passing each other, swayed Joshka’s mind somewhat. The ex Frankfurt taxi driver, who once in his youth fettered and drove Baader Meinhof members round Frankfurt, going about their business, was riled by the Serbian comment and the German Greens, up to that point opposed to the bombing, somewhat coerced by his angry words in response afterwards, came out behind the UN/western coalition position.
    This decisive act, in my opinion, was Joshka Fischer’s entry into the ‘club’, up to this point unsure of Greens; it also marked the fact that Greens can fall in line with right-wing agendas, even when there is duplicity in interpretations of international law. 

    It was the first indication that Greens, despite their image portrayed as full of moral high ground, are merely a concerned group, just as any other party: morals do not come into it; increasingly Greens will grow into Government and be subsumed by the established agendas.
    Real peace negotiations, wherever they commence, not coerced by threats of war or painful concessions, should be cherished and held up as truly inspiring, worthy of the human race, intelligent discourse fit for what we claim to be.

  8. scott neil says:

    thanks, Brian. it is an utter disgrace that Blair feels the need to lie about Kosovar refugees: the truth is, that by Jan. ’99, there were at least 300,000 IDPs within the territory due to the actions of the brute Milosevic. why does Blair feel the need to ‘sex up’ this actual fact, desperately sad and tragic in its own right? i suppose we know the answer to that one…

  9. ObiterJ says:

    Let us not forget that Blair took the U.K. into several other military campaigns.  These are considered in John Kampfner’s book “Blair’s Wars” and Professor Philippe Sands QC looked at it in The Guardian:

    Unfortunately, I suspect that Blair’s idea of a “right of intervention” might be taking hold in international law which develops as a result of what nations do.
    We remain in Afghanistan – at massive cost in human terms and financially – and we have been there for 9 years with no proper signs of either improvement or exit.  This is the appalling legacy of Blair who, sad to say, so many people both admired and supported at the time.

    Brian writes: Thanks. I agree generally about Blair’s ‘other wars’, although Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, unlike Kosovo and Iraq, were probably technically legal, the former because we went in at the invitation of the legal government which was exercising its right of self-defence and resisting an armed rebellion, and the latter because it was formally approved by the UN Security Council. But I entirely agree that we and the Americans and the rest of NATO have lost the plot in Afghanistan, that our presence there is counter-productive, and that the sooner we get out, the better for everyone. I was sorry to hear David Miliband spouting the old discredited line about Afghanistan at the Labour Party conference today —,2009-10-01
    — and it reinforced my conviction that the party has chosen the right Miliband to lead it.

    Blair’s misbegotten “right of intervention” has been both discredited by the catastrophe in Iraq and superseded by the subsequent development of the much more limited UN-approved doctrine of the Right to Protect (R2P) which restores the sole right of the Security Council to authorise (or disallow) military action other than in self-defence, while accepting that in certain circumstances it can be legitimate to intervene in a country’s internal affairs to forestall or terminate extreme repression by a government of its own population — but always, as I understand it, subject to the Security Council’s approval.

    Update: I have just realised that the speech by David Miliband which I criticise above was delivered to the 2009 Labour Conference, when he was Foreign Secretary, and not to the 2010 conference. No doubt the 2009 text was drafted for him by some lowly speech-writer in the FCO. But that doesn’t excuse it!

  10. ObiterJ says:

    One certainty is that ex President Bush will never go before the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the USA is not a party to the court.   The Bush administration refused to sign up to the Rome Treaty which created the court.
    Yes, the “Right to protect” is interesting and is a developing angle in international law.  It is also a good example of my point that international law is not a fixed subject but develops as States do things.   It may actually be because people like Blair did what they did that this doctrine is now developing. Of course, I am not trying to be an apologist for Blair but it is an interesting thought.

  11. ObiterJ says:

    You may find this short article of interest:

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. I’m afraid I have had the temerity, as a legal layman, to take issue with the eminent Mr Hockman’s blog post on a central issue. I have appended the following comment to his article:

    As a layman fallen among lawyers, but a layman with some experience of the United Nations and its Charter, I don’t think numbered paragraph 1 of this blog post accurately describes what happened. Britain’s failure to secure a ‘second resolution’ authorising the use of force at that time against Iraq resulted from the fact that a clear majority of the members of the Council, including three of the five Permanent Members of the Council (Russia, China, France), did not agree that the time had come to resort to an armed attack on Iraq, but believed that more time should be allowed for the weapons inspectors to complete their work before it could be said that peaceful means of resolving the problem had all been exhausted and that war was at this point a last resort, as required by Chapter VII of the Charter. In this situation, the UK and the US had clearly not got the minimum 9 votes to secure adoption of their draft resolution authorising the use of force. Had they allowed it to come to a vote, it would have been defeated by its failure to attract 9 positive votes. In that situation the question of a veto by any of the Permanent Members would not have arisen: a negative vote by a Permanent Member is a veto only if the resolution would have passed but for that Permanent Member’s vote. That could not have been the case at that time. There is no reason to single out France or French opposition to the proposal to authorise the use of force at that time: even if France had been willing to abstain on the authorising resolution, the resolution still could not have passed.

    As for the motives for the objections to the use of force by the majority of the Security Council being ‘political’, what else could they possibly have been? In cold fact, they were not just political: they were also practical,legal and moral. As Ed Miliband said in his speech to the Labour Party conference on Tuesday, the war was wrong — he might have said illegal — because it was not the last resort. (He also gave two other equally cogent reasons for it being wrong.)

    By ignoring their failure to obtain Security Council authority for the resort to force, and by going ahead without that authority, Britain and the US were in clear breach of the UN Charter and hence of international law. As the Deputy Legal Adviser to the Foreign & Commonwealth Secretary wrote at the time, to use armed force without UN authority amounted to “the crime of aggression”. The fundamentally dishonest attempt by some of our then ministers, at the time and ever since, even in evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry, to put the blame on France for their own criminal action was and remains beneath contempt. To be blunt, it should not be given continuing currency in a legal (or indeed any other) blog.

    It will be interesting to see whether anyone tries to dispute any of that.

  12. ObiterJ says:

    Dear Brian – I have no doubt that Mr Hockman does not have anything like your experience and knowledge of foreign affairs.  You need not be timorous – you are an expert in your field just as much as Hockman is in his field.
    As you will know from previous posts, I labour under no doubt at all that the action against Iraq was unlawful.  All of the attempts to justify it legally fall apart under analysis.  The fact is that it was not authorised specifically by the UNSC and the argument that somehow an earlier UNSCR had been “revived” is risible.  The earlier UNSCR was passed to deal with very different circumstances.
    The fact that Chilcot is looking at the international law aspects of this is interesting.   However, Chilcot’s Inquiry is not a court.  Thus, Chilcot can do little more than state the opinions of international law experts.   The Inquiry will not be in a position to choose between such opinions.   Of course, opinions would have to be about the state of international law at the time (2002-3).  The developing “Right to Protect” is not relevant to that.
    I entirely share your view about France.  At the time, there was no chance of US/UK getting UNSC approval.  The idea faced too much opposition irrespective of the position adopted by France.

  13. Phil says:

    Returning to Kosovo, the Blair version has been endorsed by an otherwise highly critical review of the book, by David Runciman in the LRB:

    “First in Afghanistan, then Iraq, he vastly overestimated his ability to control what would happen. There were far too many unknowns, and nothing he or his experts could do to magic them away. Moreover, these weren’t his wars, they were America’s, and they were going to happen with him or without him. In those circumstances, his ability to exert any sort of grip was negligible. It is true that he had set the terms for American military action once before, in Kosovo, when he took the lead in pressing for a ground invasion to drive Milosevic out. In the end, Bill Clinton reluctantly agreed to back up Blair’s words with the threat of American military muscle, and Milosevic backed down. But Kosovo is not Iraq (any more than Northern Ireland is the Middle East). And George W. Bush was not Clinton.”

    Another Letter to the Editor?

    Brian writes: Thanks, Phil. My copy of the latest London Review of Books has only just arrived and I haven’t yet read the Runciman review of Blair — a pleasure in store (I have though read the marvellous article about habeas corpus by the late and much lamented Tom Bingham). I have great respect for David Runciman, who’s always worth reading and listening to, so I’m disappointed that he is so far off beam on Kosovo, as the passage you quote demonstrates. But having challenged Runciman in the columns of the LRB a few weeks ago on a constitutional point, I’m reluctant to do it again over Kosovo — it might begin to look like some sort of vendetta. Perhaps someone else will.

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