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Sir Alfred Sherman:



    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 juncture? 

    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 past. 

    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 and terror? 

    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.


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Last revised: June 20, 2003