Brendan Simms

Lives Go On

The War is Dead, Long Live the War: Bosnia – The Reckoning


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Most great British institutions had a ‘bad’ Bosnian war. John Major’s Conservative government resolutely refused to intervene to prevent ethnic cleansing, and stopped the Americans from doing so for as long as it could. The Foreign Office consistently argued for a ‘moral equivalence’ between aggressor and victim. The army, remarkable individual performances notwithstanding, showed a noticeable partiality towards the Bosnian Serb aggressors. The ‘experts’, both civilian and military, vastly overreckoned the fighting power of the Bosnian Serbs, and hugely underestimated both the effectiveness of air power and the advantages of exempting the Bosnian government from the international arms embargo (‘lift and strike’, as its American advocates called it). Parliament, both the upper and lower houses, generally echoed these arguments.

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