Western lefties baulk at new mind set required

August 18, 1995

The answers to Perspective's questions (THES, August 4) reveal another difference between pre-war appeasement and today's Balkan crisis. In the late 1930s, European liberal and left-thinking circles were clear that German Nazism was dangerous and had to be opposed. The advocates of appeasement were from the political right.

A crucial difference with the Yugoslav crisis is that so many on the European left have been reluctant to recognise the need to oppose the Serbian Chetniks and their racist and authoritarian prescription for the Balkans.

With some honourable exceptions, those on the political left have accepted the Major/Hurd interpretation of "warring ethnic factions" which fails to recognise the Bosnian cause as one of national self-determination deserving unambiguous support. Thus a British policy consisting of little more than management of the situation created by Chetnik racism has had relatively little domestic opposition.

Ironically, political circles in the United States have been more vocal in campaigning for a more principled Western policy. This consists of arming the Bosnian government forces, ceasing the military mission of the UN, and giving Nato forces a more direct role in supporting the Bosnian cause. At the same time, the Croatians should be encouraged to maintain their alliance with Bosnia, and pressure should be exerted to prevent Croat chauvinism having an undue influence.

The problem for those of us on the left is that these policies require a mind-set quite different from that to which we have been accustomed.

Bob Lentell Business school, University of North London

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