Monday, 30 May 2011

Hitchens: Mladic the Monster

Our failure to respond to the Serbian atrocities prolonged the slaughter....

... Or so Christopher Hitchens asserts in today's Slate magazine article (excerpt follows):
I suppose it is possible that the arrest of Gen. Ratko Mladic is as undramatic and uncomplicated as it seems and that in recent years he had been off the active list and gradually became a mumbling old derelict with a rather nasty line in veterans' reminiscences. His demands would probably have been modest and few: the odd glass of slivovitz in company with a sympathetic priest (it's usually the Serbian Orthodox Church that operates the support and counseling network for burned-out or wanted war criminals) and an occasional hunting or skiing trip. Though there is something faintly satisfying about this clichéd outcome—the figure of energetic evil reduced to a husk of exhausted banality—there is also something repellent about it.


At times like this, we are always reliably reminded of what John Quincy Adams said about the risk to the United States of going "abroad in search of monsters to destroy." The monstrous character of Mladic and his movement needed no exaggeration. To this day, a lot of people do not understand how much misery and chaos and suffering it purposely inflicted. But the monstrous nature of his power and reach was paradoxically and enormously exaggerated—not by those who wanted to confront it, but by those who did not! This meant that the whole nightmare was needlessly prolonged and the expense of concluding it greatly increased. On whatever basis the post-Tito Yugoslavia was to be reconstituted, there was one that was utterly impossible as well as unthinkable: a "Greater Serbia," whereby smaller republics and their populations were forcibly cut to fit the requirements of a dictatorial tailoring. It will one day seem incredible that the NATO powers did not see this right away and continued to treat Slobodan Milosevic as a "partner in peace," thus opening the road that led straight to Srebrenica and the murder of people ostensibly under our protection.

Srebrenica is one of the best-documented atrocities in modern history. We have everything, from real-time satellite surveillance (shamefully available to the United States even as the butchery was going on) to film and video taken by the perpetrators, including Mladic himself. The production of this material in court will, one hopes, wipe any potential grin from his face and destroy the propaganda image of the simple patriotic man at arms. Whatever our policy on monsters abroad may turn out to be, at least we should be able to recognize one when we see one.
Food for thought vis à vis the notion of humanitarian intervention....

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