Lesson from Mladic: food for thought

Christopher Hitchens in The Australian this weekend, speaking about the recent arrest of Serbian commander Ratko Mladic for genocide:

No sympathy for a man like Mladic | The Australian.

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. 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 NATO powers did not see this right away and continued to treat Milosevic as a “partner in peace”, 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 US even as the butchery was going on) to film and video taken by the perpetrators, including of Mladic. 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 be, we should be able to recognise one when we see one.

This is an extremely pertinent point today. It shows how Western naiveté and a desire To find people who want to work for peace can cause us to overlook glaringly obvious flaws in people and appease people like Mladic, in the hope that they will “see the light”, or so to speak. It also shows the consequences of this – Srebrenica happened because a genocidal maniac talking about peace was able to exploit Western sentiment to be given free reign to extinguish all of the ethnic minorities in Serbia.

The lesson here is that we cannot let a desire for peace cloud our judgment. Peace partners must be judged on the basis of their actions, not our hopes. And so (bet you saw this one coming) no unity government that includes Hamas will ever be able to truly make peace. Not when just one year ago, their leaders were saying things like this:

They want to present themselves to the world as if they have rights, but, in fact, they are foreign bacteria – a microbe unparalleled in the world. It’s not me who says this. The Koran itself says that they have no parallel: “You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews.”

May He annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience. I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings. They are not human beings. They are not people. They have no religion, no conscience, and no moral values.

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