Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia

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9780140289831: Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia

For most of 1992-1995, Britain stood aside while an internationally recognised state was attacked by externally-sponsored rebels bent on a campaign of territorial aggression and ethnic cleansing. It was her unfinest hour since 1938. Based on interviews with many of the chief participants, parliamentary debates, and a wide range of sources, Brendan Simm's brilliant study traces the roots of British policy and the highly sophisticated way in which the government sought to minimise the crisis and defuse popular and American pressure for action. We all continue to live with the results of these shameful actions to this day.

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Unfinest Hour is a remarkable indictment of British policy in the former Yugoslavia when it was Bosnia that dominated the headlines. What happened in Bosnia towards the close of a world-war-splattered century seems small beer this side of the millennium divide and immediate risk of another global confrontation, but it wasn't and still isn't. The Serbian perpetrators of ethnic cleansing are still largely on the loose, and the lessons learned needed to be understood.

Brendon Simms, author of this revealing study, is Director of Studies in History at Peterhouse and lecturer in International Relations at the Centre for International Studies, Cambridge University. What he has to say is that, essentially, Britain's role in the Bosnian tragedy, was nothing short of being disastrous.

He has carried out dozens of interviews, trawled through the documents and come to the conclusion that Britain's political leaders were afflicted by a disabling form of conservative pessimism which not only rejected military intervention by Britain but prevented any other country intervening. Attitudes changed with the change of government by the time of Kosovo for, as the current, much wider crisis only too telling reminds us: isolationism is no longer an option. --Michael Hatfield.

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"This is the best sort of polemical book: hard-hitting, well researched and stimulating, with a preference for analysis over sensation."

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