What do Paddy Ashdown and Richard Holbrooke have in common? If you said "Serbophobia" that would be correct, though entirely too obvious. No, another thing they have in common is that Bosnia was the high point of their careers. Holbrooke had famously "negotiated" the peace agreement that ended the fighting in the 1992-1995 civil war (but not the war itself, which merely moved to the political sphere). Ashdown was the viceroy of Bosnia for three years, ruling the Balkans country like a personal fief.
After Bosnia, Holbrooke served for a while as the U.S. ambassador to the UN. He hoped to become Secretary of State in either the Gore or Kerry administration, but his hopes were foiled both times. He had gambled on Hillary Clinton, and lost. Though he still likes to pontificate in the U.S. press, Holbrooke is in effect a private citizen.
Ashdown was likewise spurned after his disastrous Bosnia reign. In what could be considered the ultimate humiliation for an aspiring colonial government, he was rejected out of hand by the Karzai regime as the proposed special envoy for Afghanistan. I'm not entirely sure what he's into these days, except that he's not involved with his former party, the Liberal Democrats. Since they got rid of Ashdown, they seem to be doing better than ever, by the way.
Now, Paddy has tried to raise a ruckus in the British media for several months now, claiming that the sky is falling in Bosnia and that the Empire needed to "do something" to stop the evil, genocidal Serbs hell-bent on destruction of that multi-ethnic paradise. After his first hysterical episode, back in July, Ian Banks demolished his argument and demonstrated that Ashdown was either clueless, or malicious. I'll say he's probably both.
Two days ago, Ashdown teamed up with Holbrooke, and once again they ranted, raved and railed against the evil Serbs threatening Bosnia, supposedly as proxies of the even eviler Russians, and "Europe" and the U.S. had to "do something" to stop it, or else. It's fact-free, Serbophobic, imperialistic rubbish, really, typical of those two.
Normally I would not give a flying rodent's posterior that two Serbophobic has-beens are polluting the press with their drivel. Most Balkans coverage is offal, really, and the latest Ashdown-Holbrooke oeuvre doesn't stand out in any way. However, their screed has resonated in the region and beyond; apparently, it was republished by the Muslim nationalist daily "Dnevni Avaz." At that point, it showed up on the radar of the local Reuters correspondent, so it made the wires. Somehow, in the process of quoting the opinions of two imperialist has-beens, they begin to sound like facts. Idiotic nonsense, such as the claim that Croats want a strong central government, or that Muslim leader Haris Silajdzic wants to "end ethnic division" (so that is how one spins "desires Muslim dominance" these days), was thus presented as self-evident truth.
The disturbing amount of attention and approval the Ashdown/Holbrooke philippic seems to have attracted suggests that the spirit of Empire is still alive and well in the West, even as the body of it is shrivels and dies from fatal financial disease. In truth, I would be a whole lot more alarmed if the Atlantic Empire and the EUSSR actually had the wherewithal to mess with Bosnia again, as they have done over the past twenty years or so. But it is no longer 1992, or 1995, or 2004. The Empire they helped create by lying through their teeth in and about Bosnia is finally collapsing under the weight other lies.
That isn't to say they can't try, if they come into positions of power once more. There's still a whole lot of potential for mischief in the Empire, and still entirely too many willing quislings in the Balkans who seem as oblivious to Empire's current condition as others were to the fate of the USSR in the early 1990s. Vigilance is definitely called for.
Still, I can't shake the impression that Dick and Paddy are just trying to bring back the good ol' days when they had their grubby little paws on the closest thing to absolute power any diplomat or politician had ever seen. I can certainly understand why they would want it back. But why should the rest of us give a damn?