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The presidential contest currently under way in the US has generated unprecedented interest in the UK and Europe. Were it left to us on this side of the pond, Barack Obama would win with a landslide. On account of his youth, his colour and his relatively liberal views, Obama is the darling of Europe's liberals, while not only they, but also European conservatives widely look forward to his presidency as a welcome departure from the hawkish, abrasive unilateralism of George W. Bush's administration. Yet while Obama as US president would be likely to go down well with the European and, indeed, the world public, this would above all be for the negative reason that - like Clinton before him - he probably would not do very much in the field of foreign affairs. By not rocking the boat or rapping knuckles, a President Obama would appease European liberals and conservatives alike. But by the same token, he may prove inadequate in meeting very real threats to peace and stability in Europe. Nowhere are these threats more real than in the south-eastern borderlands of our continent: the Balkans, Turkey and the Caucasus.

So popular a hate figure has the unilateralist US hawk become among our chattering classes, that it is widely forgotten just how much damage was done by Clinton's dovish, multilateralist, do-nothing approach to foreign policy - not only to global peace and security, but to democratic Europe's relations with the US. Coming to power as a critic of Bush Senior's inactivity over the bloodbath in Bosnia, Clinton, in the face of the determination of his European allies to avoid military action and to appease Serb aggression, quickly backed away from his electoral promise of tougher action. The result was the worst crisis in US relations with Britain and France since Suez, as Clinton vacillated between Congressional pressure for intervention in defence of Bosnia on the one hand, and Anglo-French resistance to intervention on the other. Where decisive US leadership was needed, the Democratic president was lacking. In summer 1995, Clinton did belatedly opt to intervene against the Bosnian Serbs, and then the Europeans quickly fell into line and the Bosnian war was brought to an end, but only on the basis of the unprincipled Dayton settlement that has bedevilled regional stability ever since.

Clinton enjoyed advantages in the global arena unprecedented for a US leader since Roosevelt, most notably the absence of a Russian threat. But rather than take advantage of the opportunity of the Soviet collapse to reshape Eurasia, he sat back and allowed the Russians to dismember Georgia, and tacitly supported their brutal assault on Chechnya in 1994. He did not predict that a Russia capable of employing such murderous violence against its own, Chechen civilians would likely prove a danger to the West in the long run, or that, fifteen years later, a beleaguered Georgia would represent the threatened frontline before this threat. So, as in other parts of the world, the Bush Administration in South East Europe has had to try to clear up the problems left unresolved by its predecessor. And it has done so with some success: NATO expansion has been accelerated and US relations with former Communist bloc countries boosted; Kosovo's independence has been recognised; Macedonia has been recognised by the US under its constitutional name; and cooperation with Georgia has been strengthened.

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January 2nd, 2009
2:01 AM
How quikly the Serbian apologists have gathered to attack Hoare instead of looking at the evidence he has presented with the stand Obama has taken towards Belgrade. A petty sight for such a great article.

October 22nd, 2008
11:10 AM
The only explanation about this article that I can think of is that the author is Albanien. I give even more support to Obama after reading this!

August 30th, 2008
4:08 PM
For the Decent Left (aka cruise missle left), Hoare is their number 1 'tour guide' to the Balkans - the chap with the big brolley showing you the way and telling you what's what. Whenever Francis Wheen, Oliver Kamm, David Aaronovitch and the rest talk Balkans they are talking Hoare. This is why he's such a prolific scribbler: something for his chums to regurgitate (largely undigested). For all his Cambridge credentials, Hoare's peccadilloes are evident in everything he writes. He's "currently working on a history of modern Serbia." I'm sure that it will be nothing less than terribly, terribly Decent.

Steven Best
July 30th, 2008
10:07 AM
I have never seem a more myopic and out of place analysis! The authosr must not have clue of what he speaks about or must be in the payroll or certain protectors! Simply unacceptable contribution

July 26th, 2008
3:07 PM
Isn't it a bit hypocritical for an author who constantly bashes people like Chomsky as "Srebrenica deniers" to belittle the Armenian genocide and justify the position by collectively accusing Balkan Christians of anti-Muslim genocide of equal magnitude (even if that were true, it doesn't make Turkey less guilty, and it makes MAH sound like David Irving)? Isn't it all the more grotesque to justify it as serving petty political interests ("appeasing", to use MAH's favorite word, Turkey)?

July 25th, 2008
3:07 PM
So, let me get this straight: the grand alliance Hoare envisages, this new European security network he wants to see in place, would involve the USA leading Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey. Is this how low America has sunk? The USA shouldn't be throwing in its lot or consorting with such an unpalatable, reprehensible, undemocratic, ultranationalist ragbag. Better for the USA, better for Europe, if Obama goes with France, Germany, Greece and Serbia.

July 25th, 2008
10:07 AM
I would hardly call Clinton's reign dovish. Remember the 1999 bombing of Belgrade to end the conflict in Kosovo? This is the only time the US has used military intervention in the region. I find it staggering that this 'expert' on South Eastern Europe could make such an oversight. What about the Clintons administrations efforts at peace in the Middle East? Have the Israelis and Palestians come close since? Indeed if MAH did his homework he would realise that George W Bush initially pursued an isolationist policy. This only changed after the events of September 11. I would suggest that Obama's foreign policy focus will be on relations with China and India. The US is no longer interested in the petty ethnic rivlavries of South Eastern Europe.

July 24th, 2008
6:07 PM
"Paris is also reverting to its traditionally pro-Serbian policy in the Balkans, undermining any possibility that Belgrade can be pressed to adopt a more responsible attitude vis-a-vis Kosovo." Hardly a believable statement when France recognised Kosovo the day after it declared independence. This article is very much based on MAH's biases for and against certain countries in Europe and has very little to do with what the article is supposed to be about.

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