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Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia Paperback – 4 Jul 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (4 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140289836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140289831
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.2 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 489,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In November 1999, four years after the end of the Bosnian conflict, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, released a 155-page report on the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995 and its background. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Mohamed VINE VOICE on 2 May 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is full of important information for anyone interested in what happened in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. The style is very academic (unsurprising considering that Brendan Simms is a lecturer at Cambridge), comprehensively dissecting events, and so can be heavy reading at times - quite different from the easy readability of Mark Curtis and Robert Fisk.

Unfinest Hour, however, still deserves its 5 stars because of its comprehensive coverage of the topic - there's no other book that deals with the topic so well. Despite it being heavy reading, it can still be a page-turner due to the disturbing revelations within it.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 13 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Professor Simms has produced a compelling dissection of one of the most shameful episodes in European history, when the Western powers stood aside and knowingly allowed a multi-cultural, democratic, independent European state to be dismembered, during a prolonged period of ethnic cleansing and genocide. In doing so, he ruthlessly pins a great deal of the blame upon those British politicians who not only allowed this to happen but who by their actions, inactions and mis-placed words actually encouraged Serb aggression and racial hatred.

Hurd, Hogg, Rifkind, Major and Owen all find themselves targets in Professor Simms' justifiably angry polemic. Well written and clearly setting out the issues even for those readers who are not familiar with the disgraceful recent history in the Balkans, he reveals the shocking incompetence and serial misjudgements of those who were supposed to steer our foreign policy.

Despite incomprehension our leaders can hardly claim to have been ignorant of Serb intentions. Radovan Keradzic told Alija Izetbegovic, in public and in front of the TV cameras, that in the forthcoming conflict "You Muslims will be exterminated." For once in his life he wasn't lying.

As Professor Simms explains, we then invested millions of dollars in the provision of food and medicine but would do nothing to silence the guns that caused the need for such aid in the first place. As the book makes clear, the stark reality of the West's decision to confine itself to the provision of humanitarian aid is that we were prepared to feed people but stood aside and allowed them to be raped, shot and shelled. It was political cynicism at its worst.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jupiter on 7 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is definitely a topic worth reading about. I found the book to be informative and I'm glad I read it. My biggest problem is that I could have taken the same amount from a book half the length. At times the book felt like a bullet point list of evidence to prove a point. Half of those should have made footnotes in my view. It slowed down my reading and made the book less enjoyable. My second problem: despite the many iterations of the fact that Britain prevented any sort of intervention in Bosnia under many different pretences (which were clearly explained) I usually found myself asking why? I reread certain sections as to the why I kept looking for in this book without success. There is no really meaty explanation than budget cuts and ethnic biases. All these play a role, but based on my historical knowledge it is never this simple and usually there are bigger reasons. So at the end although I understood the role of Britain in this unfortunate war, I felt frustrated with the lack of believable political explanation.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Overseas Reviewer on 23 July 2004
Format: Paperback
I had no idea at the time of just how sinister a role was played by the UK establishment in condemning Bosnia to it's fate. I always believed that more should have been done to intervene but now I know why it was not and, most interestingly, how assistance to Bosnia was prevented. Unsurprisingly, cabinet members at the time, notably Hogg, Hurd and Rifkind, all receive much criticism as does "the perfect popinjay" David Owen, but I didn't realise Thatcher and David Trimball had taken such admirable positions on the issue, not to mention our lovable cousins across the Atlantic.

The book is well written, occasionally humorous, and the overwhelming majority (but not all) of the arguments it presents are coherent and well referenced. It certainly does have an agenda but this is in no way disguised. My only main complaint is the length of the chapters. At approximately fifty pages each, it is hard going to find a suitable place for a break, especially as some of the material is relatively mentally taxing. That said, the author presents what is a demanding subject in a style that maintains interest.

The material covered in this book is highly relevant to current events in Iraq, on which we all have an opinion. I found it very interesting to see that many of the voices who are today complaining about western imperialism, the immorality of military intervention etc were the same as those who lent their support to British foreign policy in the early 1990s, with appalling consequences.

Note: this is not a history of the break-up of Yugoslavia, which is covered with great skill in the excellent "Death of Yugoslavia" by Silber and Little.
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