Thursday, August 02, 2007

Shum mishtake shurely

When in 1992, as the Yugoslav war raged in Bosnia, John Major appointed David Owen as the British (I mean EU) co-chairman of the Conference for the Former Yugoslavia, I was not alone in thinking gloomily that if ever there was a man who could make a bad situation worse, this was it.

After all, as Brendan Simms, author of "Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia" pointed out, David Owen was known as the man who had balkanized a few British political parties in his day.

Sure enough, his various plans (Vance-Owen and Owen-Stoltenberg) achieved absolutely nothing, the war continued in its bloody course and Lord Owen lost what little authority he had. As a result of the catalogue of failure that was Owen's activity in former Yugoslavia he was awarded the CH (Companion of Honour) a fairly highly rated gong in the British system.

This came after a rather lacklustre record as Foreign Secretary and the extraordinary achievement of undermining one political party and destroying two.

Lord Owen is not a man to rest on his laurels. Oh no. After testifying that Slobodan Milosevic was the only Yugoslav leader to have consistently supported peace in that benighted country (ex-country by that stage) Lord Owen turned his attention to British politics again and decided that clearly nobody in the whole country understood the European Union or euroscepticism apart from him and it was his bounden duty to explain these matters to all.

This all included people who had been involved in eurosceptic activity inside and outside Parliament for some years and they did not take kindly to Lord Owen's stance. Lord Stoddart, who was of the opinion that he had lost his parliamentary seat in 1983 because the SDP candidate had split the vote, was not particularly impressed, suggesting rather mildly for him that Lord Owen had really a very good opinion of himself.

Good opinion or not, it was easy to deflate him as his knowledge of what was really going on in the EU in the late nineties and around 2000 - 2002 was no better than his understanding of the situation in Bosnia.

I was reminded of all this and much more when I received an e-mail from Politico's bookshop (on line only) which, among others, advertised a book by David Owen, entitled "The Hubris Syndrome". An autobiography, surely, I exclaimed and this view was supported by a number of other people.

It seems not. After a superlative career of complete political failure and self-satisfaction, David Owen has produced a book that proves how insufferably full of hubris Tony Blair and George W. Bush are.

I particularly liked the last sentence in the blurb:
Their messianic manner, excessive confidence in their own judgement, and unshakeable belief that they will be vindicated by a 'higher court', have doomed what the author believes could have been a successful democratic transformation of Iraq.
Errm, exactly who are we talking about?

[Photograph of Lord Owen and Mr Stoltenberg is published by permission from NATO Photos.]

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