One of the great joys of mature years is realising that one never stops learning, that one can have been mistaken or ignorant or simply unaware of some nugget of wisdom and there is always a quiet satisfaction as some new level of understanding or appreciation dawns. Even when it confounds what one has always thought one thinks.
As Mladic finally goes on trial, I recall a long conversation over supper a couple of months ago with a couple of young Slovenians, just about as old as the last Balkans war. Part of a new generation no longer liable to military service, their education system has nonetheless left them with a detailed academic knowledge of the war, its causes and progress, and balanced enough to appreciate the role that Slovenia's early break from Tito's old alliance had in precipitating the later carnage. What they lacked, however, what they were distant from, was any visceral or emotional response. They were as far removed from a personal involvement as we who were born in the years after WWII were from the extermination camps and the casual reprisals executions in occupied lands. As we talked there was a wetness in my eyes as I recalled the shooting by a Serb sniper of a pair of young lovers trying to flee their doomed town, the grainy news images of their bodies on the 'Bridge of Sighs'. They didn't know it. As for the mass murder in Srebrenice, they shrugged. Dreadful. Such things could not happen any more. They gave me hope; they were without bitterness, and whatever nationalism they had was not apparent. It is those who either lived the hell itself or those such as me who watched the whole tragedy unfold nightly on the TV news who retained the greatest prejudice, the greatest satisfaction at Mladic facing justice. And this is healthy and good.
The second seedpearl of wisdom followed my instinctive outrage at the news that members of DUTCHBAT, the Netherlands UN force charged with peacekeeping in Srebrenice, were to receive belated medals for their service. The MSM story is that the sexually ambivalent, stoned, long-haired Dutchies shamefully failed to protect the town, hid in their base and allowed the Serb massacres. Such at least was the testimony given by one US general to the Senate. Before I put finger to keyboard, providence directed me to the dialogue on ARRSE, the unofficial army messageboard, on this. The consensus view from the professionals can be summed up by one comment "The fall of Srebrenica had diddly squat to do with Dutch soldiers be they gay, straight or undecided. It had everything to do with the ineptitude and negligence of the worlds politicians."
So no polemic today. And again I'm just a little wiser than I was yesterday.