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News > Pangbournian Stories > Book Reviews > Paid to Predict, by Ewen Southby-Tailyour (55-59)

Paid to Predict, by Ewen Southby-Tailyour (55-59)

Paid To Predict is an uncensored narrative, based on diaries written at the time, of Ewen's involvement in a “bankrupt organisation” which had outlived its usefulness by the time he resigned in 1994.
22 Oct 2020
Written by Robin Knight
Book Reviews

PAID TO PREDICT

by Ewen Southby-Tailyour (55-59) 

(Fonthill Media, 2020; ISBN 978-1-78155-768-6)

Three years ago, Ewen Southby-Tailyour (55-59) produced a novel titled Death’s Sting based on his six months as a European Community monitor in the former republic of Yugoslavia 1993-94. At the time he described that book as “90 per cent true.” After consultations with libel lawyers and an explicit disclaimer at the start of this book, he has now written a factual account of this period – a 100 percent accurate exposé, he says, of “duplicity, deceit and dishonesty among ‘Allies’.”

Paid To Predict is an uncensored, blow-by-blow un-redacted narrative, based on diaries written at the time, of Ewen’s involvement in a “bankrupt organisation” which had outlived its usefulness by the time he resigned in disgust in April, 1994. Today, a generation later, it is also a timely reminder of the squalid, ethnically-inspired hatreds going back hundreds of years simmering near the surface to this day in the Balkans, awaiting a spark to ignite once more at the slightest excuse.

Ewen’s particular observation post was first in a Serbian enclave in Croatia known as Krajina, and later in the Croatian port of Split. In August 1995 almost all Serbs in Krajina – up to 200,000 of them – were driven out of a part of the world they had lived in for 500 years by a Croatian army offensive covertly supported by Germany and the USA. As an example of brutal ethnic cleansing, it is unrivalled in the annals of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. 

Southby-Tailyour, then a just-retired Royal Marine Lt. Colonel with 32 years’ service, saw this coming in 1993-94, tried to do his job reporting arms embargo violations, found himself squeezed by competing western interests, never came to terms with the petty bureaucratic infighting involved in the international monitoring “business,” mistrusted journalists who might have helped him and, essentially, proved insufficiently cynical to carry out his role effectively. All this he charts in painful day-by-day detail. 

In parallel with this EC role, Ewen was also providing information to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the intelligence services. Much of what he saw first-hand was already known to the outside world but in one instance, at least, he scored a bulls-eye when, on a visit to a military-style training camp run by the Serbs in Krajina, he unearthed evidence that Italian troops were present. Fairly soon, he had reached the same conclusion as most outsiders who strayed into the Balkans maelstrom – all sides were equally to blame for the violence and mayhem visited on this neglected, patronised part of the world.

Mostly, Southby-Tailyour’s daily routine proved to be one of infinite frustration. Neither the Serbs nor the Croats nor their various patrons wished to help the monitors and generally regarded them as spies – which many were. Nor did some of the UN forces deployed across the former Yugoslavia help. Nor did the interpreters he relied on. Nor did many of his colleagues and superiors. Much of the book revolves around Ewen’s endless run-ins with obstructive French and Greek superiors in the ECMM chain of command. In the end he resigned after his Greek boss asked him to falsify his daily reports in order to hoodwink the French.

The result is rather a lot of repetitive accounts of daily life. Too much space is devoted to regurgitating old reports and discussing living conditions in Hotel Split. The book also sadly lacks decent maps, so those unfamiliar with this part of the world will constantly be reading in the dark. An Index would have been useful. Two other OPs, contemporaries of Ewen’s, crop up in the book – Hugo White (53-57) in the RFA ship Resource policing the arms embargo off the Croatian coast; and Mike Shuttleworth (55-58), an EC monitor based in Belgrade. 

In the end, one is left asking whether Ewen’s venture into international diplomacy and skulduggery was worth it. He certainly doubts it in this fluent account – his 16th or 17th book depending on how you count. By his own account, he achieved little of substance. As he puts it: “I was, frankly, out of my depth: not with the genuine monitoring work…which I thoroughly enjoyed but when dealing with a cabal of Machiavellian strangers the like of which I had never come across before.” 

This is a book worth reading simply to reaffirm the huge gap between grandiose decisions taken for reasons of expediency by politicians thousands of miles from the action and reality on the ground. For international peace-keeping to work, it needs consistency of purpose and unity of action. It was Ewen Southby-Tailyour’s misfortune to get caught up in a situation where neither condition prevailed. 

by Robin Knight (56-61)

 

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