Bosnia's Turn

April 21, 1992

The invasion of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Yugoslav federal army and Serbian irregulars is an international aggression and a human rights abuse. Coming after U.S. and European recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina's sovereign independence and after the torturous world efforts to end the similar fighting in Croatia, this invasion affronts the United Nations, Europe and all who wish Yugoslavian peoples well.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is Yugoslavia writ small. Its 4.4 million people include no ethnic majority, only rival minorities. Bosnia-Herzegovina worked, while Yugoslavia did, and may even have worked best. Not in an economic sense, which now-sovereign Slovenia clearly did, but best in persuading Muslims and Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croatians to live together in harmony.

Its declaration of independence was a last-contingency effort to avoid being absorbed in a Greater Serbia or truncated Yugoslavia after Slovenian, Croatian and Macedonian independence became facts. There is no Bosnian-Herzegovinan nationalism, only a Muslim dominant group that fears minority status in a Greater Serbia, a Serbian second-ranking group that wants to be part of a majority and not a minority, and a Croatian group that shares the fears of both larger groups.

This ethnic tinderbox is victim of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevich's worst offense of Serbian hegemonism. Most of the Serbian people in Serbia are fed up with atrocity in their name and counter atrocity against their kin in Croatia.

Mr. Milosevich's revanchism reflects the extremism of many Serbs in minority status in other republics rather than the people of his own republic. The attempt to carve out a "Serbian republic" within the Bosnia-Herzegovina borders is the wrong way to protect the Serbian minority inside Bosnia.

The 51-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) rightly excommunicated Serbia. Further sanctions should be prepared if needed against Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia, including a break in diplomatic relations. What good to its people is a Greater Serbia oondemned and ostracized? Serbia deserves its place in the sun, but not by trampling all the rest of what used to be its own country in the dust.

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