Bloody Bosnia

May 29, 1992

Although Bosnia is the newest member of the United Nations, it has as great a right to live in peace as any of the original nations that gathered in San Francisco in 1945. Its dismemberment, its absorption by a more powerful neighbor, its "ethnic cleansing" would be an affront to humanity reminiscent of what happened to Czechoslovakia and Poland more than a half-century ago.

Just as Kuwait had claims on the protections of the U.N. Charter after it was occupied by Iraq, so Bosnia deserves wholehearted support from the world organization as it struggles to preserve its territorial integrity and independence. The Security Council should invoke sweeping sanctions against the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic. It should do so immediately. And if this is not sufficient, military action should be considered.

Mr. Milosevic, a communist now masquerading as a socialist, precipitated the appalling mess that was once Yugoslavia by inflaming Serbian nationalism. His federal forces invaded Croatia last winter and have encouraged the Serbian irregulars who are ravaging their former Muslim and Croatian neighbors in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a land once justly famous for its tolerance and harmony. Yesterday the Serbian Orthodox Church all but called for his ouster. Washington has declared the Milosevic regime bears "overwhelming responsibility" for bloodshed that has taken more than 2,000 lives.

The 12-nation European Community, embarrassed by its past impotence, has now imposed a trade embargo against Serbia and Montenegro but has left it to the Security Council to extend the boycott to oil -- the one commodity that could hobble military operations. France, Russia and China, all with veto power, are holding out for a two-tier approach in which the oil weapon would be a last resort. The U.S. condemns this half-hearted response to what Secretary of State James A. Baker III terms a "humanitarian nightmare."

The ultimate issue is under what circumstances should the U.N. resort to the use of force, as it did against Iraq. Mr. Baker and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney have ruled out unilateral or immediate involvement of U.S. troops, formulations that leave the way open for multilateral involvement later. NATO defense ministers, in a post-Cold War switch, say alliance forces might be used to implement peace-enforcement efforts of the 51-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

If it comes to the use of force, the first step for U.N. blue-helmets would be to secure control of the airport in Sarajevo so food and medical supplies could be sent in. It should also be made clear that no incursions by hostile aircraft in Bosnian air space will be permitted. Once Belgrade gets this message, once it withdraws its regular forces from Bosnia, once the Milosevic regime suffers a deserved military debacle, once the ethnic killing stops on all sides, peace may return to the lands that comprised Yugoslavia. U.N. principles against aggression would then emerge stronger than ever.

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