Facing Aggression in Bosnia

August 06, 1992

A world horrified at Khmer Rouge murders in Cambodia must not tolerate deportation, murder and torture in Bosnia. Institutions that broker peace in the Middle East should not shirk responsibility for what was Yugoslavia. Nations that rolled Iraqi aggression back from Kuwait cannot acquiesce to the unilateral creation of Greater Serbia out of other people's hides and land.

There are three concerns for the international community in the wars of former Yugoslavia: humanitarian decency, resolution of disputes and the nullification of aggression.

Humanitarian concerns have already taken the lives of Ukrainian U.N. troops in Bosnia, brought Israel to change historic sympathies and driven well-meaning individuals to dangerous rescue adventures. The effort to broker peace has involved the European Community, the U.N. and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

But when a true cease-fire is achieved, the aggression will have succeeded unless it is rolled back. Even if Western forces suppress artillery to let emergency planes through to Sarajevo, that would not affect the territorial grab.

What good was the precedent of rolling back aggression in Kuwait if it is tolerated in Bosnia? If Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic and "Serbian Republic of Bosnia President" Radovan Karadzic can carve borders to their liking and evict or murder people to their disliking -- and get away with it -- any tyrant or nationalist-fantasist anywhere is encouraged to do the same.

On the humanitarian front, International Red Cross access to all sides' detention camps, as demanded by the U.N. Security Council, is urgent. Refusal from any side should be regarded as a confession of crimes against humanity. The U.S. may accomplish some good by seeking a U.N. Human Rights Commission emergency meeting, which would be the first. Limited military intervention is justified to protect the Sarajevo airport and get the food and medicine through.

A standard is being set by Israel's Knesset, which voted to send humanitarian aid to Muslim and Croatian victims of atrocity. Israelis are acutely aware that during World War II, Croatian Fascists committed genocidal crimes against Serbs and Jews alike. That memory has kept Israel silent until now, but no longer.

Efforts at mediation by Lord Carrington for the European Community should continue. Economic sanctions should deny legitimacy to annexations by force. Adjustment of borders by mutual consent is to be encouraged, but seizures, if tolerated, show that nothing was learned from World Wars I and II. In the words of President Bush about the invasion of Kuwait, this must not stand.

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