Powell joins debate on use of force General explains reluctance to send troops to Bosnia

September 28, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Reflecting a debate about the use of U.S. forces in regional conflicts, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is questioning even the most limited forms of military intervention to protect the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina or to try to stop the fighting.

In a lengthy and sometimes emotional interview, the chairman, Gen. Colin L. Powell, offered a strong defense of his philosophy that military force is best used to achieve a decisive victory and for the first time publicly explained his reluctance to intervene in Bosnia.

The remarks are the most recent and vivid example of a behind-the-scenes debate in the Bush administration over the use of force. The debate is being joined by lawmakers and former Bush administration officials who contend that the Pentagon has an "all or nothing" doctrine for using force that is increasingly irrelevant to a world in which violent nationalism and ethnic conflict have supplanted superpower hostilities.

The general questioned the need to establish an air-exclusion zone over Bosnia like those the United States has imposed over parts of Iraq, where the Pentagon sees less risk.

The United States and its allies are discussing setting up such a zone.

Meanwhile, peace envoys Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen were to arrive in Belgrade today to seek an end to atrocities against civilians in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Reuters reported.

[The co-chairmen of the Geneva-based international conference on Yugoslavia believe Serbia-led Yugoslavia has the power to order Bosnian Serbs to halt the fighting of recent days.]

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