Frustration in Bosnia

March 09, 1993

At least U.S. high level airdrops of food and medicine are finally reaching Bosnian Muslims being raped and starved and tortured and murdered to force them to flee their homes rather than falling into the hands of thugs in Serbian uniform.

President Clinton has learned hard lessons since the easy days of the campaign when all that was required was to take the moral high ground, which demanded tangible help to Bosnian Muslims. As president he has learned what President Bush knew, that Americans show no signs of wanting to launch a costly war in Bosnia and that European allies do not want American intervention to provoke reprisals against vulnerable European peace-keeping troops.

That is a terrible dilemma now as last August, when Mr. Clinton wouldn't hear of it. But the constraints he feels, that make Mr. Bush's policy his own, are no solace to Muslims being tortured for the crimes of being who they were at birth and living in the towns, villages and farms where their forebears lived.

Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, who broker an agreement that would give the Serbs much but not all of what they have captured by force, deny that their effort is appeasement. They ask who in the West wants to engage in the only meaningful alternative, armed intervention, and get no answer.

Frustrations with the brutality and lies of the likes of Radovan Karadzic, political boss of Bosnia's Serbs, run very deep. Even U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the arch mediator, threatens intervention. "I believe that if after whatever ought to be done, we find we are not able to obtain [Serbian] withdrawal, then there is only one solution, which is enforcement. And again, the members must be ready to send troops on the ground," he said.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali was rhetorically brandishing American and British and French, even German, troops, which are not on offer. But Mr. Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic, president of Serbia, have made a judgment that the world will not intervene, and they take that as license to achieve what their brand of nationalism seeks, all Serbs in one state with everyone else evicted by any means possible.

The prospects for current U.S.-U.N.-EC-NATO policy of mediation and diplomacy, backed up by economic sanctions, are not rosy. They would be improved by more aggressive diplomacy to bring Russia into greater sympathy with the Muslim victims of aggression and by stronger economic sanctions and enforcement. If these atrocities are not ended, more demagogues and rogues throughout the world will adopt a policy of rule by atrocity, because it will have been shown to work.

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