Flying Nearer the Flames of Bosnia

April 03, 1993

The decision of NATO to enforce the United Nations ban on flying over zones of Bosnia-Herzegovina is a major venture by the 16-member alliance outside its original purpose. This is a first effort at dealing with Europe's most dangerous problems other than the vanished Soviet threat.

The new policy is military. NATO warplanes will escort planes that violate the ban, order them to land and, if disregarded, shoot at them.

Since most of the violations are Serbian, the United States, British, French and Dutch planes that will initially take part -- commanded by an Italian general -- risk engagement with Serbian forces. This could put the 9,000 NATO troops on peace-keeping duty in Bosnia, mostly British and French, at risk. To get all NATO to agree to this much was no small feat.

The purpose is political. It is quite specific pressure on the Bosnian Serb political machine of Radovan Karadzic to sign on to the Vance-Owen plan, which the Muslims and Croatians of Bosnia have already signed. It comes during a partially effective cease-fire. It is a policy with a limited goal which Bosnia's Serbs are capable of meeting.

What this intervention by NATO forces does not do is offer any hope to the Bosnian Muslims who are being systematically shelled, shot, evacuated, tortured, raped and dispossessed by Bosnian Serb ground forces. It is a timid, token step toward helping those Muslims, toward intervention on their side against their persecutors, but not on a scale or a time-frame that can sustain them. It does nothing to persuade Serbian forces to allow United Nations convoys to bring food or rescue wounded in besieged towns.

The dying Bosnia has asked the World Court to rule for the lifting of the United Nations arms embargo so that it may defend itself against genocide. The Serbian republic maintains the fiction that it is not involved, while the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavian federal government calls the crimes three-sided -- despite overwhelming evidence of the preponderance of Serbian crimes.

Lord David Owen defends the Vance-Owen plan that calls for the dismemberment of Bosnia-Herzegovina along sectarian lines as the only game in town so long as the Western allies are so unwilling to join the conflict.

Norway's Foreign Minister and former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Thorvald Stoltenberg, has replaced the 76-year-old Cyrus Vance -- who had had enough -- as mediator. A former ambassador to Yugoslavia, Mr. Stoltenberg in effect commits the Norwegian nation to the task of finding a peaceful solution and brings vigor to the task.

Meanwhile, the Muslims of Bosnia are being systematically murdered, and the West is doing little to save them.

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