Hope for Bosnia

May 04, 1993

Saber-rattling in Washington brought the first restraint by Serbs in Bosnia. Radovan Karadzic signed a cease-fire in Athens. Guns around Sarajevo sputtered. U.N. convoys were let through to beleaguered Muslims. So far, so good. Nothing the United States can say communicates so clearly, to a certain class of statesman, as pizza delivered to the Pentagon at midnight.

But President Clinton is right to keep the focus on what Serbs do, not what they say. Dr. Karadzic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic have signed pieces of paper before. What really matters, in the words of Secretary of State Warren Christopher, is "whether the killing stops, whether the aid is permitted to get to those who need it, whether the heavy weapons are silenced, whether the parties carry out their agreements."

The Bosnian Serb "parliament" is reportedly negative prior to its meeting tomorrow. No doubt Dr. Karadzic can be persuasive with his followers, as Mr. Milosevic was with him and Russian President Boris Yeltsin was with Mr. Milosevic. It depends on which impresses the Bosnian Serb politicians more, the tough talk from Washington or the cool reception that Mr. Christopher is getting in European capitals.

A posture of resolve in Washington gets some results, but it is a bluff. Its aim is to scare the Serbs out of ethnic cleansing, and into giving up one-third of Bosnia they had already occupied. But bluffs can be called, as Saddam Hussein called President Bush's. President Clinton surely knows not to make a threat he won't fulfill.

It is still a dangerous game with uncertain support from the American people. Allowing genocide in Bosnia and soon after in Kosovo, however, would be more dangerous. All Europe has a stake in the success of the Clinton-Christopher policy.

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