The considerable costs of reconstruction should be borne by a specially created bank. Since the first havens would be predominantly Muslim, the bank should be financed in large part by wealthy Muslim countries that have expressed willingness to help but have not yet been given a format.
At the same time, hostile forces surrounding the havens must be completely isolated from outside support. Observers with modern monitoring equipment should be posted along Bosnia's
borders. No supplies of any kind, with the exception of basic foods and medicine delivered by international agencies, should be permitted to reach fighters who refuse to lay down their weapons, or civilian communities that back them.
The holdouts would soon find it impossible to grow, produce, buy or sell almost anything at all.
The contrast between relative prosperity within regions that accept the Vance-Owen plan and steep decline in conditions outside them would soon become stark. U.N. troops would seek gradually to expand the size of the havens by promising those outside an end to privation if they cooperate.
President Milosevic should be tested to see if he is really serious about ending support for the Bosnian Serbs. Remembering his record of mendacity, we should proceed warily.
But if international monitors verify that he has cut Belgrade's lifeline to the Bosnian Serbs, foreign governments should agree to discuss easing the sanctions that have crippled his country.
President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia should be put to a comparable test. Croatia has regular army troops fighting in Bosnia, holding down front-line positions against Serb fighters but also terrorizing civilians in Mostar and central Bosnia.
Mr. Tudjman should be told that if he does not withdraw them and stop supplying Croatian militias, who are engaged in their own "ethnic cleansing," his country will be punished with sanctions as harsh as those that have been applied against Serbia.
Another incentive should be the presentation of all war crimes cases to the U.N. tribunal to be established for this purpose. Hatred among the three warring sides has reached such a level that there is little confidence in the ability of any of them to prosecute these cases fairly.
Turning them over to a body that could guarantee due process would build confidence in the Vance-Owen process and ease fears that the trials would degenerate into orgies of political revenge. The tribunal could also hold out the possibility of amnesty if it could be negotiated by the parties.
This strategy would require re-thinking some assumptions. It would require President Clinton to modify two conditions he has set in the past: He would have to accept the involvement of
American ground troops before the signing of a comprehensive peace treaty, since European countries alone would be unwilling to launch such an ambitious new effort.
And he would have to permit the deployment of these troops without a firm timetable for their withdrawal.
Another troublesome question is that of getting aid to the safe havens, which at least at the outset would be encircled by hostile fighters. Some aid could be dropped by air, but much would certainly have to be trucked across unfriendly territory.
If Serb fighters continue to block these convoys, U.N. ground troops might have to use force to bring them through, increasing the likelihood of casualties.
There are two important reasons to commit military and economic resources to a multilateral effort to bring peace to Bosnia. The first is one to which Americans have already responded, which is the crying need to relieve unimaginable human suffering. The second is that American national security interests are at stake.
NATO and the United Nations, the institutions best equipped to keep international peace, have been badly battered by this crisis. If they cannot act now, the world will be even more poorly equipped when the next similar crisis erupts in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet republics.