It Doesn't End with Gorazde

April 23, 1994|By DANIEL BERGER

It doesn't end with Gorazde.

You cannot appease with that place the Serbian nationalism being whipped up by the Belgrade dictatorship. Victory there only whets the appetite.

There is no catharsis for artillery gunners who destroy a hospital at 100 yards range in Gorazde. There are more hospitals.

The United Nations Security Council -- that is, the great powers -- declared six areas in Bosnia to be safe for Muslims, to be protected by all appropriate means. Their credibility rests on it.

The U.N., U.S. and NATO drew a line in the sand. The Bosnian Serbs under Gen. Ratko Mladic erased it at Gorazde. They have called the U.N. bluff on only one safe area. There are still Bihac, Tuzla, Srebrenica, Zepa and Sarajevo. Each is swollen with Muslim refugees driven from the countryside. Each is strategic for the Greater Serbia that has been mapped in Belgrade. Destroying the credibility of the great powers to protect Muslims an end in itself.

It would be idle to pretend that the Serbs now have almost everything they want. President Slobodan Milosevic needs war to retain and monopolize power in Serbia and over Serbs outside Serbia. He is addicted to it.

The notion that the army in the field is just the Bosnia Serb militia and out of control is idle as well. General Mladic was a high officer in the Yugoslav federal army before becoming a higher officer in the Croatia Serbian militia in the 1991 war, before commanding the Bosnia Serb militia in this one. He is not an indigenous militiaman.

Having crossed one line in the sand with impunity, General Mladic has no incentive to respect the rest.

But suppose Bosnia were cleared overnight, the Serbs given everything they seek, the ethnic cleansing done for them by NATO, Bosnia-Herzegovina dismembered. What would that resolve?

Observers have been waiting for the Bosnian dust to settle so that the Serbia-Croatia war of 1991-2 can be refought. Not that Serbia needs to refight it. Croatia does.

In 1991, the Serbs massacred Croatians, but embryonic Croatia had no army with which to defend its turf. Now it does, and is spoiling to regain the Krajina, that part of Croatia where Serbs were settled centuries ago. It is likely that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman agreed to a federal link with Bosnia in order to free Croatian forces to fight Serbs. General Tudjman is another former Communist who pioneered ethnic cleansing and used war to solidify his authority.

Then there is Kosovo, which is part of Serbia with an Albanian majority. Serbia has repressed the Albanians but not displaced them. Given the Serbian nationalism he has expropriated, there is no way that a triumphal President Milosevic can refrain from doing so. Kosovo is the site of the great battle of 1389, when the Turks destroyed Serbia. Cleansing that sacred soil is central to the Serb nationalist agenda.

Kosovo's Albanian majority is contiguous with sovereign Albania and with Albanians in Macedonia. Ethnic cleansing of Kosovo would bring streams of refugees and agitation in Albania and western Macedonia, a fragile republic. This might provoke war between Albania and Serbia, or even dismemberment of Macedonia by Albania, Bulgaria and Greece.

Where the U.S. maintains troops on the ground as a tripwire is Macedonia. They are positioned to bring the U.S. into conflict not with Serbia but with Muslim Albania.

Still another area of possible conflict is Montenegro, which has a Serb majority and which with Serbia constitutes federal Yugoslavia.

It is where Serbs held out against Turkish conquest after 1389. It was independent before Serbia, with which it merged in the formation of what became Yugoslavia.

Montenegrins feel regionally and historically distinct from Belgrade. They are suffering the sanctions that President Milosevic's adventures brought down on federal Yugoslavia. A growing number of Montenegrins want out of his orbit, but could not secede without a struggle.

There are other sources of conflict for a triumphal Serbia. Its province of Vojvodina, with a large number ethnic Hungarians adjoining Hungary, is one.

What the world is facing is not traditional Serbian nationalism. That was hijacked by a Communist dictator using its texts and symbols to reinvent himself and destroy his rivals.

Gorazde is just one stepping stone. Gorazde settles nothing.

F: Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Baltimore Sun.

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