The United Nations: Akashi Departure Signals New Start in Bosnian Debacle

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The United Nations: Akashi Departure Signals New Start In Bosnian Debacle

By Ian Williams

"I'm going to meet some real monsters in Dayton," said Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey as he set off for the Dayton, OH peace talks, on, appropriately enough, Halloween. Despite the enthusiasm of Richard Holbrooke and the White House, members of the Bosnian team seemed to have their feet firmly on the ground. There is little doubt that they see the "peace" agreement as a truce, not as a perpetual settlement.

And who can blame them when, even as they negotiated, more evidence of the Serbs' version of a final solution emerged from Srebrenica, and chilling tales of a continuing repetition of massacres came from Banja Luka.

Of course, it does not help that the White House treats Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic as the great peacemaker. Any red carpet that they roll out for him will be most appropriately colored, reminiscent of the rivers of blood shed in a war for which he is responsible. He started the war, and it was he who appointed Bosnian Serb "President" Radovan Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, both now charged with war crimes by the Hague Tribunal. He has directed their operations ever since, and even now offers them the only country in the world prepared to give them sanctuary. To accept him as the mediator now is a bit like accepting peace overtures from Hitler in 1944.

One small item of good news was that Yasushi Akashi, UNPROFOR's exponent of Zen in the face of genocide, has been relieved of his duties and brought back to New York. This confirmed suspicions that the Bosnian peace agreement has a life expectancy of about one winter. Officially he asked to be let go, but in fact the barrage of complaints about him was just too intense to ignore.

When leading the U.N. operation in Cambodia, Akashi identified the most vicious and bloodthirsty party, the Khmer Rouge, and bowed to its members, allowing them to renege on every aspect of the settlement. They still are armed, still murderous, and run half the country despite the great "success" of the U.N. operation. When the time comes they will re-emerge and take over.

Arriving in Bosnia, Akashi appears, not surprisingly, to have identified the Serbs as soul mates of the Khmer Rouge and allowed them the same license to murder and break every agreement while his office made excuses for them. When the Bosnian settlement falls apart, the man who will be left to carry the can will be Akashi's replacement, Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian official in charge of peacekeeping. Or, more likely, it will be the NATO forces that will replace the U.N. operation.

Akashi appears to have identified the Serbs as soul mates of the Khmer Rouge.

It is of course convenient for the administration to blame the United Nations, which certainly is institutionally culpable for its behavior in Bosnia. But there also is some truth in the U.N.'s excuse that with a seat and a veto on the Security Council, the U.S. shares the blame with Britain and France for the Balkan tragedy. The rapid effect of robust NATO action this summer showed what could have been done three years ago if the Western powers had managed to scrape together enough vertebrae among them to make one reasonably firm spine.

Certainly Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamed of Malaysia pulled no punches when he came to the General Assembly in September to lambast the West and the U. …