Still Time for a New World Order: Prodded by Congress, Clinton Lurches toward Leadership in Bosnia

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Still Time for a New World Order: Prodded by Congress, Clinton Lurches Toward Leadership in Bosnia

By Richard H. Curtiss

A side-effect of the war in Bosnia is confusion among die-hard America-haters in the Middle East. Millions of Muslims have grown up with the belief that the United States (and Western Europe) only arm Third World governments to hold down their own people while the West buys their raw materials cheaply, sells them its own manufactured goods at exorbitant prices, and debases their cultures and debauches their morals in the process.

U.S. arming of Israel, which exploits its captive Palestinian population and forces adjacent Arab and Islamic countries to buy U.S. arms to defend themselves, fits the picture nicely. However, the sincere although so-far ineffectual attempt by President Bill Clinton to mobilize NATO nations to intervene to save the Muslim-led Bosnian government does not.

Instead it reveals a knee-jerk American sympathy for history's losers, the underdogs, no matter their race, religion or economic system. That, in turn, explains much of U.S. 20th century history. President Franklin Roosevelt's persistent warnings and sanctions against Japan to halt its aggression in China prompted the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that finally brought the U.S. into World War II. American public sympathy for outgunned North Vietnamese, in danger of being "bombed back into the Stone Age" by U.S. aircraft for no good reason and at the cost of many American lives, certainly played a major role in U.S. withdrawal from the civil war in that Asian country. Similar sentiments underlay the congressional ban on Reagan administration efforts to undermine the leftist Nicaraguan government, congressional opposition to U.S. support for extremist right-wing governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, and even recent U.S. disasterrelief efforts in Somalia and Rwanda.

Similarly, American public sympathy for Israel developed only after skillful orchestration in the media. That propaganda campaign had nothing to do with holding down Muslims, but was based upon creating a public perception that America was protecting beleaguered Jewish refugees from Hitler's death camps from being "swept into the sea" by "superior Arab armies," or from being murdered in their homes by "Arab terrorists."

In Bosnia the beleaguered underdogs have been the Muslims, the country's largest sectarian group, whose cities, towns and lands have been seized by Christian Orthodox Serbs using trained soldiers and sophisticated weaponry inherited from the once-formidable former Yugoslav army.

The results can be seen in Congress. Both houses now have called for a U.S. motion in the U.N. Security Council to lift the arms embargo that is preventing the Muslim-led Bosnian government from obtaining arms to defend itself. If that motion is vetoed, both houses have called upon the United States to lift the embargo unilaterally.

Now the die is cast for serious U.S. action.

The House has been on record with a 244-to-178 vote for this approach since June. Now, under a Senate bill sponsored by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-GA) and adopted 56 to 44 on Aug. 11, a Security Council rejection of the U.S. motion would trigger a Nov. 15 cutoff of U.S. funds for enforcement of the embargo. Also on Aug. 11, the Senate passed by an even higher 58-to-42 vote an even stronger measure sponsored by Sens. Robert Dole (R-KS) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). It commits the U.S. to lift the arms embargo on its own by Nov. 15, with no intermediate steps stipulated.

Recognizing the strong pro-Bosnian sense of Congress, Clinton had tried to head off such votes by informing Congress that if the Serbs do not respond positively by Oct. 15 to the peace plan advanced by the "contact group" of France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., giving 51 percent of Bosnia to its Muslim (44 percent) and Croat (17 percent) majority and 49 percent to its Serb (31 percent) minority, he will introduce by Nov. …