To Die in Sarajevo: US Interests in Yugoslavia

By Blitz, Mark; Gaffney, Frank Jr., J. et al. | Policy Review, Fall 1992 | Go to article overview

To Die in Sarajevo: US Interests in Yugoslavia


Blitz, Mark, Gaffney, Frank Jr., J., Kirkpatrick, Jeane J., Lind, Michael, Moritz, Amy, Moser, Charles A., Pipes, Daniel, Pipes, Richard, Seay, Douglas, Weigel, George, Zakheim, Dov S., Policy Review


What interests does the United States have in the conflict in what was once Yugoslavia? And how should the United States intervene in this conflict, if at all, to protect these interests? Policy Review asked these questions of several leading conservative foreign-policy specialists at the beginning of September.

MARK BLITZ, vice president for programs at the Hudson Institute:

Four guidelines should be kept in mind whenever the United States considers intervening in a foreign conflict. First, we need to adopt the standpoint of responsible public officials. Advice that is stimulated by partisan advantage, egalitarian or isolationist political passion, or ethnic self-interest is untrustworthy.

Second, our "national interest" is to protect and enhance our way of life, a way that requires the prospect of economic plenty, but is shaped by love of liberty and equal rights--by principles as well as things. Our policies serve a country that combines moral and material into a common good.

Third, if something needs to be done, it should be done quickly, at a cost that is proportional to the benefit, and that will retain popular consent.

Fourth, we cannot direct other people's institutions for them and at the same time expect them to become tolerant democrats. The most we can do is to clear away special difficulties, and to help them on their way.

If the costs are acceptable, as I think they would be, we should intervene in Yugoslavia to stop the killing. Ethnic wars are possible in the future; why not now make clear that pursuing one will not succeed, and will be costly to the perpetrator? War in the Balkans threatens to drag in the Greeks and the Turks; war between Christians and Muslims could spread well beyond the Balkans. We could not stand by, were this to occur, and expect our moral pride or material ease to remain unblemished. Why wait for the problem to become more difficult if we can make clear today that we and our allies will intervene constructively?

Could the costs of intervention be acceptable? They could be if we limit our goals and are supported by our friends. Our goal is not to end ethnic hatred miraculously or to provide security forever, but to stop massive killing today, limit Serbian gains and Croatian opportunism, and eliminate as best we can significant military capabilities. If we work with others, achieving these goals should not be too costly.

FRANK J. GAFFNEY JR., director of the Center for Security Policy:

Europe remains an area of vital strategic interest to the United States. A major international conflict there would inevitably jeopardize American interests and involve our forces. The bloodletting in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia wrought by Serbian aggression has the potential to become just such a major international conflict.

A devastating precedent has been established in Croatia and Bosnia that has been grossly underestimated. Western inaction in the face of extreme atrocities and human-rights abuses--most vividly demonstrated by the revelation of death camps--has already communicated an unmistakable green light to would-be aggressors elsewhere.

As a practical matter, there is no alternative to American leadership and initiative. In its absence, there will be no effective assumption of responsibility or intervention by others. All of the collective-security arrangements that have interests in the area--including the United Nations and the European Community--have shown their impotence in this crisis.

I strongly support the use of U.S. military power and politico-diplomatic leadership to disrupt Slobodan Milosevic's efforts to carve out a greater Serbia at the expense of Bosnia and Croatia. Military force could be used to sever the direct military, intelligence, logistical, and other support Belgrade is providing to local Serbian forces in Bosnia and Croatia; enable the victims of Serbian assaults and atrocities to defend themselves and to liberate territory from which they have been "ethnically cleansed"; and encourage and facilitate humanitarian relief, emergency housing, and reconstruction assistance for those who have been displaced. …

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