What Should the U.S. Be Doing about Bosnia? Three Congressional Views

By Biden, Joseph R., Jr.; Feingold, Russ et al. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 3, 1993 | Go to article overview

What Should the U.S. Be Doing about Bosnia? Three Congressional Views


Biden, Joseph R., Jr., Feingold, Russ, McCloskey, Frank, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


What Should the U.S. Be Doing About Bosnia? Three Congressional Views

End the Paralysis and Provide Firm U.S. Leadership

In decades ahead, historians will speculate about the sequence of events in Yugoslavia that produced declarations of independence by the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the summer and fall of 1991 and their subsequent recognition by the United Nations as sovereign states.

To many observers at the time, these republics had exercised the unassailable right of self-determination, a right made all the more valuable by the fact that Serbia, Yugoslavia's most powerful republic, had fallen into the hands of a ruthless Serb nationalist named Slobodan Milosevic. To others, Yugoslavia's fragmentation was a certain recipe for devastating war.

Whether wiser leadership within--and outside--Yugoslavia might have averted war will remain a question for historical debate. The issue for Western policymakers today is how to respond to the war that came.

For months, in witness to the unfolding tragedy in the former Yugoslavia, Western nations have been paralyzed by:

* confusion over their respective interests and responsibilities;

* a misperception of the conflict as an ethnic "civil war";

* hopes for a risk-free solution through diplomatic mediation; and

* what may be termed the "paradox of limited intervention": the fear that further intervention would endanger U.N. "peacekeepers" already on the ground.

Intensifying the paralysis, by depriving the world of American leadership, has been a misguided Pentagon premise that the only military option entails a massive deployment of ground forces to impose a permanent peace.

On April 15, Britain's former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sought to summon the conscience of the West to accept the imperative of military intervention. Mrs. Thatcher's call to arms reflects not emotionalism, as some labeled it, but clear judgment. In recognizing Bosnia-Herzegovina as a sovereign and independent state, the European Community, the United States, and the United Nations implied--and incurred--solemn obligations. Yet, as Serb aggression devoured Bosnia and its innocent citizens, the West has stood idle, its inaction a mockery of the concept of a new world order.

While Serb artillery batteries consummate their systematic slaughter of Bosnians--men, women and children--Western leaders have wrung their hands over the tragic complexities of a so-called civil war. The Bosnian conflict no doubt exhibits aspects of civil war. But it more precisely constitutes a calculated act of aggression incited and logistically supported by Slobodan Milosevic.

The Milosevic regime has sought rhetorical refuge in the fiction that it has sympathy for, but little control over, the conduct of the Bosnian Serbs. But this fiction--appealing to those who wish to see the conflict as something other than a brutal act of aggression--is dissolved by the fact that the Serbian army itself (the JNA) is now involved in the fighting.

During my trip to Bosnia, U.N. and U.S. military officials revealed their knowledge that JNA artillery units operating from Serbia have fired massive barrages across the border into eastern Bosnia, and that JNA units have crossed into Bosnian territory to accelerate the wanton destruction. …

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