Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The West Stands by as Serbs Rampage

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The West Stands by as Serbs Rampage

Article excerpt

What are the Europeans and the United States actually going to do about the latest criminal outrages by the Bosnian Serbs, the intensified shelling of civilians and the holding of hostages? The likely answer, stripped of wishful thinking, is: nothing.

Western defense ministers sounded tough when they decided to set up a rapid reaction force for Bosnia. But will it do anything more than come to the aid of U.N. peacekeepers menaced by the Serbs? Will it take effective action to stop the aggressors from killing and starving Bosnians who want to live in a multi-ethnic state?

The sordid history of Western leadership in the Bosnian conflict should lead any realist to expect little now. British and French politicians are genuinely angry at the taking of their soldiers as hostages. But that may be because the hostage pictures on television anger their voters, and their toughness may well be limited to that issue.

We can tell very simply whether there is a meaningful new Western policy. The test is whether the United Nations and any other international force in Bosnia forthrightly oppose the aggressors, the Bosnian Serbs.

The U.N. Protection Force (UNPROFOR) has so far operated on the extraordinary premise that it must not distinguish between genocidal aggressors and their victims. Thus it was supposed to stop Serbian attacks on civilians - but without annoying the Serbs. That mission was hopeless, the results a bitter mockery.

Radovan Karadzic and the other Bosnian Serb leaders respond only to force. They will stop shelling Sarajevo when someone - UNPROFOR, NATO or a Bosnian government that has acquired heavy weapons - tells them: "One more shell on Sarajevo and we will level your headquarters at Pale. Immediately."

What chance is there that Western politicians will take a stand against the aggressors? The British government has been so feckless in the Bosnian conflict that one has to be skeptical about its present bristling. President Bill Clinton has just broken his own record for raising and then dashing Bosnian hopes; his concern evidently focuses on doing nothing that might worry American voters. …

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