Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illusions Led to Bosnia Disaster

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illusions Led to Bosnia Disaster

Article excerpt

Two days after the fall of Srebrenica, Gen. Philippe Morillon, a member of the French general staff, said: "We have to declare war on Gen. Mladic or get out." Ratko Mladic is the commander of Bosnian Serb forces, the architect of the assault on Srebrenica and the ethnic cleansing that followed.

Morillon's words pithily summed up one lesson of Bosnia for the Western alliance: To intervene in a conflict and pretend there is no difference between the aggressors and the victims is not only dishonorable but ineffectual.

For three years now Britain, France and the United States - acting through the United Nations - have been doing just that: pretending. The U.N. Protection Force proclaimed its neutrality between the Serbs and their Bosnian victims even while it said it was protecting "safe areas" from Serbian attack.

To carry on the pretense, UNPROFOR officers and U.N. officials closed their eyes to horrifying brutalities carried out by Mladic's forces. The justification was that Mladic and the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, would then be nice and let relief convoys through. They often promised to do so, but they seldom kept the promises.

The Western officers and envoys who dealt with the Bosnian Serb leaders believed, or at any rate acted on the premise, that they were ultimately rational men open to bargaining. In fact, they are fanatics, committed to killing and raping and torturing other human beings because they are of a different religion.

Only one thing moves Karadzic and Mladic: the credible threat of force. When they thought UNPROFOR might call in meaningful air strikes, they stopped sniping at children in Sarajevo. Now, with UNPROFOR's credibility gone, they have tightened the noose on the capital.

You can't do business with Hitler. So the world learned when Neville Chamberlain boasted that cringing to Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938 had brought "peace in our time." To Hitler, diplomacy was just an interlude on the way to military victory.

Similarly in Bosnia, the United States and the West Europeans came up with a proposal to settle the conflict by giving the Serbs 49 percent of the country. …

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