Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Still Has Time to Act in Bosnia Current Course Will Only Lead to `Quagmire' No One Wants, Unless the White House Reverses Its Dangerous Stance

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Still Has Time to Act in Bosnia Current Course Will Only Lead to `Quagmire' No One Wants, Unless the White House Reverses Its Dangerous Stance

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton publicly turned a cold shoulder to Bosnian President Alija Itzetbegovic last week, ruling out military intervention against Serbian war criminals he and Secretary of State Warren Christopher had threatened just one week earlier. Another opportunity lost. Another waffle. Another dishonorable and dangerous choice.

Mr. Clinton is on a collision course with the Bosnian "quagmire" he has rightly sought to avoid. The foreign-policy specialists in the White House gave up on Bosnia in February, when Mr. Christopher made his first and only speech laying out the administration's policy on the crisis. Though it was not quite understood at the time, Christopher accepted that the genocide and ethnic cleansing, carried out by Bosnian Serbs under the skillful direction of Serb dictator Slobodan Milosevic, had worked.

We accepted a Serb victory. Then we threw the "full weight" of United States diplomacy, as Christopher put it, behind the shameful Vance-Owen negotiations and ruled out US military intervention. Since then, our policy has not changed. Only our rhetoric has changed - often on a daily basis, tailored to put a spin on the ugly events on the ground. The Vance-Owen plan was discarded, only to be replaced by the Milosevic/Tudjman partition plan. US support for that negotiating process, based entirely on the demands of war criminals, has remained steadfast.

Even our tough rhetorical support when the Bosnians requested an additional 4 percent of their own territory earlier this month leaves unaltered our basic support of the Milosevic-Owen ultimatum: Sign - or else! Clinton made this clear to Mr. Izetbegovic in Washington.

If the Bosnians succumb to our pressure and agree to one of the partition plans on the table in Geneva, Congress faces a tough decision: whether to order young American men and women to help implement such an agreement.

If we send troops, American soldiers will die protecting Serbian war criminals and their newly acquired territory.

The agreement will not end the bloodshed and genocide in Bosnia. It will prolong it. The Serbs will complete the genocide in their "republic" while the Croats will ethnically cleanse the land they claim in Bosnia. Muslims, Jews, and mixed families will be left to the tiny, helpless rump Bosnian state that remains. Fighting will continue. More refugees will result. And we will find matters to be too messy to implement the accord.

The next move is easy to see. Serbs and Croats return to a fight in Krajina, a crucial third of Croatian territory that Serbs occupy. The Serbs begin a genocide of Albanians in Kosovo, which, unlike Bosnia, is recognized as Serb territory. Neighboring Macedonia - where the US has 300 troops, despite the fact that we do not have diplomatic relations - will be drawn into the next Balkan bonfire. …

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