Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is US Closer to Rewarding Serb `Ethnic Cleansing'? New White House `Engagement Policy' Isn't a True Change of Course

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is US Closer to Rewarding Serb `Ethnic Cleansing'? New White House `Engagement Policy' Isn't a True Change of Course

Article excerpt

ACCORDING to President Clinton's recent statements following the NATO ultimatum in Bosnia, administration officials are asking the Bosnian government to state its "bedrock" reasonable requirements for a partition settlement.

Instead, the Bosnian government should be asking our president what "bedrock" American values and principles of international law he is willing to sacrifice in order to get a quick and illusory agreement.

The United States-mediated agreement that Bosnian and Croatian officials signed in Washington on March 1 is the first diplomatic manifestation of the newfound American resolve to secure such a settlement. While this rapprochement between Bosnia and Croatia is a necessary first move to ensure the survival of a Bosnian state, it must be followed by serious measures to force the Serbs to relinquish territory that they have taken by brute force.

Unfortunately, the administration has done nothing to suggest it plans to abandon its oft-tested and always unsuccessful diplomatic pressures and tactics for dealing with the Serbs. Ironically, we were at a similar point in our failed diplomacy nearly a year ago, when the Bosnian government and Bosnian Croats agreed to the Vance-Owen partition plan.

That diplomacy, not backed by a credible threat of force, could not bring the Serbs on board. Why now would our more "direct engagement," with the "full weight" of our diplomacy, convince them to make substantial concessions?

This latest twist in our Bosnia policy is merely that - a twist, a shifting of gears or emphasis rather than a true change of course toward dealing forcefully with Serbia. The sad fact is this adjustment of our policy brings us a step closer to rewarding Serb aggression and using US ground troops to keep Bosnians off their own land.

It may even be a step backward. While an Owen-Stoltenberg plan would require Serbia to return nearly 30 percent of the territory it has taken, the "full weight" of American diplomacy is being concentrated only on the parts of Bosnia whose non-Serb populations Belgrade has been unable to deracinate.

By undertaking this most modest of measures, the Clinton administration hopes to be seen as the protector of the victimized Bosnian state. …

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