U.N. and NATO Failed Bosnia

By William Safire Copyright New York Times News Service | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 30, 1994 | Go to article overview

U.N. and NATO Failed Bosnia


William Safire Copyright New York Times News Service, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose, the reincarnation of Neville Chamberlain, has just admitted that his U.N. force of 23,000 Europeans is unable to "deter" Bosnian Serbs from destroying cities the Security Council has established as safe havens.

That is tantamount to surrender. A ragtag splinter group of Serbians, with no power but the weaponry and willingness to kill civilians, has rendered the poseurs and pontificators of the United Nations helpless and contemptible.

This proves that as a vehicle for concerted military response to an aggressor or violator of human rights, the U.N. is worthless.

Worse, its abuse of NATO's military power - calling for pinprick responses, taking out an unmanned tank or bombing an airstrip but sparing planes - makes a mockery of the Atlantic alliance's ability to deter by the threat of harsh retaliation.

The demonstration of U.N. impotence is a plus; we can now stop kidding ourselves about a world police force, and reduce our financial support of the world body to a more equitable 10 percent of its budget.

But the willingness of Britain and France to let NATO be diddled by U.N. handwringers is a big minus. The chasm opened within the alliance could sharply reduce America's involvement in European defense.

This is precisely what France wants. "The conflict in Bosnia," says Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, "has shown the necessity to move beyond NATO and American guarantees." French leaders have long thought they would more easily dominate a European bureaucracy if Americans would go home.

A U.S. withdrawal of its remaining troops, and the folding of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, is not what Britain wants. But the sustained fecklessness of Prime Minister John Major has made un-special the relationship built up by strong British leaders through hot and cold wars. Rose's repugnance at "war-making" when U.N. havens become war zones symbolizes Britain's least fine hour.

Both France and Britain pretend that America has no standing in stopping the slaughter in Bosnia because we are unwilling to commit ground troops to battle. Unless you're willing to lead and bleed, they say, you have no right to anger the Serbs who could take our peacekeepers hostage. …

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