BOSNIA: The Western allies may have to end their neutrality
and attempt a Cold War approach against the Serbs.
By JACK MILES
For the moment, the United Nations Protection Force(UNPROFOR) is
staying in Bosnia. But if NATO accepts a U.N. request to rescue UNPROFOR,
what is likely to happen? As theforeign ministers of the NATO powers meet
today in the Netherlands, here are five factors they may wish to bear
* Militarily, the Serbs are losing. The separatist Serbs of Bosnia
and Herzegovina and Croatia expected early, decisive victories followed by
reunification of the territory they had captured with Serbia proper. They
have failed. They are now fighting a war of attrition on two fronts
against highly motivated enemies -- the Bosnian and Croatian armies -- who
outnumber them and are increasingly well armed. Monday, even as the
Bosnian Serbs humiliated the United Nations, they were retreating before a
Bosnian Muslim advance west of the besieged town of Tuzla. The Serbs have
failed to reverse the recent Croatian gains in the north. Time is not on
* What little influence Russia has over Serbia ispotentially
ominous. During the Cold War, the relationship between Yugoslavia and the
Soviet Union was no closer than the relationship between Tito and Stalin.
It may not be much closer now. Real alliance requires more than the
Cyrillic alphabet and nominal adherence to Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
But Slobodan Milosevic's rump Yugoslavia has never broken with
totalitarianism, and Boris Yeltsin's Russia is drifting back toward it.
Chechnya and Bosnia are twin atrocities. NATO should beware of encouraging
a newly aggressive Russia to establish, in effect, a western base in
* If Britain and France -- just a third of UNPROFOR -- pull
out,other national contingents may remain. The drift in British and French
popular opinion seems to be toward withdrawal, but the popular mood backing
other UNPROFOR contingents -- especially those from Islamic nations -- may
be different. Even now, the Jordanian and Pakistani contingents nearly
equal the British and French. The Islamic guerrilla movement Hamas has
lately declared its solidarity with the Bosnians and called for a lifting
of the arms embargo against them. NATO may need to determine what position
it will take toward other possible intervenors.
* An evacuation of UNPROFOR may become an ad hoc form of the
much-maligned "lift and strike" option. With the Serbs as declared
enemies, NATO may require the Bosnians as friends if it is to control
casualties during an evacuation. Once UNPROFOR is in full flight and the
ethnic cleansing of Sarajevo itself impends, the Bosnian Muslims may match
the Bosnian Serbs in afrenzied attempt to capture UNPROFOR and/or NATO
arms. Rather than run that risk, NATO may have to lift the arms embargo
against Bosnia and support the Bosnian ground troops by land and air, at
least while the evacuation is in progress. NATO should hesitate before
adopting a neutrality that makes the entire population its opponent, if
not its actual enemy.
* If the United States cooperates in a NATO evacuation ofUNPROFOR,
the most frequent objection to "lift and strike" will no longer be valid.
Once U.S. troops are on the ground and assisting in a military evacuation,
U.S. support for air-strikes will no longer be open to the charge of
unseemliness. As for the objection that lifting the embargo will prolong
the war, it too will collapse. Yes, arming the Bosnians will prolong the
Balkans War, but that will be its purpose, just as arming the British was
intended to prevent a quick German victory and prolong World War II. NATO
might also consult its Cold War experience. As David Gompert argued in
Foreign Affairs magazine, the best way to win the Balkans War may be to
treatit as a miniature Cold War: Arm and feed the enemy's enemy while
wearing the enemy down through economic isolation. A slow victory is
vastly preferable to a quick defeat.
Jack Miles, a member of the Times editorial board, on July 1 will become
director of the Humanities Center at the Claremont Graduate School.
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