Sat, 29 Oct 1994

Back to the Bosnia Plan

Let there be no false regrets that the United States is missing a last chance to help the under-armed Moslems to even the odds against Serbian aggressors. There may be a moral debt, but the political logic is lacking.

On their own, the Moslems have already determined that slipping the embargo now would merely embolden the well-armed Bosnian Serbs to hit them hard before they could materially repair their military weakness.

The fact is that on the basis of many past decisions, none of which can now be taken back, American choices are limited. Unless Washington is prepared to see the war run free indefinitely, the single option is to support the plan for partitioning Bosnia drawn up by the "contact group" of the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia. It is a sad plan that condones much "ethnic cleansing" and forcible border changing. But the Moslem government, to which most American sympathies and obligations flow, swallowed it all the same.

By keeping open the notion of arms relief, the American government encouraged lingering Bosnian illusions of a military deliverance. In this way it undercut the UN plan. By stepping back from the notion, Washington finally and more firmly supports the plan, of which, of course, it is a signatory.

Serbia's tightening boycott of the so far defiant Bosnian Serbs becomes the leading instrument of pressure, through the long winter now setting in, to induce them to respect the international peace plan. Serious NATO air strikes to curb Bosnian Serb violations become a necessary companion instrument. The peacekeepers have resisted such strikes up to now, fearing Bosnian Serb retaliation against themselves. An American sharing of the risks of peacekeeping would be the best answer that Washington could give its allies -- and the Moslems.

-- The Washington Post