“There is not justification for the Bosnian Serbs’ rejection. The plan was, if anything, too generous to them, since it granted them nearly half of a country they conquered through the use of terrorism, rape and other violence.”
Time to Tighten the Screws on Serbs
The Milwaukee Journal, p.A8
22 July 1994.
Serb nationalists have succeeded in the “ethnic cleansing” of Bosnia-Herzegovina to such a degree that they control about 70% of the country. Not content with the dismemberment of Bosnia and the murder of thousands of its people, these Serb gangsters have now given the diplomatic equivalent of a stiff-arm to the United States and other would-be peacemakers. This act of defiance deserves a prompt and forceful response.
In early July, the US and four other countries — Russia, Britain, France and Germany — making up a “Contact Group” devised a plan to end the 27-month old war. The essence of the plan was a map that required the Serbs to abandon about a third of the Bosnian land they now occupy. Still, it gave them 49% of Bosnia, with 51% ceded to the Bosniak-Croat federation formed earlier this year.
The federation accepted the plan, but the Serb nationalists this week responded with approval so heavily qualified that it amounted to rejection. By adorning their de facto “no” with coy diplomatic gestures, the Serbs were probably trying to buy a little time and to drive a wedge between members of the Contact Group. Already, the Russians have shown some sympathy for the Serb position. And Bosnia’s Bosniak government, in reaction, has invalidated its previous acceptance of the deal.
There is not justification for the Bosnian Serbs’ rejection. The plan was, if anything, too generous to them, since it granted them nearly half of a country they conquered through the use of terrorism, rape and other violence. The plan’s saving feature was that, if it had been implemented, it would have ended the war and preserved Bosnia’s existence, if in a sharply shriveled form.
Approval also would have led to the eventual lifting of the United Nations economic embargo of neighboring Serbia, which has been backing the Serb nationalists in Bosnia. In rejecting the peace plan, these nationalists have given the UN little alternative but to tighten that embargo.
In addition, efforts should be made to enlarge the zones inside Bosnia from which Serb, Bosniak and Croat weapons are excluded. (Such zones already exist around Sarajevo and certain other Bosnian cities.) Meanwhile, the diplomatic and political offensive of the Contact Group should continue.
Many have urged a lifting of a current UN embargo on arms to Bosnia. Such a course, superficially appealing, would surely escalate the war and likely cause English, French and other UN peacekeeping troops to abandon Bosnia.
It may not be possible for the US and its allies to produce a diplomatic solution to the war in the Balkans. But because so many lives are at stake — in Bosnia and, potentially, elsewhere in the region — the pursuit of peace must continue. Harsh reprisals to the Serbs’ intransigence may help promote such a solution.