AGAINST the injustice in Bosnia, arousing the conscience of the West could prove the first line of defense. Five US senators are visiting the region this weekend, and next week an international conference has been scheduled in London.
Without resolve reinforced by readiness for action on the Yugoslav crisis, "too little, too late" could become the foreign-policy epigram of the West in the post-cold-war world.
Last week's United Nations vote to aid ravaged Bosnia called for humanitarian assistance using "all measures necessary." That opens the door for more serious intervention on behalf of Bosnia - calculated to check the genocide and relocation of the Bosnian people by Serbian forces, and the illegitimate land grab of a sovereign state. Between 8,000 and 35,000 reportedly have been killed in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
With a White House preoccupied in Houston, the US secretary of state running President Bush's reelection campaign, and Europeans stymied about what to do, the leadership and the will to build a coalition and check Serbian aggression has been lacking. Meanwhile, every day of delay gives Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic more Bosnian land.
Time is running out in Bosnia. Serbs have slaughtered Muslims unimpeded since May. Soon Sarajevo could fall. Milosevic is "ethnically cleansing" a gruesome path through northern Bosnia to link Serbia and the self-declared Serbian region of Krajina in Croatia. Muslims in the way, including 100,000 in the city of Bihac, may be driven out or killed.
Clearly, this is genocidal in intent. The West is reluctant to help. The task isn't easy. The West's hope of negotiated solutions and sanctions has been exhausted. Serb forces now occupy 70 percent of Bosnia, and, as in Croatia, Serbs aren't negotiating about the towns and homes they have burned and stolen. Sanctions have been broken by Romania, Russia, and Greece.
Intervention by the West is needed. The West should know the Bosnian genocide is not occuring in seclusion, as was the case in Uganda or Cambodia. It is occuring on Europe's doorstep. More important, as Margaret Thatcher notes, the conflict is defining the character of the post-cold-war world. How the West responds will show what aggressions will be tolerated. Mrs. Thatcher rightly calls Bosnia a "moral" issue.
Russian generals are watching, with an eye on their minorities in Moldova and the Baltics. Asian, African, and Mideast tyrants are also watching.
So far, what they see is Western capitulation. Let the Muslims fail and quit, the West is saying, then help them negotiate for the left-over crumbs of Bosnia.
The West must do better. It must use the "all measures necessary" language of the UN resolution to make aid truly humanitarian by using force to check Serb aggression. The West must not start a war with Serbia. But real aid cannot be supplied to Bosnia without confronting the Serbs. Bosnia's strife is not a civil war - though intended to appear so. It is an orchestrated aggression, a collusion between ethnic Serbs in Serbia and Bosnia. The Yugoslav Army supplies weapons, men, and energy. Staging areas in
Serbia, in Uzice for example, are known.
Intervention should be limited. There can be intermediate action between doing nothing and an all-out intervention leading to "quagmire." Western troops should not be caught in the hatred of an ethnic war. But it is possible to intervene and avoid the military logic of endless entanglement.
Intervention might include action to ground Serb air attack and stop Serb resupply activities. Some tacticians have proposed air strikes on staging areas and military factories, oil routes and key bridges on the Drina River.
Former NATO commander Gen. John Galvin has proposed occupying detention camps, which are lightly guarded. Airborne forces could liberate them. This would focus world attention.
Sarajevo could be rescued. The shelling and shooting of civilians must stop. Air strikes on the hillsides could be coordinated with Bosnian troops given limited but significant weaponry.
Serb irregulars are compared to tough World War II Partisans. But many are half-drunk bands who rape and kill. Many are brave, but facing ill-equipped Croation troops, many quit.
Bosnian borders may have to be redrawn. But a sovereign state, now recognized after a democratic vote, should survive.
More important, the genocide must cease. The furtherance of a civilized world may require the West to intervene forcibly.