WASHINGTON — FORMER national security adviser Brent Scowcroft says the newest economic sanctions imposed on Serbia will inflict "real pain," but they will not change the outcome of the Balkans war.
General Scowcroft, speaking yesterday at a breakfast meeting with reporters, suggests it may be too late to prevent the Serbs, whom he describes as "tough," from achieving their major goals.
Western efforts, including United Nations observers, air drops of food, sanctions, and imposition of a no-fly zone, all have failed to slow the Serb advance across Bosnia.
President Clinton, in a meeting with congressmen on Tuesday, left the impression that he would favor lifting the arms embargo on Bosnian Muslims, who are rapidly losing the three-way Serb-Muslim-Croat war. The United States also is contemplating air strikes on Serb military forces.
Scowcroft, however, doubts that pumping arms into Bosnia would alter the course of the year-old war.
Indeed, the retired general, who wrestled with this problem while he was serving in the Bush White House, doubts that Americans can do very much to change the outcome.
"We can't do everything," he says.
Scowcroft, who speaks Croatian, says, "There aren't any good guys in this conflict." The fighting reflects age-old hatreds and distrust.
If the West decides to send ground troops into the Bosnia (an idea rejected by a majority of Americans in several recent public opinion polls), Scowcroft says four strict criteria must be met:
* First, the West must be very clear about its objectives. Western forces must know exactly what they are trying to accomplish.
* Second, they must be sure they can achieve their mission.
* Third, the cost must not be too high.
* Fourth, there must be a plan to end the fighting, and bring home the troops.