To Intervene or Not to Intervene in Bosnia

Secretary of State Warren Christopher has raised four tests for United States military intervention in Bosnia. The US needs to consider Mr. Christopher's views quickly. The issue is whether the US and/or NATO is willing to use air strikes to deter further Serbian attacks on civilian populations. This might be coupled by lifting the arms embargo, but the latter is helpful only if there is a US/NATO effort to deliver arms rapidly to the Bosnians. The following are answers to Christopher's four tests:

* Clear goal. The military objective should be to prevent further Serbian attacks on civilian populations. We would not try to roll the Serbs back from territory they occupy by military means. We would protect the United Nations troops from Serbian attack, in particular the Canadian forces in Srebrenica and the other enclaves in eastern Bosnia. Air strikes would be employed, not ground troops. Strategic bombing would be held in reserve, to be undertaken if the Serbs continue to attack civilian population s.

* Probability of success. Air strikes are limited in their impact but have the best likelihood of deterring further Serbian aggression, short of using ground forces. The alternative of not resisting the Serbs leaves the Muslims at risk in Bosnia and destroys completely the credibility of the UN. The Serbs are then more likely to move into other areas such as Kosovo.

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* Exit strategy. As US ground forces are not envisioned, an exit strategy is less central. The US would not be attempting to conquer Serbia, but to prevent the Serbs from conquering the rest of Bosnia. If the air strikes are an effective deterrent, they become a stabilizing factor. The UN is prepared to deploy peacekeeping forces when the fighting stops.

* Sustained public support. I believe that the American public will accept using air power to prevent further attacks on civilians in Bosnia. Given the delay in European and US public responses to the Bosnian crisis, there are only imperfect options to choose from; but letting Serbian aggression run its course is the worst option of all. Srebrenica is a critical test of whether the UN will protect civilians. We cannot shirk backing the people of Srebrenica and their Canadian defenders. Other safe areas s hould be designated and the Serbs should be told that further use of artillery against Sarajevo will provoke aerial counterattack. But for air strikes to be a real deterrent, we need to telegraph to the Serbs our preparedness to use them and end the present ambiguity. Lionel A. Rosenblatt, Washington President, Refugees International

The editorial "Genocide's Crossroads," April 12, is moving and appealing. I wish I could believe that America could stand up to the task of facing history. However, the reasons for not taking military action in Bosnia pile up.

One of the primary lessons in Vietnam was that to win a war against guerrillas you have to take territory and keep territory. I doubt our army is trained for such action, or that the Army will commit the numbers necessary to hold territory. As in Vietnam, air strikes will be marginal and ineffective in this terrain. It seems likely the Serbs will obtain tactical nuclear weapons and, when disadvantaged, will use them. The more serious question: What will America do if US troops are subjected to nuclear we aponry? Will America recognize humanitarian restraints in such a situation? Also the American public cannot sustain a military undertaking. Vietnam created a poisonous divisiveness in our society. Even in World War II, with Nazism rapidly covering Europe, America could not unite until Pearl Harbor made self-interest clearly evident. Margarite Hall, Crozet, Va.

This abominable war in the Balkans will not end by playing at peace negotiations with the Serbs and shipping in humanitarian aid parcels to the Bosnians. All this does is allow the West to glow with self-righteousness while avoiding military commitment - a doubly despicable attitude. Nothing has been achieved: Croatia has been devastated, Bosnia virtually destroyed, and we have sat by and gently deplored it all.

Arming the Bosnians themselves would be a small step, but the critical factor is in recognizing that the roots of the conflict lie in Belgrade and Moscow. Russia supports the idea of a blockade, but only reluctantly because of traditional paternalism toward Belgrade. Boris Yeltsin finds himself increasingly in debt and desperate for Western loans. The obvious step is to make financial assistance to Yeltsin totally dependent on heavy and effective pressure being put on Belgrade to end the aggression. John Allison, Exeter, England

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