Serbs Forced Off Page 1

THE Serbs have stopped their awful attack on Gorazde, and Bosnia is temporarily off Page 1 due to a NATO ultimatum. But the war is not over, the Serbs have not been taught a lesson, and the resolve Washington and NATO needed to show to change the direction of events in Europe is not evident.

Quite the reverse is true. Serb forces surround Gorazde a mere mile outside the city, the ultimatum is being defied, and many Serb heavy weapons are being redeployed elsewhere in Bosnia. Yet NATO isn't acting.

What have the Serbs learned in the Gorazde attack, which was a Serb probe of Western resolve? That atrocities in the two-year war still must be done quietly, in a way that does not make embarrassing headlines for Western leaders?

When the Serbs backed off Gorazde, officials fell over each other to resume the very kind of ``peace talks'' that are a sad joke in the Balkans. American and British officials hoped a new diplomatic alliance could ``arrange a cease-fire.'' No one wanted to ``take sides.'' UN official Yasushi Akashi, who for some reason holds the moral reins of the West in his hands, said, ``I do not know'' who is responsible for the crimes around Gorazde.

On Wednesday British Lt. Gen. Michael Rose visited Gorazde and blamed the victims. He said the Muslims of Gorazde, who have been under siege for two years and who are illegally denied weapons to defend themselves by the UN, ``want us to fight their war for them.'' This is not the UN's ``finest hour.'' Since journalists are still not allowed into Gorazde, the press reported Lt. General Rose's doubt about the casualty rate there. Perhaps it isn't 1,000; perhaps it is 500. Either way, it is at least extraordinary when those who can call in NATO airstrikes to protect the innocent remark, essentially, that ``they really didn't kill that many.''

The need, as we have said before, is for White House leadership. No other nation can bring order to this chaos. Pulitzer Prize winner Roy Gutman put it nicely last week: ``There is, I understand, an assistant secretary of state for European affairs. He should travel to the region that has spawned the biggest European crisis since the World Wars. He should go to Sarajevo, Mostar, Zagreb, Belgrade. Or he could send his deputy. Or the [State] Department could send his superior, the undersecretary for political affairs. Or for that matter the secretary of state or the president himself. Send someone ... craft that policy ....The administration hasn't taken the first step yet. I find it astonishing.''

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