Worse Than Munich

Appease: vt. to buy off an aggressor by concessions, usually at the expense of principles.

0NE of the most warped diplomatic decisions in the past year took place quietly last Friday when the United Nations Security Council quietly voted to lift economic sanctions on Serbia. Those sanctions are the only punishment the international community has ever placed on the Milosevic regime in Belgrade for its role in organizing a mass murder in Bosnia that has destabilized Europe.

The Clinton administration, and UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright in particular, have not explained satisfactorily why the United States has voted for this resolution.

For the US to support a resolution that benefits a criminal regime, even as the White House is saying that it ``may'' back off its promised efforts to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia, sets a terrible precedent and is moreover nakedly unjust. It is an appeasement that earns the contempt of those it buys off. The administration complains of an ``atmosphere of cynicism'' in America while mightily contributing to this atmosphere abroad. Egypt's UN ambassador may have been speaking, diplomatically, for much of the Muslim world in saying of Friday's vote: ``The inability of the Security Council to take decisive and immediate measures to rectify [Bosnia] puts a big question mark on the credibility of the Council.''

Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler in Munich in 1938. But at least that deal followed an articulated though misguided policy. And it came before Nazi war crimes, not after. Yet we find no policy in this latest step. All the Security Council members know Friday's vote involves a lie. The sanctions are lifted on the basis of Mr. Milosevic's ``pledge'' that he will blockade Bosnia. Ambassador Albright said this pledge must be ``verified.''

She might consider picking up the New York Times, which last week reported hundreds of helicopters flying from Serbia into Bosnia. There is evidence of pontoon bridges and tunnels into Bosnia. Not all 135 UN monitors have arrived, and they move only at the pleasure of the Serb police. Has the Yugoslav Army stopped paying Bosnian Serb officers?

Bosnia is a dangerous mess; the US and Europe have helped make it so. The problem of a dictator in Europe will not be healed by appeasement. It is now up to Congress to prevent this.

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