INTELLIGENCE sources in Washington openly predict what will happen next in the Balkan tribal war. As the Serbians consolidate their holdings in Bosnia, they are expected to try to drive out the 200,000 Albanians that live in Kosovo, and go after western Macedonia, a region where many Serbs live and that many Serb nationalists see as part of a "Greater Serbia." If we are to avoid standing by as thousands more civilians are slaughtered, and thousands more are driven from their homes, we must act now.
Before the United Nations is even to consider sending peace-keeping troops, it should raise its moral voice. The nations of the world, with the United States, should condemn, in no uncertain terms, Serbian expansionist plans. Some reports show earlier, muted objections to Serb attacks on Bosnia were read by them as an indication that the West, especially Germany, would not be unduly distressed by their belligerent acts. We should leave no room for doubt this time.
Second, the West should recognize Macedonia now as a country and grant it admission it to the UN. Attacks across its borders would then clearly constitute an act of international aggression. This by itself may not suffice to protect Macedonia but it would allow the US and its allies, or the UN, to respond without unnecessary hesitation and with full authority.
We are informed that the Greeks will wildly protest such a move, not because Macedonia is part of Greece but because they claim title to the name! Some have suggested that the solution lies in recognizing Macedonia by some other name. I do not care much for such international niceties; call them what you may but we should not allow the idle threats of Greece to pull out of the European Community (which they desperately need), to prevent us from doing what is right.
Next, the UN should warn that the political leaders, officers, and troops of any country that engage in massive killings of civilians and in ethnic cleansing, would be considered war criminals. If any of these criminals ever leave their puny enclaves, they would be treated as fugitives, subject to arrest and persecution. This may not stop them in their tracks, but it may give them a pause. (The best forum would be the yet to be established international criminal court.)
If all of this moral pressure fails to get our message across, we should tighten our blockade of Serbia by extending our patrols from the Adriatic sea to the Danube. The Danube is an international waterway, and we are within the international law if we and our allies or the UN send boats up the river. (Reports indicate that ships carrying the Ukrainian flag are a major carrier of supplies to the Serbian forces.)
LAST but not least, we should be ready to send peace-keeping forces to line the borders of Macedonia. Such forces are often disparaged. However, note that there is a world of difference between sniping at a UN patrol in an area controlled by one's forces - and attacking a sizable and well-positioned army on the border.
Finally, one must face up to the tough question that President Bush has raised. Namely, whose sons and daughters do you send, possibly to be killed, to prevent the mass slaughter of civilians in the Balkans? It must be said that a country that each year allows tens of thousands of its youths to be killed in wars among drug lords, marauding gangs, and drunk drivers, but refrains from doing what it considers right to avoid risking even a few casualties, has no place in the international arena.
Every life is precious. However, if peaceful measures prove ineffective, we should allow some Americans in the armed forces to volunteer to be stationed on international borders to help keep the peace. Should some lives be lost, we should appeal to the public to proudly hail these Americans as heros, dedicated to saving the lives of others.
Regrettably, it may be too late to apply this peace-keeping approach to Bosnia. Bosnia is where the UN should have drawn a line to stop tribal warfare and ethnic cleansing. At least, now the world community should spare the people of neighboring areas from a similar fate, and by doing so send a warning signal to all others who have similar designs on the lives of innocent civilians.