On Bosnia - Don't Blame the United Nations

SECURITY Council Resolution 770, passed with great bravado last August, authorizes the use of all necessary means to deliver humanitarian supplies in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Incredibly, the West opted not to implement this resolution, deciding instead to add Bosnia to the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in neighboring Croatia. This has compelled United Nations commanders in Bosnia to abide by strict procedures which, by requiring endless negotiations with Serb warlords, have placed the success of the humanitarian mission at the mercy of Serb wishes. This approach gradually diminishes the authority of the UN, making its tasks far more difficult.

The UN, despite the shortcomings of its mission in Bosnia, has undeservedly become the latest target of the West's blame-and-do-nothing game in the Balkans. Diplomats and journalists have expressed dismay at the failure of UN troops to successfully deliver humanitarian relief to Bosnia's abused, freezing, and starving population.

In fact the UN is no more than a collective representation of the will of the international community, and in the case of Bosnia, a reflection of the Western contingent in the Security Council.

The larger question, of course, is whether the decision to choose the policy of humanitarian relief over military options in a genocidal war is appropriate. Delivery of relief supplies, and eventually the need for any relief assistance, would end if Bosnian government forces could gradually regain control of their country.

Privately, UN officials express the view that the West is using the UN as a salve for a guilty conscience. They repeatedly voice their frustration at being expected to perform miracles in the midst of a blatantly genocidal campaign, without adequate political or military backing from the countries who have dispatched them.

One can only conclude that the bold resolutions and pronouncements, which the West is unwilling to support with the proper muscle, are designed to temper domestic pressures for action.

The United States and its European allies, by hiding behind the UN, have become accessories to Serb crimes in Bosnia. UN troops in neighboring Croatia have not succeeded in demobilizing Serb militias occupying one-third of that country. Instead, Serbian occupation forces have consolidated their gains in Croatia and, more importantly, contributed men and materiel for the prosecution of Serbian aggression in Bosnia.

From the Bosnian perspective, the UN peacekeepers in Croatia have inadvertently tightened the noose around their country by reducing the threat of a second front from developing for the Serbs. This is compounded by the arms embargo, which the West enforces against the Bosnian government - while tolerating Serb shipments of arms, supplies, and men across the Bosnian border to Serbs there.

Certainly, the UN is not above all criticism. The Owen-Vance peace mission has allowed the Serbs to present a facade of peacemaking and avert the threat of intervention. Criticism of the UN-European Community peace initiative is not directed at the laudable goals of the process, but at the persistent efforts of negotiators to stave off any pressure on the Serbs, be it lifting of the arms embargo for Bosnia or enforcement of the no-fly zone. In fact, escalating the stakes for the Serbs would make them mor e amenable to compromise.

Only when the West musters the will to assist the Bosnian government in reestablishing the rule of law over its sovereign territory will we see the killing halted, the relief supplies delivered, the refugees returned home, and the Serbs compelled to keep their commitments.

Should the West, and particularly the US, live up to these responsibilities, then UN forces can undertake a true peacekeeping mission. If the UN should fail to maintain peace once it is established, then criticism would be appropriate.

For now, the blame lies closer to home.

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