AS the administration debates its military and humanitarian role in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we must make a realistic and calculating appraisal based on a historical perspective. Were the prospect of guerrilla warfare in mountainous terrain not discouraging enough, Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has estimated that an initial United States investment of 200,000 troops and their equipment would be required to pacify the battling factions. But warfare, as expensive and bloody as it can
be, is not the only threat we should anticipate. Acts of terrorism directed against the US and its military partners may become the Serbian response of choice. If we allow our emotions to run amok, we could be mired in yet another Beirut.
Nevertheless we must recognize that "ethnic cleansing" is a form of genocide. If the legacy of Hitler's Third Reich has been instructive, it is that such actions are so repugnant that the community of nations must be prepared to intervene militarily. The Serbs are preparing to extend "ethnic cleansing" to Kosovo, and "Greater Serbia" ambitions extend to Macedonia. Whatever we decide on policy and economic grounds, America must understand the risks. For more than a year our intelligence efforts to target Serbian intentions have been insufficient. If we choose to engage the Serbs militarily, we will face not only a determined, tenacious enemy on the battlefield but one with the ability to threaten credibly the US and our European allies.
We should recall that in May 1911 partisans of a "Greater Serbia" founded a secret society called "Union Or Death." It later became widely known as the "Black Hand," carrying out clandestine acts of political violence directed at its perceived enemies. In the spring of 1914, Black Hand learned that Archduke Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian empire and his spouse would be visiting Sarajevo on June 28, Saint Vitus day, a day of great symbolic importance to Serbs. Black Hand decided to assassinate the archd uke. The group selected and trained three young militants of a pan-serbic group, MLADA BOSNA, to carry out the act. The revolvers and ammunition were supplied by the Serbian army and smuggled into Bosnia-Herzegovina by Black Hand. When Saint Vitus day arrived, Ferdinand and his wife were murdered. The rest, as they say, is history.
Yugoslavia has also been a source of ethnic and sub-national political violence in contemporary times. During the 1970s the US was a stage for terrorism carried out by Croat nationalists, seeking independence from Tito's rule. In September 1975 a TWA Boeing 727 was high jacked, and a bomb that terrorists had placed in a locker at Grand Central station in New York exploded; in 1977 Croat commandos seized the Yugoslav mission at the UN; in 1978 Anton Cikoya, a Croat-American businessman with ties to the Ti to regime was murdered in his home in New York; in 1979 Croat terrorists blew up a Yugoslav travel office in Queens, N.Y., and in 1980 they set off a bomb at Jugo Banka in Manhattan. Other acts of terrorism carried out by ethnic nationalists from the old Yugoslavia followed.
It is essential to remember this background as President Clinton deliberates the role American troops take in support of some variant of the Vance-Owen proposed treaty for Bosnia. A few months ago, German police authorities disseminated an alert that Serbian terrorists had entered Germany in an attempt to assassinate pro-Croat German officials such as Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Otto Graff Lambsdorff. Serbs have also overtly threatened to unleash nuclear terrorism. Aleksa Buha, self-described foreign affa irs minister of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, stated that the Serbs would send suicide commandos to attack European nuclear power centers, promising "several Chernobyls" if European troops took action against the Serbian irregulars. Stronger American and allied efforts will have to be made to focus better intelligence resources on the Serbs to discover their military and terrorist plots in advance of tragedy. It was unprecedented international cooperation among intelligence services and law en forcement agencies that preempted significant terrorist retaliation during the Persian Gulf conflict. Not a small portion of European timidity in confronting Serbian aggression and well-documented atrocities derives from this fear of Serbian violence.
The French and British share a belief that not only their troops under UN command in Bosnia are vulnerable to attack by Serbian irregulars, but that their civilians at home are at risk as well. If we yield to European demands that American troops participate under UN command in Bosnia, we must be prepared for a Serbian response that includes a terrorist dimension.