Airdrops and Ethnic Cleansing

DESPITE the flurry of diplomatic activity to stop the war in Bosnia, and the Clinton administration's airdrop to help Muslims there, a central fact must not be ignored: The Serbs in Bosnia are continuing their campaign of killing Bosnian civilians and driving them from their homes - "ethnic cleansing."

The United States airdrop has given hope to some of the besieged Bosnians, who continue to daily live in a medieval nightmare of hunger, snipers, and terror. But the West can't ignore the Serbian response to the airdrop. It may confound the West's sense of decency and humanity, but the Serb response to the US airdrop has been an accelerated attack on the very people the airdrop is designed to reach. Cerska, one of the four remaining enclaves in eastern Bosnia, has fallen to a ferocious tank-led Serb assa ult, and other enclaves, such as Srebrenica, are being shelled. While the United Nations negotiating team in New York is trying to get Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to be satisfied with no more than 40 percent of Bosnia, the Serb commanders in the field are trying to swallow more than the 70 percent of Bosnia they now have.

The Monitor reports today that Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo may have to capitulate and sign the Vance-Owen plan to divide Bosnia. Even so, would Serbs then sign and give up captured land? Momentarily facing that startling question on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali implied that US troops would be needed if the Serbs did not "roll back." That would be a significant departure from current policy, where the UN has been used by Western leaders as a means to avoid interve ntion - and the White House immediately stated it had no plans to send troops except to enforce an agreement.

Airlifts are meaningless unless part of a strategy. The UN represents no threat to Serb aggression. Serbs broke UN agreements in August to stop shelling Sarajevo; the Vance plan in Croatia has failed. Ethnic cleansing continues. The West watches on.

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