Besieged Bosnia Raises Tough 21st-Century Question

IN Bosnia - in the heart of Europe - Western civilization is on trial. The kingdom of death called the Holocaust seems to have emerged to deal with again. If, indeed, as the Apostle Paul wrote, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against ... the world rulers of this present darkness," we can ask how or by whom are passions aroused to such an evil end - "ethnic cleansing." How can such manipulation be stayed?

For the most part, American political leaders see Bosnia as a moral issue, but not a strategic one. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has stated that intervention in Bosnia is not in the vital interest of the United States.

The distinction between a moral interest and a vital interest deserves to be examined. During World War II, American planes could have bombed railroad lines used to take Jews to death camps. But they did not because such action was deemed not to serve the overall war strategy of defeating Germany.

In Bosnia, the unrelenting attacks on noncombatant women and children; the organized rape of throngs of young girls and women that is without historical precedent and still goes on even at this writing; the mounting toll of fatalities by disease and hunger in the Muslim enclaves - all make plain that the object of this war is not just hegemony, but obliteration of a people. Serbs of conscience and courage who protest this horror live in fear of their lives.

Behind the horror of the reviled "ethnic cleansing" is a religious question of personal, domestic, even global scope: Are Muslims children of a lesser god?

In retrospect, one could say that the question behind the Holocaust was: Are the Jews an anomaly, a people existing out of their proper time?

Children of a lesser god or a people existing out of their proper time are, from the point of view of those who are unfazed by monstrous and demonic acts, completely expendable.

AS Gen. Douglas MacArthur right when he said that all problems are fundamentally theological problems? If so, then grappling with the question, "Are Muslims children of a lesser god?" must in some deeper way have a bearing on American foreign policy toward Bosnia.

In a way unusual in modern times, a billion Muslims around the world have their eyes on Bosnia. Bosnia is a small state with a tradition of ethnic tolerance, but its importance as a symbol is large.

A resolution of the Bosnian crisis that expresses justice and binds up the wounds of a nation would go a long way toward a rapprochement between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the 21st century.

Bosnian Muslims have the right not to be exterminated.

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