Three Voices in August

THE crisis in Bosnia remains intractable, and there is something in the doldrums of August that makes the negotiations in Geneva seem exhausting and perhaps even irritating. Lord David Owen, the EC negotiator, has given all sides until Aug. 30 to agree to a plan that would divide Bosnia. The Serbs and Croats will agree. But Bosnians led by Alija Izetbegovic probably won't sign despite threats and arm-twisting by Owen.

Nor should they sign. There is nothing in 19 months of an aggressive Serb genocide in Bosnia to show that the plan, born of an ugly compromise with Serbs and giving Bosnians 30 percent of the land, would ever be carried out. There are no believable guarantees of Bosnia's security by the United Nations, the EC, or the United States, which, despite promises, have not helped the Bosnians resist the aggression against them. The West is standing by now as the Croats slowly starve the Bosnian Muslims in Mostar

in a Croat version of "ethnic cleansing."

In late August, US foreign policy seems on vacation, along with President Clinton and Secretary of State Christopher. Prior to his trip to Martha's Vineyard, Mr. Clinton threatened airstrikes against the Serbs if they did not stop the siege of Sarajevo. The Serbs backed off the city just enough to avoid NATO action. They will wait. In the recent Owen plan, Serbs actually get part of Sarajevo.

The US has been silent about this travesty. Indeed, the Clinton administration approach seems to be to wish away Bosnia. It has never had an official policy about the problem it describes as the most difficult in the world today. Mr. Christopher has not visited the region. Nor has Stephen Oxman, the US official in charge of NATO-Bosnia. Reginald Bartholomew, special Bosnia envoy, has not been since April.

Yet there has not been total silence. In the past month, three young State Department officers in charge of day-to-day US-Balkan relations have resigned from promising careers over US policy, or lack thereof. Not since the failed Vietnam policy have so many left. Each resigner chose a different focus. Bosnia chief Marshall Harris resigned over US willingness in Geneva to abandon its principles of territorial integrity. Jon Western, an intelligence officer and leading US war-crimes investigator, left over

the US effort to cast Bosnia as an ancient feud or civil war when, he told the Monitor, it is "a Serb intent to eradicate the Muslim population and there are things we could do." Stephen Walker, Croatia desk chief, left Aug. 23 saying US passivity is "dangerous" in the current world climate.

These are serious charges that US officials have not answered seriously.

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