While Bosnia Burns

WITH its failure even to issue a statement critical of the latest outrages by the Bosnian Serbs, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), meeting in Budapest Dec. 5 and 6, joined the United Nations, the European Union, and NATO as another international organization unable to take any meaningful steps for peace in the Balkans.

The CSCE meeting - a 52-nation summit - was held in Budapest, not much farther from the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina than New York is from Washington or London from Paris.

There seemed to be an air of resignation in President Clinton's voice as he addressed the gathering and spoke of the CSCE's potential to ``prevent future Bosnias'' - a tacit acknowledgment of the utter failure of current peace efforts.

Some 350 UN troops are now hostages of the Bosnian Serbs, insurance against possible NATO airstrikes, despite earlier Bosnian Serb promises that they would be freed. (How can there be a ``protection force'' that cannot protect itself? How can there be ``peacekeepers'' when there is no peace to keep?)

Bosnian Serbs have blocked nearly all food convoys and humanitarian aid, the very things the UN forces are there to maintain.

And press reports say they are lobbing incendiary shells into Muslim areas in northwestern Bosnia, starting fires. The CSCE fiddled as Bosnia burns.

``What shall be the result of the war in Bosnia?'' asked Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic at the CSCE meeting. ``A discredited United Nations, a ruined NATO, Europeans demoralized by a feeling of inability to respond to the first crisis after the cold war.'' Who would argue that all these are not being added to the tragedy of 200,000 casualties already suffered?

Incoming United States House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia has argued for pulling UN troops out of Bosnia, arming and training the Bosnian government forces, and submitting the Bosnian Serbs to an all-out air attack if they try to advance.

Mr. Gingrich probably spoke with the confidence that his plan would never be tested. It logically could lead to a large deployment of US ground troops if the bombing failed. NATO allies, the Clinton administration, and, most important, the Bosnian Serbs know that the US public is not nearly ready for that. But with current peace efforts completely discredited, must not all options go back onto the table?

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.