bosnia report
No. 5 April - 1994
Framework for Peace or Partition?

Increased US involvement in Bosnia during the past six weeks has created a perception that things are moving in the right direction and that peace may, finally, be at hand. A closer look reveals that the Clinton Administration's policy remains inadequate and misdirected and that the Administration may still be unprepared and unwilling to confront Serbian aggression.

A rapprochement between Bosnia and Croatia was a necessary, preliminary step in any effort to forge a lasting, just peace for Bosnia. The US-mediated agreement of 1 March provides a framework for a Bosnian federation and an economic confederation between Bosnia and Croatia. These ambitious arrangements, however, avoid the two central issues of any Bosnian peace settlement: the details of a "new" Bosnian map and Serbian cooperation. The Action Council believes that in order to reach a just and lasting settlement in Bosnia, the United States must use this agreement as a first step toward:

  • restoring Bosnian sovereignty

  • dealing forcefully with Serbian occupation of Bosnian territory; and

  • rejecting ethnic partition.

Unfortunately, in recent days Administration officials have indicated a willingness to accept the status quo and forgo all three of these objectives.

First, according to a New York Times article of 12 March, a senior Clinton Administration official would not rule out recognition of a Bosnian Serb state carved from Bosnian territory and admitted that "it could well be that a Bosnian Serb state will emerge and have some relation to Serbia on the other side". This, of course, has been the objective of the Serbian and Bosnian Serb regimes from the very beginning of their offensive in Bosnia: to erect new Berlin Walls based on ethnic separation and to create a Greater Serbia by force. Serbian forces have killed 200,000 Bosnians - most of them innocent civilians - driven more than two million more out of the country or into internal exile, and besieged hundreds of thousands more to reach this point.

Second, Defence Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have taken a minimalist approach in defining how NATO air power can be used to change Serbian behaviour on the ground and at the negotiating table. Their claims that the conditions which made the threat of airpower applicable around Sarajevo do not exist elsewhere in Bosnia:

  • minimize the military and diplomatic potential of air power in the region;

  • are predicated on a view of using air strikes only to target specific offenders rather than addressing larger, traditional, and more realistic command­and­ control issues;

  • suggest virtually impossible and unsustainable conditions for the use of air power;

  • undermine the security framework for the Administration's planned introduction ÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌü of US ground troops, who would be at greatly increased risk if air power could be used to defend them only according to Perry and Shalikashvili's terms;

  • would do precious little to stabilize the security environment in Bosnia, either now or after a settlement, or to compel the Serbs to lift sieges, halt hostile action, or cooperate in a Bosnian federation;

  • suggest a revision to the Pentagon's earlier, untenable "all or nothing" approach to the use of force to affect Serbian behaviour; and

  • suggest that the Administration continues to be unwilling to accept the clear lesson that even a limited but credible threat of force works in Bosnia; indeed, the further the Administration backs away from the success of the NATO ultimatum, the less positive results we can expect.

What should and must be done instead to bring a durable peace to Bosnia?

  • The US must first recognize the nature of the problem: Serbian forces have been committing genocide in Bosnia. We must invoke the Genocide Convention.

  • NATO should carry out air strikes against Serbian forces that attack civil- ians, remain in violation of the Sarajevo ultimatum, prevent safe delivery of humanitarian assistance, or violate the UN Security Council "safe areas" resolutions.

  • The US must terminate its arms embargo so that the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina can exercise its right of self­defence, protect its people from genocide and aggression, provide vital humanitarian assistance to its people, negotiate from a secure position rather than under duress, and begin to function as a sovereign, independent and viable state.

  • Rather than overturning or violating key provisions and principles of international law, US mediators should ensure that any agreement to end fighting is consistent with the letter and intent of the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions, the Helsinki Final Act, and the London Conference declaration. No agreement should be facilitated that rewards aggression and genocide or that violates Bosnia's territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence.

  • The US should not send troops to enforce an agreement that violates the above agreements, resolutions, or principles.

  • If the Bosnian Serbs refuse to join a Bosnian federation that is based on CSCE principles, sanctions against Serbia should be tightened. As Peter Galbraith, the US ambassador to Croatia, has stated, under such conditions Serbia and Serb-occupied parts of Bosnia should become the "black hole of Europe". The Administration should recall that UN sanctions (UN Security Council Resolution 757, referencing Resolution 752) were imposed in large part due to Serbian violations against Bosnia's territorial integrity. The Administration should also recall that, in the Joint Action Programme of 23 May 1993, it pledged to maintain sanctions until "the withdrawal of Bosnian Serb troops from territories occupied by force".

The Action Council for Peace in the Balkans is a group of prominent Americans dedicated to ending the horror in Bosnia and establishing stability in the Balkan region. Steering Committee members include: William Brock, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Hodding Carter, Dennis DeConcini, Geraldine Ferraro, Barbara Jordan, Max M. Kampelman, Lane Kirkland, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Tom Lantos, Joseph Liberman, Richard Lugar, Frank McCloskey, Susan Molinari, Edmund Muskie, George Schultz, Susan Sontag, George Soros, Paul Volcker and Elie Wiesel. This is a shortened version of its statement of 17 March 1994.


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