Open Letter to President Clinton
On the eve of the NATO Summit, the daily victimization of Bosnia puts into sharp
relief the failure of the United States and Europe to resist aggressive
nationalism - a core test in post-Cold War Europe. NATO's continuing refusal to
act effectively in Bosnia calls into serious question its relevance to the
challenges of the new Europe and the value of your proposal for a new
"Partnership in Peace".
Mr President, you have the unique opportunity to address "unfinished business"
on the NATO agenda, and lead NATO in fashioning a new division of responsibility
between the international community and the legitimate government of Bosnia. We
must end the genocidal assaults on Bosnia. The alternative is a de facto comü
plicity in the sieges and shelling of Bosnian civilians, interdiction of
urgently needed humanitarian assistance, and the forced transfer and elimination
of populations - all in the name of ethnic cleansing.
If Bosnia is not dealt with in a forthright manner, the NATO summit will be an
empty promise and a missed opportunity, making NATO's future an open question.
Bosnia must be considered first - not swept under the rug.
"Bosnia First" - A new Policy based on Principles, US Interests, and Courage
"Bosnia First" is intended to replace two years of failed policies that have
brought the United States and the international community to the point of
permitting war criminals to carve up Bosnia and thereby reward aggression. The
plan restores a meaningful division of responsibility for Bosnia and the Balkan
region and is based on fundamental principles enshrined in the Atlantic Charter,
the United Nations Charter, and the Helsinki Final Act. It has two fundamental
- NATO must concentrate its enormous resources on saving civilian lives by
ensuring that necessary humanitarian relief is actually delivered, stopping war
crimes, and preventing a wider Balkan war.
- The right and ability of the Bosnian people to defend themselves should be
restored and forcefully asserted.
This plan does not call for US troops to be deployed in Bosnia. Indeed, provided
important initial steps are implemented, the plan contemplates withdrawal of
international forces from Bosnia, which could help remove longü standing
divisions within NATO. We believe this plan is not only workable, but can also
form the basis for a new international consensus to resolve the crisis in Bosnia
and promote stability in the Balkans.
We recommend the following steps for NATO, in sequence:
- Officially Assert Moral and Legal Imperative to Assist Bosnia
- The US government has voted for UN resolutions condemning `ethnic cleansing'.
Nevertheless, the US has declined to invoke the United Nations Genocide
Convention with respect to aggression in Bosnia.
- The US should show moral leadership by invoking the Genocide Convention, which
calls on signatory states to prevent and punish genocide. The US can give
substance to this dÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌäeclaration by seriously and publicly supporting the
International War Crimes Tribunal, including making all US experts and materials
on war crimes in former Yugoslavia available to the tribunal. In addition,
states that harbor those indicted by the Tribunal and refuse to turn defendants
over for trial will be informed that they will be treated as international
- End the Arms Embargo Against Bosnia
The UN-ordered, NATOüenforced, international arms embargo stands in the way of
the Bosnian government's ability to defend its civilian population against war
crimes (Serb and Croat interdiction of humanitarian aid, murder of civilians by
shelling and sniping, laying sieges to Sarajevo and other towns and safe
- The arms embargo against Bosnia clearly contradicts Article 51 of the UN
Charter that provides a state with the right to selfüdefence. Meanwhile, the UN
Security Council has failed to take measures necessary to ensure Bosnian peace
and security, as called for in the UN Charter.
- The US should affirm strong legal arguments that challenge the validity of the
UN embargo against Bosnia, and assert that neither the US, NATO, nor Bosnia are
bound by the embargo as passed against the old Yugoslavia, before Bosnia's
admission to the UN as a new member state.
- Existing UN Security Council Resolutions authorize UN member states to act
together or alone using "all necessary means" to provide humanitarian assistance
and protect safe zones.
- Enable the legitimate Bosnian government to deliver humanitarian supplies and
vital services to its own people, where NATO and the UN have failed in this
mission - as called for in Resolutions by the UN Security Council
- Let the UN, and/or those countries that wish, transfer the responsibility,
authority and means (materiel, transport and military hardware) to the
legitimate government of BosniaHerzegovina to deliver humanitarian assistance by
all necessary means.
- As the Bosnian government assumes responsibility for the delivery of
humanitarian relief, the US, NATO and international organizations will provide
materiel, technical assistance and air support for Bosnian forces to assume
protection of safe zones, convoy routes and corridors.
- Ensure active NATO/US air cover for Bosnian-led humanitarian supply missions.
The air forces of willing NATO member states would coordinate with the Bosnian
government efforts to deliver humanitarian relief by using air power to attack
Serbian and Croatian forces intent on interdicting deliveries of humanitarian
relief. This would include attacking/breaking roadblocks and sieges, and using
air power against other vital Serbian or Croatian targets if either side
interferes with the UN-Bosnian transfer of responsibility for delivering
- Phased near-to-mid-term withü drawal of UN forces previously concerned with
humanitarian resupply efforts
As Bosnian forces, with the support of NATO/US air power, prove successful in
delivering humanitarian relief, UN personnel would be withdrawn, leaving
international technical support, human rights and aid monitors in place.
Humanitarian assistance supplies and air delivery (including supplies delivered
via Tuzla) would continue to be provided by the international community.
Serving US Interests and Working for Real Peace
We agree with Secretary Christopher, when he earlier asserted US interests in
working toward a settlement in Bosnia:
"The conflict [in Bosnia] may be far from our shores but it is not distant to
our concerns. . . The continuing destruction of a new UN member state challenges
the principle that internationally recognized borders should not be altered by
force. . . The world's response to the violence in the former Yugoslavia is an
early and crucial test of how it will address the critical cÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌäoncerns of ethnic
and religious minorities in the post-Cold War world. The quesü tion reaches
throughout Eastern Europe. It reaches to the former Soviet Union, where the fall
of Communism has left 25 million ethnic Russians living as minorities in other
republics, and it reaches to other continents as well." (February 1993)
Notwithstanding the Secü retary's statement and your previous pledges, the
United States has reflected and contributed to the West's failure in the former
Yugoslavia. Our impotence in the face of brutal aggression must be replaced by
forceful leadership. It is up to us to lead Europe to a reassertion of and
dedication to the principle that there will be no profit or territorial gains
from aggression. Since 1945 Americans and American leaders have affirmed the vow
of "Never Again". You have a special opportunity to reverse the tragedy in
Bosnia, and sustain America's moral leadership in the world. This leadership
should begin at the NATO summit.
Written on 6 January 1994 and signed by Morton Abramowitz, Hodding Carter, Max
M. Kampelman, Joseph Lieberman, Frank McCloskey and Aryeh Neier.
Action Council for Peace in the Balkans is based in Washington. Its Steering
Committee includes Morton Abramowitz, William Brock, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank
Carlucci, Hodding Carter, Dennis DeConcini, David Dinkins, Geraldine Ferraro,
Barbara Jordan, Max. M. Kampelman, Lane Kirkland, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Tom Lantos,
Joseph Lieberman, Richard Lugar, Frank McCloskey, Susan Molinari, Edmund Muskie,
George Schultz, Susan Sontag, George Soros, Paul Volcker and Elie Wiesel.