Bosnia Crisis: West bows to public opinion

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THE hardening of Western resolve towards the Bosnian Serbs this week came as public pressure for military action rose to a crescendo. As readers of the Independent voted by a clear majority - 295 out of 460 - that the West 'should take on the Serbs', shame and disgust were being expressed in Paris and Washington.

In the United States, Mr Clinton's Bosnia policy drew a barrage of withering reviews - not least for the loss of US credibility and prestige that the media believe it has brought about.

A leader in the normally friendly Washington Post was typical: '(Clinton's) expectation of low public support for air strikes has become a self-fulfilling prophecy . . . As Gorazde shudders under point-blank shelling - a war crime by the way - he flees Washington for a rally of Mustang owners.'

Charles Krauthammer, an avowed non-interventionist, writing in the same paper, said: 'No administration since World War II can match this one for incompetence . . . It is highly rational (for the Serbs) to defy the United States and dare this sorry team in Washington to do anything about it.'

In Paris, prominent intellectuals took out a full-page advertisement in Le Monde, excoriating Western policy. 'Bill Clinton, Francois Mitterrand, John Major,' the appeal read, 'you have allowed the word of our three countries, which had explicitly declared Gorazde, with other towns, a 'safe area', to be flouted. De facto, you let the Serbs have a free hand. Their men have entered Gorazde and are putting it to death. A handful of barbarians, by your fault, are torturing a town.

'On this 50th anniversary of the Normandy landings . . . we ask you solemnly to give the Serbs of Bosnia the same ultimatum, which you successfully applied in Sarajevo . . . to retreat unconditionally from Gorazde, under threat of air strikes.' The appeal was signed by Abbe Pierre, Francois Giroud, Jacques Julliard and Bernard-Henri Levy, among others.