Military intervention 'not a viable option'

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The Independent Online
PLANS for military intervention in the former Yugoslavia are the preserve of a few 'hotheads', according to an authoritative report published this week. Britain would have to contribute very substantially to any European force and has no wish to incur casualties, the report says, views which were endorsed again yesterday by defence sources, writes Christopher Bellamy.

In The Yugoslav Conflict, John Zametica, formerly an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, also warns that in future conflicts of a similar type the international community will be just as limited in what it can do. It can 'bribe or threaten, provide its good offices, and deploy peace-keeping forces,' says Mr Zametica. 'But the international community is neither a moral entity, nor a world policeman. To the extent that it attempts to be both, it is likely to be caught between conflicting choices and disappointed by the effectiveness of its instruments.'

Although written some time ago, the report has renewed relevance with the reports of Serb-run concentration camps in Bosnia and demands for some form of intervention. But, asks the author: 'What could and should a self-appointed, eager policeman do in Yugoslavia? Shoot the Serbs? The Croats? Or both?'

Mr Zametica says the situation is the result of a series of chain reactions. By a curious twist of logic, he says, the European Community began by opposing the break-up of Yugoslavia on the grounds that it would result in violent conflict and, as this duly took place, progressed to the position that recognising Croatia's secession was the only way of ending the conflict. Although the conflict was therefore 'utterly predictable', the international community did little to prevent it, fared badly as it attempted to manage it, and appeared powerless to resolve it.

Mr Zametica is sceptical of intervention provoked by reports of atrocities. 'Notwithstanding the issue of human rights, internationalised by the 1975 Helsinki Conference, intervening in a country's internal affairs is still something of a taboo in international relations. Collective military action by the international community is notoriously difficult to organise, even in clear cases of aggression by one country against another, let alone with regard to purely domestic political situations,' he says.

It seems that the former Yugoslav states, under some rigorous political direction, are the only people who can help themselves. The Communist, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires had their uses, evidently. 'The international community may find it easier to work towards the restoration of some Yugoslav identity, to be brought in some closer association with the EC, than to keep the divided Yugoslavs in their mini-states at peace with each other,' the report says.

'The Yugoslav Conflict', Adelphi Paper 270, by John Zametica, is published by Brassy's/IISS, pounds 9.50