The Bosnia Crisis: Should we sent in the troops?: And if so, what should be their aim? The 16 people in our survey were divided

MICHAEL FRAYN

Playwright

I've watched the television coverage this week and it's made me realise that the newspaper reports, particularly in the Independent and the Guardian, bring home the situation far more clearly than visuals.

I feel that when conflicts begin they spiral uncontrollably and military intervention might just be another twist in such an awful spiral. Each stage of conflict is intended to end the earlier stage, to end the conflict, but invariably it makes it worse, provoking another stage in the spiral.

GITTA SERENY

Writer

I do think that there has to be some external control exerted and that the Yugoslav leaders have to be forced to accept this control. Far more sanctions could be put in place against them before considering the military option. One could even surround the country with the military without entering. The UN should be used far more than at present and become recognised as having far more right to intervene in disputes.

LORD OWEN

Former leader of the SDP

I've argued for 10 days, and did so again at the UN on Thursday, that we should impose a ceasefire. We should not interdict between the conflicting sides, but we should do whatever is necessary to impose a ceasefire and appoint a senior French military person as Commander of a UN peace-keeping force - a French commander would square with a lot of the politics involved. It is vital that we do not allow the annexation of Bosnia and the forcible removal of Muslims from population centres. We have to have a strong European military presence in this and the US must be involved, but only to a lesser extent. The right force is Nato and we should not let Sarajevo fall.

DAVID LODGE

Novelist

It's very easy to say something must be done. But as soon as British troops started being killed people would quickly have second thoughts. If there was a way of guaranteeing an end to the fighting, I would support it. But I fear it would turn into a quagmire.

So we should hesitate a little longer. If it is possible to change the behaviour of the Serbs by pressure other than major armed intervention, I would want to try that to the last ditch.

RALPH STEADMAN

Cartoonist

We cannot sit by and watch them kick the shit out of each other for ever. The time for being fair- minded has passed. Now it's time to stop it. As soon as I saw television images of the camps with their harrowing reminder of the Holocaust I knew it was time to act . . . A picture, you cannot deny.

TONY BENN

MP for Chesterfield

Military intervention rarely achieves what it sets out to do. Consider the Gulf war. In a few months' time Saddam Hussein will still be in power and President Bush may be out of a job. So I think the Government's caution is very well justified. The West was partly responsible for creating this conflict. Yugoslavia used to be a unitary state until we recognised just one part of it. It would be like the Russians recognising Northern Ireland as a separate state and then sending its troops in to release people from the concentration camp of the Maze.

BILL BEAUMONT

Rugby player

Yes, it's time to send UN troops in. Innocent women and children are suffering and we should intervene with the full works. I know it's easy for me to say that, as I won't have to go there. I am concerned about British troops getting killed. But that horrific photograph in the papers of the concentration camp turned my opinion. We have to go in.

SHEILA McKECHNIE

Director of Shelter

The news that came out about the concentration camps means if we sit back and do nothing we will be guilty of failing to stop the 1990s version of crimes against humanity. I think that there should be intervention to secure the safety of people in the camps and to provide humanitarian aid. But I am not stupid enough to think that UN troops could do that without getting embroiled in the conflict. In the circumstances, that is a risk we have to take.

RICHARD HARRIES

Bishop of Oxford

We should have done something a year ago, which I believe would have saved a great deal of lives. Now we have got to take action, including limited military goals, for example to make sure that the food is getting through and protecting people in the refugee camps. I would support the military issuing warnings against the tank encampments and gun emplacements, followed by action against them if they are ignored.

There are definite parallels with the Gulf crisis. We live in a world where people try to get what they want by force, and they must be shown that they cannot get away with it.

CLAIRE RAYNER

Writer

Send in a flood of humanitarian aid. Masses of food, masses of medicine, masses of people who care. I think the Government is being meagre about this, and a little more energy from them would help. But I would draw the line there. I'm haunted by the image of Sarajevo in August. It was the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in August 1914 that started the First World War.

LORD TEBBIT

Former chairman,

Conservative Party

I know from my reading of the history of that part of the world that they are often at each other's throats. I'd like to know what the aim of any military intervention would be and what the plan is to achieve it. We've had British servicemen in Northern Ireland for 24 years trying to resolve a tribal conflict and the tribal conflict in Yugoslavia is of a rather more difficult nature. I wouldn't like to see troops involved there for 24 years. If someone thinks troops can resolve such a conflict they should think again. I'm less sceptical over air strikes. Given a strictly limited time-scale with an objective which can be achieved - such as protecting convoys of food - I am not totally against the idea.

MARY WHITEHOUSE

Campaigner

The television coverage this week has moved me immensely, the suffering is almost beyond comprehension. I'm sure something has to be done, but I'm no military person so I'm not sure what. I'd like to see the military used to protect refugee camps and food convoys, but not to see them there in an unlimited way. I've been knitting blankets and sending them out there because anything at all that will help those people in their suffering is worthwhile.

MARJORIE THOMPSON

Chairwoman of CND

I reluctantly support limited armed intervention by Western forces. CND's official policy will be formulated later this month, but my personal view is that we're heading towards Western intervention after the reports of these death camps, and I have to say I have some sympathy with that. Intervention should take place under the auspices of the UN and be limited to protecting aid convoys and the Red Cross. Organisations like the Italian Peace Association have given repeated warnings about the situation in the former Yugoslavia, but no one was listening. George Bush, in particular, has been too preoccupied sabre- rattling at Saddam Hussein.

SIR FITZROY MACLEAN

(served in Yugoslavia in Second World War)

I would favour using Western forces to keep a corridor open for humanitarian aid, but would advise extreme caution before going any further. It wouldn't be like the Falklands or the Gulf. The terrain is a paradise for guerrillas and the people there are the best guerrillas in the world. It would be an open-ended commitment which could go on for years and casualties would be heavy.

LORD HEALEY

Former Labour defence secretary

Careful thought would be necessary before military intervention, because of the high level of commitment which would be required. You have to bear in mind that it would require something like 100,000 troops to provide protection for a food corridor between the coast and Sarajevo.

I would favour sending a peacekeeping force immediately to areas under threat of Serbian attacks, such as Kosovo and Macedonia, as part of a strategy to prevent the scenes which are now being witnessed in Bosnia.

BERYL BAINBRIDGE

Novelist

I don't know what it's all about to be honest, what side are we supposed to be on - it's bananas. But whenever we send the military in and bomb the hell out of everyone, we only seem to make matters worse and cause so much suffering. If we sent in troops, the only way it could work would be if it was old-fashioned hand-to- hand fighting - we can forget using all that sophisticated weaponry and bombs, because we'd only hit civilians. We're just thumping a drum.

(Photographs omitted)

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