Letter: Bosnia: obstacles to peace, high price of 'appeasement', risks in air attack

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Sir: Although it may perhaps be difficult for many to do so, one has to look at the Bosnian question with realism and not emotion.

The seeds of the present conflict go back a long way and reflect the age-old division of the Eastern and Western churches, as well as the aftermath of the effects of the Ottoman Empire. History shows that there is no real prospect of Catholic and Orthodox Christians living at one with each other, let alone with Muslims also, unless there is some strong overriding unifying force such as was provided by Tito for many years.

The big mistake was for Yugoslavia to be broken up in the first place. Wholly Catholic Slovenia, supported by the Catholic government of Germany, did not present a great problem. However, in the case of Croatia there was an immediate clash between the Catholic Croats and the Orthodox Serbs, magnified by memories of the events there in the Second World War.

When it came to Bosnia, there was an instant and predictable three-way rivalry between the factions and, to put it frankly, in the way events have developed there is no way that peace there can ever be fully achieved unless the parties are separated. That is the rationale behind 'ethnic cleansing' which in reality is being practised by all sides, either by accident or design.

War is always ghastly, as I well know from my own experiences. But civil wars bring their own special difficulties, as all those who remember the Spanish Civil War in the Thirties will remember. In that war, there were ghastly events and pressures on governments to intervene. Germany and Italy actually did, leading to the infamous air strike on Guernica. Now some people are advocating air strikes on Bosnia.

Clearly we must not intervene in the present conflict. That in the longer term will solve nothing, given the circumstances. We must continue our efforts to bring peace, even if this means making concessions to the Serbs by setting up some form of federal Bosnia where each faction has its own land with its own people and its own autonomy.

The old Yugoslavia was a wonderful and beautiful country. We must not pursue policies that will allow what remains of it to be destroyed.

Yours faithfully,

SYDNEY F. ROBIN

London, W8

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