LETTER : Carrying the can for US in Bosnia

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The Independent Online
Sir: Do you remember how the Americans went into Vietnam to rescue the good from the bad, to stop the fighting, to prevent invaders pouring over the dividing line of a divided country, and to keep the Russians and Chinese out?

And the installing and unseating of local rulers, and the elections which never carried conviction, and the deadlines that kept going by, and the appallingly bad military intelligence? And the faith that a piece of paper would keep everyone safe at the end, when the last Americans had been helicoptered off the roof of the embassy, leaving their friends staring disconsolately up?

Bosnia is beginning to look like a more complicated re-run. Not one boundary, but many; not one or two local rulers, but dozens, and a shared language and history with but a single thought: to get back to the fighting again. But this time the departing American force will leave the rest of us - British, French, Italian, Russian - carrying a can with an American name on it: Dayton. The Bosnian Serbs did not really accept Dayton at the time, where they were steamrollered. And they don't accept it now. And they are the largest group.

However, they are no longer the best armed. That is the Muslims: Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states will be left as their lifeline, paying for more and more American weapons to ensure they "keep up with the Serbs". They will presumably still have with them the American firm of mercenaries which has been arming and training them against the Christians.


(Lord Kennet)

House of Lords

London SW1