Letter: Force or peaceful pressure in Bosnia

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your reports of what is taking place in Bosnia are enough to turn the stomachs of even your most hardened readers. Baroness Thatcher, Paddy Ashdown and others have accused the British government of inaction and demanded a higher British profile, and, in the case of Lady Thatcher, air strikes to shake the Serbs. The Government appears to continue to resist the demand to become more involved, and to have dragged its feet over agreement with the other two Western permanent members of the UN Security Council at least to allow the use of force to protect humanitarian convoys.

This is not a time for dragging our feet. Scenes of horror confront us daily. We could act to alleviate the worst of the suffering, even though we know the consequences of our actions may be uncomfortable. If we go for air strikes, then at least the Serbs will be shaken by Western anger, some arms caches will be destroyed, and it may be possible to create safe havens within Bosnia. There may well be civilian casualties on a large scale, and particularly the use of Bosnian prisoners to surround arms stores, as well as our own potential losses. If we do not go for air strikes, as part of an international attempt to lower the intensity of the conflict, to force negotiations and prove to the Serbs that they cannot win, then any justification for us retaining our military forces, and for having a UN Security Council at all, falls by the wayside.

Sadly, we can never stop people killing each other. All we can do is curb the excesses, on humanitarian grounds. The present Serbian policy of 'ethnic cleansing' is such an excess, and it ill becomes us to stand idly by, wringing our hands. The tough part of this is not whether we should go in, but when and how. If we fought in the Falklands and the Gulf, we have no excuse for not getting involved now. That means the loss of some of our men, and the expenditure of huge sums of money on military strength. Those are the hard bullets to bite on - not whether we have a role in Bosnia at all.

Yours sincerely,


London, SW4

10 August