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Letter: Uses of bombs in Bosnia

Sir: In these heart-rending days, the immediate and most important criticism of the Bishop of Barking's otherwise laudable pronouncement (leading article, 9 August) is not so much that he was in principle possibly wrong to specify military means, but that he specified the wrong ones.

The spasmodic and all-too-often futile consideration by governments of military intervention in Bosnia has been (so far as one can make out) constantly distorted by false definitions of the objective. The objective should surely be to use air power in support of ground troops protecting humanitarian convoys and determined to force them through - and also, of course, as necessary, to protect aircraft carrying humanitarian aid. It should not be to 'bomb the Serbs', or to intervene directly in the fighting except for the specific purpose of seeking to assume the safe passage of humanitarian aid.

This objective would have been easier to achieve if it had been recognised 15 months ago. As I said in a despairing letter in May, it may be too late - too late, that is, to provide protection for humanitarian aid without at the same time becoming involved in fighting that is not so directly relevant to that purpose. But we ought at least to try - and to be clear that in so doing we were not being driven by gut feelings that might in some quarters be relieved by simply taking air action against prominent targets.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW1

9 August