Letter: Why we should intervene in Bosnia

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is a civil war. No sensible country intervenes in civil wars. The conflict is going to escalate; no wise statesman tumbles into escalating conflicts. Intervention means heavy casualties; no commander sends his troops to certain death. It is a very complex situation; complex problems are not amenable to simple military solutions.

Discoursing on Bosnia-Herzegovina? Wrong. I was merely repeating the learned arguments, uttered during the Gulf crisis, by very wise men, urging inaction. Yet recent history proved every single argument of theirs wrong. Aggression was checked; Kuwait was liberated; the loss of life was minimal. In the almost universal euphoria, a new international order was ushered. Unlike the bad old order, the new one was supposed to be based on freedom, justice and human rights. Alas, the new is now turning to the tired cliches of the old.

Let us examine these cliches. To say that countries do not interfere in other countries' civil wars is a most blatant and obscene fallacy. Every single civil war in history invited foreign intervention, which duly arrived. Could Franco have won without Hitler's active intervention? Was the Lebanese civil war purely Lebanese? And why did everybody cheer at American intervention in Somalia's civil war?

The escalation scare is another red herring. Escalation occurs when intervention is undertaken with limited power and unlimited objectives. It never happens when the reverse is true. It takes a very nave person to imagine the Bosnian Serbs escalating a conflict against the whole world. The question of casualties is closely related. Send 30,000 troops to fight 80,000 and there are bound to be heavy losses. Send 400,000 supported by 2,000 planes and there will be hardly any casualties. I will go even further and say there will be no war.

The complex-situation excuse is too silly to require close scrutiny. I would like to know of a single conflict, be it between individuals, races, religions or countries, that is not complicated. Otherwise, it would not have reached the proportions of a confict. No problem is thornier than the Irish problem and, to the best of my knowledge, nobody suggests leaving them to stew in their own historical complications.

Today's minor irritation often turns into tomorrow's grave threat. Through the Thirties, many great minds in Britain believed that 'Uncle Adolph' was a sweet vegetarian. Later, 'Uncle Joe' was the devil everybody knew and loved. We in the Gulf convinced ourselves that 'Uncle Saddam' was more delicious than 'Uncle Ben'.

As someone who closely followed the Gulf crisis, I can state confidently that we now live in a better world only because the appeasers were ignored. As one observer of the unfolding crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I can claim, with equal confidence, that failure to come up with a Gulf-crisis-type determined, international effort will be a tragic setback of historic proportions. Inaction will not result in peace. It will end up in a truly global conflagration: a free-for-all nightmare.

Yours,

GHAZI A. ALGOSAIBI

Ambassador

Saudi Arabian Embassy

London, W1

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