Sir: Since taking charge of the conflict in Bosnia, the five-power Contact Group has achieved a record of almost consistent failure. They have failed to reverse the foreign invasions of Bosnia; to support the preservation of a secular, multi-faith, pluralist democracy; to counter visible religious genocide, mass rapes and "ethnic cleansing"; or to permit the elected Bosnian government or others to take effective action themselves. Yet the limited UN operation in Bosnia has none the less managed to achieve important successes through its vital humanitarian relief work and crucial support for Muslim-Croat co-existence.
Repeatedly emboldened by a series of empty threats, ineffectual responses and talk of a UN withdrawal, the Bosnian Serbs of Radovan Karadjic's faction hope to manipulate UN policy in Bosnia by the most obvious and outrageous means in order to hasten the end of the UN's role. Under such circumstances, any talk of a British or French withdrawal or abandonment of beleaguered enclaves designated as UN "safe areas" provides further encouragement to the hostage-takers, betrays the sacrifices already made by those involved in the humanitarian effort, undermines the future of the UN's humanitarian role globally and questions the right of Britain and France to retain their permanent seats on the UN Security Council.
On the other hand, a carefully managed yet robust and consistent display of military superiority would have two effects. First, a more effective Unprofor would preserve the few but significant successes the UN has achieved in Bosnia.
Second, the crucial deterrence factor usually enjoyed by great military powers, but so transparently squandered, could be re-established, eventually obviating the need for repeated military action. Past events indicate that the Karadjic Serbs are to a great degree both opportunistic and logical: defiant so long as their defiance seems to pay off, much less so when confronted by strong, effective opposition. This may offend Russian sentiment regarding fellow Orthodox Slavs, but does anyone really believe that Russia is prepared seriously to defy almost the rest of the world in order to prevent the effective implementation of UN undertakings that it has already agreed to? Moreover, it may be useful to remind ourselves of where the sympathies of over 40 Muslim countries lie.
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