Pretence of peace that prolongs the war

Arms and ammunition for the Bosnians: that would be a solution, says David Howell

Share
Related Topics
Does it still make sense to talk about "options" in Bosnia, or have events taken over completely and imposed their own hideous logic? The Lancaster House conference today will need to summon up Herculean reserves of resource and energy if a new strategy, however modest, is to be created.

For a start, the bickering between allies over what is to be done immediately to staunch the bleeding on the military front will have to be replaced by a consensus - of which so far there has been little sign.

Beyond that, scales will have to fall from eyes as to the limits of what is possible for the UN forces. Above all, new insights will have to be developed out of the past muddle about the role of the Bosnian presidency army - so far deliberately handicapped in its task of defending the Bosnians (wrongly labelled Muslims) by Western policy.

Even to list these challenges is to demonstrate how tall an order this is. Yet one has to live in hope. Supposing, by a great leap of faith, that the policy-makers do at last begin to get their act together, what would be the main components of a workable fresh approach to the worsening crisis?

First, and immediately, the military position must somehow be stabilised, More bluntly, Gorazde must not become the soft touch for the Bosnian Serbs which Srebrenica and now Zepa have proved so fatally to be. A sufficient reinforcement must be put into the enclave at least to prevent another humiliating and tragic walk-over.

It would not, of course, be a long-term solution to anything, but at least it would provide a breathing space while the second and third phases of a new policy are put in place. At least it would allow the UN soldiers to withdraw - in due course - with dignity.

That second part should be to revise the role of the UN in the area. Some people persist in talking as though the choice for the UN were all or nothing. This is nonsense. As in other parts of the world the civilian agencies of the UN can play a vital humanitarian role even while fighting is going on. And blue-helmet troops can do a valuable job in seeing their convoys through and brokering local ceasefires - as British and other UN soldiers are doing at this moment in Central Bosnia.

The third part is the most controversial. It is to start on a programme of building up the strength of the Bosnian presidency forces by giving them the same access to arms to defend themselves as their enemies possess in abundance.

This need not start with the tanks and artillery they desperately need, although that will have to come. Even more desperate is the need for simple ammunition and for trucks to move their forces around.

Once this process of reinforcement started the UN could begin planning an orderly and dignified withdrawal from its near-impossible role of maintaining the unsafe "safe havens" and concentrate on much more limited but very worthwhile humanitarian work.

Meanwhile, a reinvigorated Bosnian army could try its own hand at keeping the remaining eastern enclaves. If it failed in due course with the more isolated enclaves, that is no more than what is going to happen anyway if policy is unchanged.

But with Sarajevo the Bosnian army cannot be allowed to fail. The strangulation of Sarajevo just must be prevented - as it certainly could be by presidency troops with heavy arms and with a helping hand from Nato air support.

Faced with real opposition the Bosnian Serbs would encounter the conditions which so far they have never had to face - conditions in which they would know from the outset that they would get as much as they gave in terms of casualties and lost ground.

That is the one way first to a ceasefire, then to talks and then at last to negotiations about who holds what part of the hapless Bosnian nation. It is a path that should have been followed long ago.

Out of war will come peace. Out of pretending there is a peace to keep will only come prolonged killing, brutality and war.

That is not foretelling the future. It is describing the present. This day the policy must be changed, or many, many more will die.

The writer is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and Conservative MP for Guildford.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

Recruitment Genius: Healthcare Assistant

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of care services is looking for...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Administrator

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Purpose of Role: To co-ordinate maintena...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - Commercial Training

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The business development manage...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne walks down the stairs from a submarine during a visit to the Royal Navy's submarine base at Faslane on August 31, 2015 in Faslane Scotland  

Sorry George Osborne, but it's Trident that makes us less safe, not Jeremy Corbyn

Kate Hudson
Fighters from Isis parading in Raqqa, northern Syria, where the ‘Islamic State’ has its capital; Iranian-backed Shia militia are already fighting the group on the ground in Iran  

Heartlessness towards refugees is the lifeblood of jihadist groups like Isis

Charlie Winter
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent