What do you want done about Bosnia?

Click to follow
THE SUMMER of 1991 saw the outbreak of the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession, Europe's bloodiest conflicts since 1945, writes Tony Barber, our East Europe editor. Thirty-four months later, the Muslim enclave of Gorazde has fallen, and a comprehensive settlement of the wars in Croatia and, particularly, Bosnia-Herzegovina continues to elude the United Nations and the Western world.

Broadly speaking, the West now faces three options: to pull out of the former Yugoslavia; to take the war to the Serbs; or to maintain a UN presence while searching for a negotiated peace.

1. Pull out

THE UN could declare its peacekeeping and humanitarian aid mandates impossible to fulfil under present conditions. It could remove its troops from Bosnia, and even from Croatia and Macedonia as well.

Those in favour argue that the UN has become embroiled in a civil war whose combatants should be left to fight it out. They say there is no point in British and other UN soldiers dying for an unclear purpose. They say the UN presence has prolonged the Bosnian war, as both the Serbs and Muslims are using the UN as cover to pursue their war goals. Some say the UN could pull out, but simultaneously lift the arms embargo on the Muslim-led Bosnian government.

Those against a UN withdrawal contend that it would set the seal on Serbian territorial conquests and forced expulsions of civilians from their native areas. They say the war in Croatia could flare up again and that fighting could spread to Macedonia and Kosovo. They say the UN can still perform a useful humanitarian role for millions of beleaguered civilians.

2. Take on the Serbs

THE UN could ask Nato for more air strikes against Bosnian Serb targets and perhaps increase its ground force presence. It would take sides in the war on the grounds that the Serbs are the main guilty party.

Those in favour argue that to permit Serbian war gains is to send a dangerous signal that the use of force can bring territorial rewards. They say the UN will lose all credibility unless it enforces its own resolutions, such as those protecting Muslim 'safe areas'. They say the Serbs' military prowess is exaggerated and their conquests could be fairly easily reversed.

Those against contend that it would be madness for the West to plunge into the war when in almost three years it has consistently failed to define its political objectives for the Balkans. They say there is no collective will for large-scale intervention and the West would probably be entangled in the area until into the next century. They say Russia would turn hostile and the West would lose the chance of stabilising the new democracies of Central Europe.

3. Stay in and seek peace

UN TROOPS could remain in Bosnia, limiting themselves to aid work, patrolling ceasefires as they are agreed and remaining neutral between the combatants. The UN would work with the European Union, the US and Russia to negotiate a general peace.

Those in favour say that, whatever the setbacks, the UN has done a good job in areas such as the Sarajevo airlift and the delivery of aid to Tuzla and central Bosnia. They believe the priority now is for the outside world to present a united policy to the Muslims and Serbs so that neither has an incentive to scupper peace talks; that a UN withdrawal and an escalation of the war carry too many dangers; and that ultimately a UN-sponsored settlement is the only way forward.

Those against say that the fatal flaw in the current operation is its ambivalence: the UN is mandated to keep a peace that does not exist. They say there is no point in continuing with the 'muddle-through' policy because the Muslims regard the UN as an appeaser, and the Serbs regard it as an enemy.

The huge response we received to our Save Sarajevo appeal showed that you, our readers, wanted your voices to be heard. Once again, we urge you to tell us - and the politicians - what you would do in Bosnia. Please write to: Options for Bosnia, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB (fax: 071-962 0017), or, if you prefer, you can vote for one of the three options by telephoning 071-415 2211 and leaving your message on the answerphone.