Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bosnia Arms Embargo Should Stay

The United States Senate has taken one step further in its grossly mistaken campaign to end the arms embargo against Bosnia's Moslems, effectively ordering President Bill Clinton to end the embargo unilaterally by Nov. 17 if the Bosnian Serbs do not accept the latest peace plan for the region.


The Senate has been crusading to arm Bosnia's outgunned Moslems for some time, so the greater shock Thursday was that Clinton too backed a measure to end the embargo, although in his case the deadline would expire a month earlier and involve an appeal to the United Nations rather than unilateral action.


Under fire for vacillation and accused of weakness on foreign policy matters, Clinton's action is understandable, but it is also wrong. Understood as part of the campaign to paint Clinton as a wimp, the Republican-led Senate vote is still more cynical and still more wrong


Ending the arms embargo is a bad idea, whichever way it is done. First, it would certainly escalate the war. Second, it would force the UN to withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Bosnia, because with their contributor nations arming the Moslems, the blue helmets could no longer claim neutrality. And finally, as the UN itself has pointed out, the Moslems would be the first losers, because it would take time for them to deploy a significant quantity of weapons, while the Serbs would be certain to strike quickly.


What the U.S. Senate should understand is that there are no cheap or easy solutions to this conflict. Lifting the arms embargo almost certainly would lead to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians -- most of them Moslem -- who would then be without even the tentative protection provided by the blue helmets.


To end the arms embargo unilaterally would be criminally reckless. Russia, however tired it may be of the Bosnian Serbs, almost certainly would arm the Serbs if the United States unilaterally began arming their Moslem opponents. Only three years after the Cold War seemed to have ended for good, the U.S. Senate would have begun another war by proxy between the two powers. It is hard to predict where this would lead.


But what is most infuriating about the Senate position is its hypocrisy. There are Russian, Ukrainian, French, British and many other nationalities of peacekeeper risking their lives on the ground in Bosnia. But no Americans are there to be placed in danger by the Senate's actions.


If the Senate really wants to rescue Bosnia's much-wronged Moslem population, it should propose sending the massive force of ground troops needed to stamp out the conflict. Otherwise it should butt out.