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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Once More, Croats Opt For Warfare

The fact that the latest bloodletting in Croatia should have come only days after ceremonies to pay respect to the hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Gypsies and other minorities killed by the Ustasha fascist regime at Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia during World War II is a grim reminder of the bitterness at the heart of the current conflict.

The notion of the two sides simply setting aside their differences and learning to live together seems less attainable every day. Even young people, born long after the war, who until recently regarded themselves first of all as Yugoslavs, rather than Serbs or Croats, have now become fiercely nationalistic and as divided as their parents -- including those children of mixed marriages, who now have to decide where their loyalties lie. Each side is equally intransigent, equally determined to throw itself into a spiralling conflict in which the winner takes all.

The international community -- Western Europe in particular -- must carry considerable blame for allowing this to happen. The rapid descent of Croatia and Bosnia into war was largely the result of the premature recognition of these two states, each with a nationalist-minded government caring little for the rights of minorities.

But while it is proper to castigate the international community, both for failing to take any action to prevent the war and for its feeble response to it over the last four years, this does not absolve the war parties themselves of the main responsibility or relieve them of their obligation to find a way out.

As all sides must know in their hearts, only they can provide a way to peace. Ethnic cleansing is not the answer. The Serb, Croat and Bosnian Moslem communities are far too closely interwoven and economically interdependent to survive in complete isolation from each other. Eventually, everyone will have to settle for compromise. While no one would envy the prospects of Serbs living under the regime of President Franjo Tudjman, their plight cannot be said to be any worse than Croats under Slobodan Milosevic or Moslems dependent on the goodwill of Radovan Karadzic.

The Croat operation to restore government control over a Serb-dominated enclave in western Slavonia has caused a new wave of refugees and further suffering to civilians. But in terms of realpolitik, it was always going to happen, as soon as Croatia felt strong enough to carry out the military operation with impunity.

And just as inevitably, the same fate awaits other Serb-controlled areas of Croatia. So far the Croatian Serb response has been to strike back at Zagreb with rockets. But their cause would be far better served through efforts to secure the best deal they can get, before it is too late.