SECRETARY of State Warren Christopher last month announced a six-point United States initiative to try to end the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Notwithstanding the ups and downs of more-recent events in Bosnia, this plan is an important development. It directly engages the US for the first time in multilateral peace efforts to end the 11-month-old war. More important, by committing US resources, including military power, to international enforcement of a peace accord, the initiative increases the likelihood
that a workable peace settlement will emerge.
In working out a plan, military measures, including direct intervention or lifting the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims, were considered and rejected. Such measures were deemed likely to undermine negotiations, endanger UN peacekeepers, and interrupt already inadequate humanitarian deliveries. The administration decided that only negotiations could end the war, and that an imposed peace could not be enforced.
The US has an urgent humanitarian interest in ending this vicious war. We cannot ignore the immense human suffering - tens of thousands dead, more than 2 million displaced (many by the brutal policy of ethnic cleansing), and widespread rape, torture, detention, and executions. As the Clinton administration's air drops of food and medicine showed, a determined effort must be made to improve the flow of humanitarian aid.
The US has a stake in preventing the spread of conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Serb attacks against the 90 percent Albanian majority in Kosovo province, or violence in Macedonia, could ignite a new Balkan war involving Albania, Bulgaria, and NATO allies Greece and Turkey. The White House has repeated George Bush's warning that the US will respond, militarily if necessary, to Serbian expansion of the conflict. Beyond these concerns, the response of the international community to the violence in Bosnia will set an important precedent for containing ethnic conflict elsewhere.