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West Won't Cry for Krajina

Having for so long with so little effect bewailed Bosnia, should we now cry for Krajina?

Conventional humanitarian reflex would say yes. Another ethnic cleansing, potentially another 200,000 refugees, another nightmare for relief agencies, another triumph of force over diplomacy, another blow to any remaining sense of peaceful international order.

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But the international community, at least the Western part of that community, seems secretly to welcome the Croatian blitzkrieg against the Krajina Serbian pocket. It is not only that for once the Serbian ethnic cleansers have gotten their ethnic cleansing comeuppance. It is that the Croats, in alliance with the Bosnian Muslims, may have managed to draw the map that four years of diplomacy was unable to draw. The Croatian offensive may also have dissipated Serbian triumphalism and thus helped to establish a balance of forces more conducive to peace.

The dust has not yet settled over this latest explosion. The humiliated Bosnian Serbs are in a state of internal crisis, the military blamed for defeat and talking of a coup against their civilian leader, Radovan Karadzic. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, content so far to stand on the sidelines while dreams of a greater Serbia have evaporated, appears to feel obliged to deploy his army in some show of force. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, his Serbian blood brothers in dire straits, feels obliged to launch diplomatic initiatives and, for the first time, to talk of the possibility of a peace imposed by outside force.

But when the dust has settled, it may be, or so the Clinton administration believes, that peace can be plucked from this nettle of conquest. As Secretary of State Warren Christopher puts it in diplomatspeak, "Maybe these circumstances, tragic as they are, will provide a new basis for a diplomatic settlement." Or as President Clinton put it in an interview with National Public Radio, "I'm hopeful that this will turn out to be something that will give us an avenue to a quicker diplomatic resolution and not a road to a longer war."

That may sound like an abdication of diplomacy to the law of the jungle, but the administration takes the tragedy of former Yugoslavia one day at a time, and the truth is that somebody may cry for Krajina, but not the leaders of the West.

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