LAST week in this space we called the jailing of the Monitor's East European correspondent, David Rohde, a ''Test Case for Clinton.'' The response to that test can only be described as remarkable.
Our logic (shared by congressional leaders): If the president wants to convince a reluctant Congress and public that his administration would go to bat in future for any detained US soldier in a Bosnia peace force, it could start by showing it would go to bat now for an illegally detained American reporter. Particularly since that reporter had risked his life to gather evidence of war atrocities of the gravest kind seen in Europe in half a century.
The administration passed that test dramatically. Secretary of State Warren Christopher sent a blunt letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic (in Ohio for the Balkan peace negotiations) implying that the Bosnian Serbs' kangaroo-court conviction and jailing of Rohde was threatening the peace talks. John Menzies, US Ambassador to Bosnia, helped draft that letter and craft policy with a clear understanding of the relationship between this individual case and the larger peace effort. American mediator Richard Holbrooke daily told Serbian leaders they were being held personally responsible for Rohde's safety.
WE thank these senior diplomats. And we thank all the other US diplomats and political leaders who played a role. Among the latter were Senate majority leader Bob Dole and several New Hampshire and Massachusetts members of both houses of Congress.
Many figures in the international community also deserve our heartfelt thanks: UN officials in the Balkans, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Committee to Protect Journalists. And then there are the dedicated individual journalists - both David's colleagues and such higher-profile media presences as Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, and David Frost's office. Among Rohde's battle-front compatriots were his New York Times colleague, Kit Roane, and Samantha Powers, author of a moving column in the Washington Post.
It may seem redundant to thank the members of David Rohde's family for their aid. After all, Americans have witnessed a long stream of parents, brothers, and sisters carrying on selfless campaigns for the release of hostages who were pawns of the cold war or Middle East struggles.
BUT David's family were demonstrably instrumental in winning his release. By accompanying Monitor editors to Ohio, they became a living reminder to both American mediators and Serbian delegates. A letter from David's father provided the humanitarian ''out'' that Bosnian Serb ''president'' Radovan Karadzic used for pardoning the jailed reporter after Milosevic had forced his hand by sending a rescue party across the border to Rohde's jail. Doubts are often raised about American family cohesiveness. The Rohdes' instant willingness to encamp to Dayton and Sarajevo provides a vivid response.
All of us in David Rohde's professional family have been moved by the genuine personal concern shown by so many supposedly brusquely professional people engaged in the hard business of war and peace. But, after all, diplomacy, peace talks, UN observers, and war-crimes tribunals are not bureaucratic abstractions.
Each, at its core, is dedicated to protect the lives and rights of individual human beings. So is David Rohde's reporting. The outpouring of assistance detailed here was, in that sense, help for a colleague in the struggle for a better world.
Secretary of State Christopher sent a blunt letter to Milosevic implying that the jailing of Rohde threatened the peace talks.