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The Bosnian-Serb Problem: What We Should and Should Not Do

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Journal article

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The urge of many persons of good will, hawks and doves alike, to curb Serbian expansionism and atrocities is praiseworthy but often poorly informed. Direct military intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, lacks clear political aims and ignores the complexities of terrain and regional tensions. Quite conceivably, even the most well-intentioned military action could make things worse in Bosnia. What starts as protection for food convoys would quickly escalate to de facto engagement on the side of Bosnian independence, a cause that historically has never been a US national interest. The terrain is among the most rugged in Europe. Titos Partisans kept several German divisions busy for years in those same mountains the Germans never caught Tito, and the Partisans emerged at the end of the war as the strongest force in Yugoslavia. Air strikes would not easily locate the Serbian artillery tucked away in the folds and woods. The US Air Force may have done too good a publicity job in Desert Storm, making it look easy to destroy targets with pinpoint accuracy. But targeted buildings dont move Serbian howitzers and mortars do. The US Army has radar-controlled counter-battery artillery that can quickly trace the trajectory of incoming shells and silence the guns that fired them. But these units have to be on the ground, and getting them, say, to Sarajevo in Bosnia and sustaining them there would be difficult. Control of highways from the coast could require tens of thousands of troops who would come under attack from Serbian forces. Chasing them through the mountains would quickly turn a limited involvement into an unlimited one. Even if we lifted the siege of Sarajevo by military intervention, little benefit would result. There are a hundred other towns the Serbian nationalists have marked for takeover. Would we defend everyone of them

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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