Europeans find it darkly ironic that Americans never sent troops to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Bosnia but will risk their lives to help evacuate it.

President Clinton has offered 25,000 GIs - more than half the 40,000 combat troops that NATO military commanders believe would be required to safeguard the extraction of the 23,000 lightly armed U.N. peacekeepers.Given Bosnia's sorry record of broken cease-fires, the three warring parties - Serbs, Croats and Muslims - cannot be expected to honor any promises they might make to allow a risk-free with-drawal.

NATO's worst nightmare is a long, lingering evacuation, requiring alliance members to pour in ever increasing numbers of reinforcements - with a corresponding rise in casualties - every time fighting flares.

-Holger Jensen

Scripps Howard News Service