Two years ago, when there were reports that a Bosnian Muslim in a Serb concentration camp had been forced to bite off his father's testicles, it was comforting to recall the European tradition of fabricated atrocity stories - German soldiers amputating the hands of Belgian nurses in 1914, and so on. Today, with abundant evidence of rape used as a weapon of war, of Muslims' eyes gouged out and ears and noses sliced off by Serbian "soldiers" (it is disgusting to give that honorable title to snipers killing Sarajevo children), with convincing testimony about heads on stakes and a woman forced to drink blood from her son's slit throat, it is reasonable to suspend disbelief concerning all reports about the cowardly mob called the Bosnian Serb "army," which is a proxy for war criminals in Belgrade.
The Serbs' flaunting of their terror tactics reveals their largest advantage in this war to extinguish the Bosnian nation, this war in which, as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan says, "a new kind of war correspondent emerged, reporting massacres rather than battles." The largest advantage is not the mountainous terrain and the fogs that often shroud it, making Bosnia so forbidding to military leaders contemplating intervention. Rather, the Serbs' largest advantage is their realistic contempt for the West.The West - what exactly does that noun now denote, given the non-response to genocidal aggression? - almost preens about having become too exquisitely sensitive to use force against barbarism.
The U.S. military, which purports to be competent to cope with two regional conflicts simultaneously, has an annual budget more than 20 times larger than Serbia's GNP. Before U.S. military leaders tell civilian officials what so many of those officials want to hear - that U.S. force cannot be effectively used to change Serbia's behavior - they should ponder some recent words of Newt Gingrich: "You do not need today's defense budget to defend the United States. You need today's defense budget to lead the world. If you are prepared to give up leading the world, we can have a much smaller defense system."
The White House warns that NATO military action might "reignite the war" - how does one reignite a conflagration? - and jeopardize the cruelly misnamed "safe areas."
Especially scathing criticism of the president is coming from The New Republic, which would like to like him. In the current issue Zbigniew Brzezinski, the last national security adviser to a Democratic president, offers a presidential speech that could be given "if the post of Leader of the Free World were not currently vacant."
Strong words, but strong feelings are appropriate. Speaking of the Serbs who sacked the Srebrenica "safe area," a survivor said, "They hunted us like rabbits." Reread the first paragraph of this piece. No one treats rabbits that way.