- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2011

There are lessons to be learned from the events that took place at Srebrenica in addition to the usually cited ones (“Mladic found after 16 years on the lam,” World, Friday).

For instance, then-United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali presciently warned the Security Council of the folly of designating a safe area without sending sufficient troops to demilitarize it. The Bosnian town of Srebrenica continued to be used as a springboard for Bosnian Muslim offensives. Appalling crimes were committed against civilians in surrounding Serbian villages. Not surprisingly, Srebrenica was anything but safe.

Srebrenica also was a victim of a trans-Atlantic dispute. Washington advocated airstrikes but vetoed the use of U.S. ground troops there. The Europeans were understandably reluctant to commit more ground troops; they argued that a policy of airstrikes imperiled vulnerable enclaves such as Srebrenica. The compromise was the despatch to Srebrenica of a token Dutch force, which became the prisoner of both the local Bosnian Muslim military and the surrounding Bosnian Serbian forces.

The events at Srebrenica also pose the question of why the Dayton Agreement wasn’t reached much earlier, even before the Bosnian wars broke out. There was, after all, the confederal-cantonal Cutileiro Plan, which was provisionally agreed to by Bosnia’s three ethnic leaders at negotiations hosted by the European Community in Lisbon in February 1992. The Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, who all along wanted a centrally governed Bosnia, flew back to Sarajevo and met the U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann.

Encouraged by Zimmermann, Izetbegovic disowned the plan. Some 3 1/2 years later, a muscularly interventionist Washington was congratulating itself for having engineered the confederal-cantonal Dayton Agreement.

YUGO KOVACH

Dorset, England