It is as if the Nuremberg tribunal after
World War II had found a German soldier guilty of war crimes while the
Nazi leaders who directed the Holocaust went free -- and continued to control
half of Germany.
That, by analogy, is the case of Dusan Tadic,
convicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
for what he did as a paramilitary in the
Serbian onslaught in Bosnia. It was the first trial of its
kind since Nuremberg, a historic step toward
holding war criminals accountable for their atrocities. But the surrounding
realities gave it a bitter aftertaste.
The Yugoslav tribunal has indicted
74 men, most of them Serbs, but only 8 are in custody. Authorities
in Serbia and the Serbian sector of Bosnia have refused to hand over suspects.
And the NATO allies with military forces in Bosnia have so far done nothing
to bring them to book.
The most important indictees are Radovan
Karadzic, who as political leader of the Bosnian Serbs directed their genocidal
campaign of "ethnic cleansing," and Gen. Ratko Mladic, who as military
commander carried it out. Both are at large in Republika Srpska, the Serbian
half of Bosnia.
The failure to arrest Dr. Karadzic and General
Mladic is not only a moral blot and a crippling blow to the credibility
of the war crimes tribunal. It is a failure with menacing consequences
for the United States and its allies. It puts into question their ability
to withdraw forces from Bosnia with any confidence in continued peace.
Dr. Karadzic, though barred from office
under the Dayton peace accords, is running Republika Srpska from behind
the scenes: not far behind, indeed, because his hand has become increasingly
obvious in recent months. He is blocking efforts to carry out the civilian
clauses of the Dayton accords, which were designed to knit Bosnia back
Thus only about 250,000 of the estimated
2.5 million displaced Bosnians have been able to return to their homes,
a right assured by Dayton. Republika Srpska has signed a customs agreement
with Serbia, in violation of Dayton. It has a separate telephone system
that makes it hard to talk to the rest of Bosnia. The International Crisis
Group, a well-informed private organization, concluded last month that
"prospects look bleak for Bosnia staying together."
The Clinton Administration has promised
to withdraw by mid-1998 the 8,600 U.S. troops that are part of the Stabilization
Force in Bosnia. European countries will not keep their troops there without
But if international forces leave before
there is real implementation of Dayton's political provisions, most experts
think bloody fighting will break out again. That would be a disaster for
the reputation of the United States and its allies. At the very moment
that we are trying to enlarge NATO, it will have failed a crucial test.
If we want to avoid that result, we have
to be serious about implementing Dayton. Arrest of the major war criminals
The elected President of Republika Srpska,
Biljana Plavsic, has actually shown a desire to work broadly within Dayton;
but she has been overridden by Dr. Karadzic and his men. A Clinton Administration
official put it bluntly: "Apart from justice and morality, the presence
of Karadzic is a menace to Dayton."
The Administration has talked about forming
a special police unit to arrest war criminals. Where that stands is uncertain,
but a policy review is going on now.
Anyone who does not know why we should care
about Bosnia -- and why we need to bring accused war criminals before the
tribunal -- should read a new book. It is "End Game," by David Rohde, who
reported in The Christian Science Monitor on finding mass graves of the
Muslims slaughtered by General Mladic and his men after they seized the
supposed U.N. safe area of Srebrenica in June 1995.
"End Game" tells the shameful story of how
United Nations representatives and military commanders slithered out of
the pledge to protect Srebrenica. It tells about Gen. Bernard Janvier and
Yasushi Akashi, the chief U.N. representative, meeting President Slobodan
Milosevic at a hunting lodge of his a month after the Srebrenica massacre.
When Mr. Milosevic said no hunting was allowed near the lodge, Mr. Akashi
joked, "a safe area for animals." Everyone laughed.