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    What are the prospects for the American-brokered peace settlement in the former Yugoslavia?

    The three warring groups in Bosnia apparently have agreed, under a good deal of pressure from the United States, on the structure of a government for a unified Bosnia. While this is a welcome step, it is hard to be very sanguine about the prospects for a settlement that achieves peace and stability in that beleaguered republic. The odds of achieving a functioning demo-cratic government appear even longer. A sober assessment of the prospects would have to include the following points:

    • The agreement has not even achieved a cease-fire, much less a permanent end to a conflict whose casualties already number well into the six figures.
    • Losses inflicted by NATO air power and Croatian ground forces have apparently led the Bosnian Serbs to conclude that their most expansive goals cannot be achieved, at least for the present. One would have to be very optimistic to believe, however, that either recent Serb losses or Croat gains have permanently given rise to a belief among leaders of these factions that they can better achieve their goals by ballots rather than bullets, or that the bloody conflict has strengthened moderates and weakened radicals in Bosnia.
    • The goal of a unified state encompassing Bosnian Serbs, Croats, and Muslims, even if marked by a high degree of decentralization, seems very optimistic. In light of the savage slaughter that has marked the conflict, will any of the parties trust the others? Although the Serbs apparently have been most guilty of the recent atrocities, the Croats have also engaged in "ethnic cleansing" in the Krajina regions. Moreover, as a German puppet regime during World War II, Croatia slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Serbs. The Serbs have neither forgotten nor forgiven these events; are the victims of recent Serbian atrocities more likely to turn the other cheek?
    • In its prospects for a peaceful unified state, Bosnia seems to be more like Lebanon, where internal groups have engaged in two decades of civil war, than like Switzerland, where three national groups have long lived in peace. The semi-permanent presence of external military forces, including American troops, will probably be necessary to maintain a unified Bosnia. As soon as such forces are withdrawn, as eventually they must be, what then? Recall from our own history that the end of Reconstruction after the Civil War hardly ushered in an era of peaceful racial relations in the South. Moreover, what is to keep Croatia and Serbia from cynically dividing Bosnia between them? This is precisely the outcome forecast by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman as recently as May 1995.
    • Even if the U.S. and other external powers were to change current policy in favor a permanent division of Bosnia--along the lines of the peaceful divorces of Sweden and Norway in 1905 or the Czech and Slovak republics in 1993--that would probably also result ultimately in the creation of a greater Croatia and a greater Serbia. Even if those two countries were to leave the remainder of Bosnia to the Muslims, would that be a viable country?
    • As if these problems were not daunting enough, coming elections in the United States and Russia may create further ones. Will Senator Robert Dole attempt to throw monkey wrenches into any settlement that might enhance President Clinton's chances for re-election? Will Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Jesse Helms enlarge his wrecking operations on U.S. foreign policy to include any Bosnia undertaking if he does not get his way on State Department reorganization? Will President Clinton flinch at meeting U.S. commitments if public opinion turns strongly against any deployment of American troops? Will the Russian government, under tremendous pressure from nationalists who want Moscow to be an assertive champion of Serbian ambitions, be willing to accept a settlement in which it would play a secondary role, or which Serb extremists brand as a sell-out?
    Civil wars are often among the most savage form of human conflict, and they usually leave long-lasting residues of hatred. Unfortunately, these generalizations apply to the Bosnia conflict--in spades.

    Ole Holsti,
    political science professor

Heard Around Campus

    "We have done so little to change society that we do not know how to do it. As feminists and women become stronger, backlash becomes more obvious."

    Ann Simonton,
    former model turned women's activist,
    speaking in Page Auditorium on "Sex, Power, and the Media"

    "The people of Durham are more willing to challenge the status quo. People from all sides of the political fences are trying to work with each other about issues. Durham's people are spunky and I don't believe they should apologize for this."

    Durham City Council member Virginia Englehard,
    responding to GQ magazine's unfavorable comments about Durham

Reading List

    What book would you most like to receive as a holiday gift?

    Judith Ruderman, vice provost for academic services, wants "a book about great operas." The former director of Duke's Office of Continuing Education is taking singing lessons. "My teacher is talking about a recital and I need to know more about what I am singing," she says.

    John A. Orr, a yoga instructor in the health, physical education, and recreation department, would like Jack Kornfield's A Path With Heart, a book "about the promises and perils of the spiritual path--a wonderful guide to inner growth."

    Eric Freedman, a visiting professor in the Film and Video Program, thought a subscription to TV Guide would be a nice gift because it's "a good time-saving device."

    English professor Kenny J. Williams thought that the Bible is a good gift because "in the Old and New Testaments, you have all the literary genres presented--fiction, essays, poems. You can satisfy all literary moods."

compiled by Barbara Kohler '96
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