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The Bosnian imperative: an open letter to Bill Clinton.

Dear President Clinton:

The international community finds itself in growing disarray over the violent dismantling of Bosnia-Herzegovinia and the prospect of a wider Balkans conflagration. You have ruled out committing U.S. ground troops unless all contenders agree to the Vance-Owen peace plan. Unfortunately, it appears that the Bosnian Serb leadership was emboldened by your decision, which signaled to them that the outside world would continue to stand by in the face of genocide. But while responding to the challenge of humanitarian intervention can be postponed, it cannot be avoided forever.

The United States cannot, and should not, be the world's policeman. Only the United Nations, representing the collective will of humanity, carries the legitimacy necessary for intervention. But one thing the United States can do is to help create a Volunteer Peacekeeping Corps, staffed by individual volunteers from the armed forces as well as by civilians, to serve under U.N. supervision. These individuals would be trained in the unique skills demanded by peacekeeping - including mediating conflicts, monitoring borders, setting up protected zones, and supervising the disarming of antagonists. This is, in fact, what the Scandinavian countries have been doing with great success since 1964, when they began setting up a joint system to prepare volunteers - currently about 4 percent of their total armed forces - for U.N. Peacekeeping service.

This would be a significant first step toward transforming the United Nations from a peacekeeper of last resort to a peacemaker of first, and routine, recourse. It could be accomplished by taking five long-overdue steps:

* Establish a U.N. early-warning office that continuously monitors potential troublespots around the world, alerting the Security Council to any impending threats;

* Set up permanent conflict resolution committees in each region of the world to defuse tensions before violence erupts;

* Deploy peacekeepers pro-actively to prevent aggression;

* Create a two-tiered U.N. peace force consisting of a permanent, individually-recruited, non-combat force as well as a specially trained backup army comprised of national troop contingents and made available to the Security Council on short notice.

Bosnia has caught the world unprepared for the challenges of the post-Cold War era. If we want to be more than helpless spectators to a flood of future Bosnias, we need to equip the United Nations now to become an effective peacemaker on every continent.
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Author:Renner, Michael
Publication:World Watch
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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