The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 25.0°F | Overcast

Neutrality is not the answer for a unified Europe

I was gnawing at a flame-broiled hockey-puck-on-a-bun from Networks a few days ago when my thoughts once again turned to Yugoslavia. For months, the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavian federal government has been engaged in a civil war with the breakaway republic of Croatia. All efforts toward a cease-fire have failed, and, until yesterday, it seemed that the war would continue until either side ran out of bullets.

You can imagine my delight when I read in the paper that the Netherlands had suggested that the nations of the Euro

pean Community deploy a "lightly armed force" of peacekeepers in Yugoslavia to scare the Yugoslavians into stopping their civil war. The troops wouldn't actually fight, only hang around in annoying places and discourage trouble.

The plan seems nice enough, and I don't think this is some kind of military power play on the part of the Netherlands. The Netherlands hasn't had a naughty thought in its flat, wet, mind in a millennium. In fact, the troops would only enter Yugoslavia if the Yugoslavian federal government and six republics agreed -- then again, if the EC could get them to agree on anything the EC wouldn't have to send the troops in the first place.

Not that there aren't hidden motives for the deployment of a peacekeeping force -- the EC has been waiting for years to prove that it can act in security matters without American-dominated NATO. The EC's non-military peace initiatives in Yugoslavia earlier this year went nowhere, and the EC countries are hoping that they can make a dent somewhere somehow.

Sure, peacekeeping is a great idea, and real nice, too. But how exactly will lightly armed soldiers make a show of force big enough to make the Serbs and Croats stop, exchange flowers, and reflect on their collective global oneness? But alas, here's a few more reasons why the EC should stop and think before it sends Rolf or Pierre anywhere:

1/3 No one wants them there. The Serb-dominated federal government wants to control everybody, and the Croats and others want independence, cease-fire or no cease-fire. The Fed doesn't want EC meddlers to stop their war with the Croats, and Croats want to keep on fighting the central government until they win. When a war is over political power, the struggle only ends when one side gets it and the other side loses it. Both sides are prepared to fight forever.

1/3 Yugoslavians love Germans with guns. If a peacekeeping force does hit the region, it will probably be comprised, at least partially, by German troops, the best in Europe. The last time German soldiers entered Yugoslavia was during World War II, and the Yugoslavians never forget anything. International tensions and lots of bad war memories won't help matters.

1/3 It's fun to shoot peacekeepers 'cause they don't shoot back. EC leaders have said that any European troops sent to Yugoslavia would be "peacekeepers," not "peacemakers." (In other words: they won't fight; they'll only watch.) Partisan insurgents love to kill peacekeepers because peacekeepers' rules of engagement usually prevent them from entering the conflict which they are monitoring. As a result, any side can make a cheap and easy political statement by plugging a multinational observer. In Beirut, United Nations peacekeepers, marked by their distinctive blue helmets, have become sniper bait and terrorist food.

1/3 When the troops go home, the Serbs will still be hammering the Croats. Ethnic tensions in the Balkans have always existed, and are only flaring up now because totalitarian communism, the authority that had once suppressed them, is disappearing. When the EC peacekeepers go home, fighting will probably start up again.

If the European Community really wants to end the Yugoslavian conflict, it should pick a side and fight for it. Self-determination for the Yugoslavian ethnic republics is the ethical force behind the war. A federated Yugoslavia itself was constructed by Western nations as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. If the EC really wants to be helpful

and ethical, the signatories of the Treaty should nullify it, and use this international justification to undermine Yugoslavia's central government and aid the Croats. The EC will only gain military respectability by winning a war, not by stopping one.

who

Matthew H. Hersch, a sophomore, is an opinion editor of The Tech.