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The three presidential candidates have different solutions.


What to do about the slaughter and ``ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia?

About the toothless U.N. ban on Serbian planes, a ban mocked by the Serbian air force as it drops incendiary bombs on Bosnia?About the 150 Bosnian women, including teen-\ agers, who were raped and impregnated by Serbian soldiers and who are forced to have the babies of their occupiers?

About the dwindling food supply and fuel shortages that haunt Bosnians as winter approaches, and the Serbian shelling that prevents planes with food and medicine from landing?

Bosnia. It was one of those rare foreign policy issues that crept into Sunday's presidential debate.

President Bush, the so-called leader of the Western world and triumphant rescuer of oil-rich Kuwait, is shy about getting involved.

So is Ross Perot, whose quips and one-liners fail to click when the topic is tragedy.

As usual, Bill Clinton was the careful politician, but give him credit for suggesting that we do something besides twiddle our thumbs while Bosnia is decimated.

What we should not do, stressed Clinton, is send U.S. ground troops to that region and risk a Vietnam-like quagmire.

But what we should do is make it a fair fight, he said.

The U.N. arms embargo applies to both Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, meaning Serbian soldiers are armed to the teeth with weapons from the former Yugoslav army while helpless Bosnians are forbidden to get arms for self-defense.

The Democratic candidate would ``stiffen' the embargo against the Serbs but ``lift' the embargo against the Bosnians. That would make it an even playing field for the participants.

Clinton got the solution only half right, however. Lifting the arms embargo against Bosnia makes sense, but fails to account for the massive weaponry now enjoyed by Serbian forces. For the Bosnians to play arms catch-up would take time. And time is not on Bosnia's side.

What Clinton did not urge - but hinted at on previous occasions - is the need for an Allied air force to use surgical attacks and knock out Serbian gun emplacements in the hills surrounding Sarajevo. They are the same guns that subject Bosnians to daily bloodbaths and prevent U.N. planes from landing with food and medicine. Bombing munitions depots would help, too.

What is also needed are teeth in the feckless U.N. resolution banning Serbian planes from flying over Bosnia.

Less than 24 hours after the no-fly ban was approved by the United Nations last week, Serbia violated it with air attacks that killed 19 Bosnians and left 34 wounded.

President Bush says he is trying to persuade the U.N. to put fangs in the no-fly rule. But how hard is he trying? The president who won fame for marshaling an Allied force in the Persian Gulf War is now preoccupied with politics.

But why bother with Bosnia anyhow? Was Ross Perot right when he said, ``We cannot send our people all over the world to solve every problem that comes up.'

He was right in that we cannot be the world's policeman. But wrong in writing off Bosnia as a region of no strategic interest to the United States.

Aside from humanitarian reasons, a strong case can be made for helping Bosnia. Consider its geography, and the fact that its refugees and war could spill into neighboring countries. And remember that a warring Europe destabilizes world peace.

Not all of the blame for inaction belongs with Bush or the United Nations. If the European Community had its act together, it would have interceded in neighboring Bosnia. But its leaders - Kohl, Mitterrand and Major - are as preoccupied as Bush with saving their political careers.

Serbia's communist leadership knows Western politicians are in no mood to make Serbia behave. It also knows there are no oil wells in Sarajevo as there were in Kuwait.

Tough luck for bleeding Bosnia.


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