Carter's Bosnia miracle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 1994, 12:00am

THE suffering of the people of Bosnia is of such intensity - and the potential repercussions of the conflict so grave - that any serious attempt to bring an end to the fighting should be welcomed. Cynicism is the enemy of hope, and while former president Jimmy Carter may appear naive, a lack of guile might be no great handicap where the worldliness of such mediators as Lord Owen has failed to bear fruit.

However, there is no great reason for hope. Mr Carter appears to proceed from the premise that most leaders are fundamentally decent people with a legitimate point of view, and that there is no reason why apparently intractable disputes should not be resolved.

That belief has withstood the test of mediation in North Korea and Haiti. In Pyongyang, Mr Carter effectively picked up a shopping list of concessions the late President Kim Il-sung wanted from Washington. When the United States agreed to everything, Mr Carter declared the dispute settled. In Haiti, cowardly military leaders were looking for a way out before the US invaded, and Mr Carter abetted their flight from justice. That was probably best for Haiti, but it can hardly be described as a victory for diplomacy or decency.

The conflict in the former Yugoslavia underlines the fact that there are leaders who are neither decent nor honest: leaders who will employ genocide as a means towards a political end, and who will readily lie and cheat to further their ambitions. The sniper fire and mortars that greeted Mr Carter in Sarajevo on Sunday were a reminder that for the Bosnian Serb leadership, diplomacy is the pursuit of war by other means.