No paper promises can ever truly secure anyone's rights. Our human and civil rights are only as strong as our willingness and ability to physically defend them. Those who give up or are stripped of their individual rights to bear arms soon lose all of their rights.
There is an ongoing tragedy in what was formally called Yugoslavia that offers valuable lessons to those who care to see them, but is seriously distorted in the mainstream press and misunderstood by most people outside of the region. There seems to be a intensive effort to ignore the basic causes of the conflict and the almost certainty of disaster embedded in the current "peace" effort. The entire world has suffered recurrent nightmares during this century that started in that same region and rapidly grew to engulf friend and foe alike. In an arrogant disregard for reality, the current incompetent meddling in the local situation by various world powers seems determined to repeat history yet again.
There are people in America today who advocate the elimination of guns as a means to suppress violence on the individual, national, and international levels. This policy is opposed by the majority of Americans to date, but advocates continue to press for incremental restrictions. Does the availability of weapons cause violence? Does restricting access to firearms effectively control violence? The well documented facts that crime rates are highest in those cities in America that most heavily restrict the lawful possession and use of firearms, and that firearms are used by citizens successfully defending themselves and their loved ones far more often than they are used in the commission of violent crimes, are apparently unconvincing.
The citizens of cities with near total gun prohibitions like New York or Washington DC have become painfully aware that the police are incapable of protecting their lives and property. Denied the right to effectively defend themselves, honest citizens cower behind fortified doors and barred windows, abandon their freedom of movement because of the risk of street violence, and harden themselves in the expectation of when, not if, violence will visit itself on them and their loved ones. But on the national level, these same prisoners of violence continue to advocate increased restrictions on those citizens still exercising their constitutional right to bear arms.
On the individual level, it is not the existence of firearms that causes crime, but the expectations of the criminals. On the international level, it is not the existence of power that causes wars, but the imbalance of power. During the past 50 years of relative peace, the USA and USSR, while actively adversarial, possessed greater potential for violence than at any other time in the history of the world. If the existence of weapons caused war, the relative peace we actually enjoyed would have been impossible. Peace was maintained solely by the balance of power and expectation on both sides that war was unwinnable.
Just as crime is based on the expectation of success by the criminal, wars only occur when one side believes - right or wrong - that it can win. No wars are ever started with the intention of losing. Until the novel American concept of snatching disaster from the jaws of victory appeared in this century, the losing side in wars tended to suffer significant long term negative effects. The losing leadership in particular tended to expire shortly after they were defeated. This expectation tended to keep leaders from starting frivolous wars. The American practice of keeping vanquished Emperors and Dictators in power, while appearing convenient in the short run, has substantially emboldened America's adversaries and cost many more American lives over the long term.
The mainstream press is a major participant in the evolving disaster. While commonly referred to as "Bosnia" in the press, the proper name for the country where most of the crimes against humanity are currently being committed is actually "Bosnia and Hercegovina". The primary perpetrator has called itself Serbia in the past but with typical abuse of language, has renamed its reconstituted hard-line communist police state "The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". The label Serbia will be used in this article for clarity.
Properly identifying the participants in any issue has always been a problem for the press, but the constant references to the conflict inside Bosnia as "the Bosnian Muslims vs the Bosnian Serbs" is dangerously misleading. The media appears determined to portray the conflict as based on religious differences, and play off the Western revulsion toward the holy war being waged against modern civilization by Islamic fanatics. But the war in Bosnia has little to do with religion. The "Bosnian Muslims" are in reality a multiethnic collection that includes both Muslims and Christians, as well as members of other religions. The primary criteria for membership in this group is far more language and culture than religion. The "Bosnian Muslims" are not attempting to create a Islamic theocratic state as the press implies, but are instead attempting to create the kind of multiethnic free democracy that we claim to advocate.
The "Bosnian Serbs" are ethnic Serbs backed by Serbia engaged in a war of conquest aimed at acquiring by force the property of non-serbs, and creating a communist/fascist "Greater Serbia" of ethnically pure Serbs. While "The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" has mounted a halfhearted effort to conceal its continued support and involvement with the Serbs fighting in Bosnia, the rebels and Serbians are effectively one and the same.
The primary principle at risk in the Bosnian tragedy cuts to the very heart of our civilization. The most basic principle that lifts us above the law of the jungle and allows the creation of advanced civilization is the concept of human and civil rights. The critical factor is that possession of these rights is not dependent on the individual's ability to physically defend and enforce them. In our civilization, both the weak and powerful share the same rights, and we have developed structures to punish and suppress those who violate the rights of others. Those who are physically unable to personally defend their rights must be defended by the rest of society as a whole. Without this most basic concept and enforcing structure, we would never have progressed past crude and brutish feudalism.
The Serbs may have had some valid grievances before they launched their murderous offensive, but they abandoned all claims to any consideration of their rights when they unilaterally decided to violently abolish the rights of their victims. Perhaps the most important outcome for the world as a whole is that no advantage be gained by the use of violence. If the world now recognizes the gains made by the Serbs through violence, it must also abandon any remaining pretense of respect for human and civil rights, and that disputes can be resolved peacefully.
Only when all use of violence for political purposes is suppressed can the world put an end to war and terrorism. If the world recognizes the territorial conquests of the Serbs, it sets the stage for similar actions all over the world. If we are unwilling to stand by our principles and recognize the rights of the Bosnians, we will eventually have no claim to rights ourselves.
Chamberlain thought he could buy "peace in our time" by abandoning the rights of the Czechoslovakians, but instead set the stage for WWII. Yielding to short term convenience, he deceived himself that he could buy respect for the rights of his own people by selling out the rights of those more immediately threatened. Because they failed to join with others to defend the rights of all in the beginning, the British condemned themselves to stand alone against the Nazi onslaught when it came their turn for destruction. History has proven over and over that unless rights are universally respected and defended, no one is safe for long.
While ethnic antagonisms in the region have existed for centuries, the eruption of violence since the dissolution of the old Yugoslavia is the direct result of a situation created and maintained by external manipulation. Without this artificial situation, the war would not have occurred or would have been greatly limited in scope and duration. Therefore the primary cause of all the death and destruction in Bosnia becomes not the long standing ethnic grievances, but rather the involvement of the UN and NATO.
To understand how UN and NATO policies created the Bosnian tragedy, one must first consider the residue left over from the old communist Yugoslavia. The old Yugoslavia was a collection of long time tribal enemies held together by the iron fist of a communist police state. The Communists forcibly suppressed the ancient animosities between the ethnic groups, and attempted to forge a united nation out of dissimilar antagonistic populations.
However, the Communists weren't as ethnically blind as they pretended, and ethnic Serbs retained dominance in the government. While parroting the official line of a "classless society", Serbs in positions of control continued a pattern of discrimination in favor of their own ethnic group. In what was officially claimed to be a socialist land of "equals", Serbs in the old Yugoslavia were always "more equal" than the non-serb minorities. The overt discrimination of the communist Serbs nurtured and sustained the festering resentments among the various minorities.
In order to protect itself from an enslaved citizenry held in check by an aggressive campaign of state terror, the Communists confiscated all firearms except those held by the police and military. In order to ensure the loyalty of the military, the entire officer corps was composed of ethnically loyal Serbs. But no amount of terror could overcome the reality that their political and economic system violated the basic principles of civilization and wasn't sustainable in the long term. When the bankrupt Communist power structure finally collapsed, it left a severely imbalanced situation.
As the old power structure disintegrated and the minorities started demanding independence, the ruling Serbs transferred the remaining assets of the old Yugoslavia to their new hard-line communist Serbian state. Of critical importance to the coming war against the minority states, the officers of the well equipped Yugoslavian military delivered their entire stockpile of weapons to the new Serbian army. The emerging minority states inherited none of the killing machines their labors had purchased for the glory of the old Yugoslavia.
The Muslims, Christians, and others who collectively wanted to call themselves Bosnians foolishly believed that the West would at least cooperate with their emerging multiethnic democracy in opposing the increasingly belligerent communist Serbs. But the Serbs weren't willing to give up their centuries old desire for a Greater Serbia. They were especially unwilling to give up those areas in Bosnia where many of the old Yugoslavia's weapons factories were located. Employing the same fascist dogma that led to WWII, the Serbs claimed that any area into which ethnic Serbs had migrated "belonged" to greater Serbia. Backed by the weapons stocks of the old Yugoslavia, the Serbs launched vicious attacks against the disarmed Croatian and Bosnian people. With their overwhelming advantage in weaponry, it wasn't surprising that the Serbs soon controlled 2/3rds of their neighbor's property.
In a display of just how deep fascist/communist perversions run in the fiber of their "rebellion", the Serbs immediately implemented a campaign of genocidal "ethnic cleansing". Pursuing the same tactics and policies that earned previous perpetrators death sentences during the long forgotten Nuremberg war crime trials, the Serbs looted, raped, and despoiled the areas their forces had violently "liberated" from the unarmed rightful owners. As a final testimony to how solidly their cause is founded in the darkest aspects of subhuman depravity, the Serbs also adopted that hallmark of fascist and communist tyrannies - the organized mass murder of their helpless victims.
The Bosnians asked nothing from the outside world except the right to defend themselves. The quickest way to end the war would have been to restore the balance of power. The citizens of Serbia were only willing to support their war on the Bosnians because they only suffered minor inconveniences. If the population of Serbia had been forced to share the up close and personal terror and loss that their fighters were inflicting on the Bosnians, they would have quickly reconsidered their dreams of conquest, and the war would have been over. The siege of Sarajevo would have ended the moment the Bosnians obtained the capability to inflict the same death and destruction on Belgrade. Empire and conquest become far less important when your own children are dying in your arms.
The response of the UN was to impose an arms embargo on all combatants. The embargo was based on the same fallacious concepts used to promote gun control on the individual level - that denying arms to the combatants would force them to abandon their violence. With typical arrogant disregard for the realities on the ground, the UN in effect imposed a unilateral embargo solely on the Bosnians desperately trying to defend themselves. The aggressor Serbs, on the other hand, started their war with huge stockpiles of weapons and ammunition, and retained control of the established domestic arms industry created by the old Yugoslavia. They also received fresh supplies of Soviet military equipment from their former Warsaw block allies, shipped in on barges down the Danube River.
Starting with only a few rifles and pistols, the Bosnians leveraged their assets into sufficient weapons to fight the Serbian onslaught to a standstill. Later events would prove the assessment true, but even at this stage of the war it was obvious that the early Serbian military "successes" were solely due to their overwhelming advantage in weapons. Whenever the Bosnians could concentrate sufficient resources, the superior tactical skills of their leadership combined with the spirit and dedication of their citizen fighters allowed them to prevail over far better equipped Serbian units.
Outraged by the unilateral UN arms embargo against the Bosnians, a few countries - mostly radical middle eastern Islamic nations - started providing a limited number of small arms to the Bosnians. Even these grossly inadequate supplies allowed the Bosnians to reverse the direction of the conflict.
Only when the Bosnians were close to gaining significant heavy weapons by capturing Serbian military installations did the "peacekeepers" physically intervene, claiming they were trying to prevent an escalation of hostilities. But the UN and NATO only imposed effective restrictions on the actions of the Bosnians. The empty, unenforced demands on the Serbs were ignored without any resulting meaningful sanctions.
As they became more deeply involved in the Bosnian tragedy, the UN ground forces actively confiscated Bosnian weapons whenever possible. No meaningful effort to disarm the Serbs was even attempted. The Serbs were even able to increase their weapons stocks with impunity by confiscating UN equipment at gun point. The Serbs then used the confiscated UN equipment to cause even more Bosnian suffering.
The UN forced disarmed Bosnian refugees into "safe areas", claiming that even though the UN was unilaterally denying them their basic right of self defense, they would be protected by the UN peacekeeping troops. When the Serbs decided to destroy the "safe areas" and murder the disarmed Bosnians trapped within, the UN hurriedly withdrew leaving those they had betrayed to suffer the depravities of the Serbs. More mass graves appeared in the captured territories.
The UN and NATO promised they would lift the siege of Sarajevo but the shelling and snipping continued. The "peacekeepers" could never seem to satisfactorily identify the source of the death and destruction, and so did nothing meaningful to protect the citizens. Only when UN or NATO personnel were killed were a few Serb gun emplacements symbolically attacked. The Serbs "reluctantly" agreed to lift the siege "as a humanitarian gesture" only when military reversals in the face of an ever more successful Bosnian offensive forced them to abandon their positions.
Even without the cooperation of the rest of the world, the Bosnians have now managed to drive the Serbs from much of their territory, and it appears inevitable that baring further foreign manipulations, the Serbs would eventually be completely routed. The Croatians have already eliminated the last Serb strongholds on Croatian territory.
Faced with continuous military defeats by increasingly well armed Bosnians, the previously belligerent Serbs - who rejected all offers of negotiation when they were winning - are now eager for an agreement that will grant them "legal" possession of those stolen properties still in their possession.
The Bosnians have rightly attempted to reject the US promoted "peace settlement" that creates a Serbian "Federation" inside their country. But when they refused to sign the agreement, The US government informed them that since Serbia and Croatia had signed, the agreement would be imposed on the Bosnian people whether their representatives signed or not. In effect, Bosnia will be forcibly partitioned, and "peacekeeping" troops from the US and other countries will attempt to enforce the agreement on the unwilling population.
One need only look to the decades of violence that have resulted from the partitioning of Palestine and Ireland to see the flaws in the "peace settlement" being imposed on the Bosnians. By preserving the results of Serb aggression, the partition would also preserve the pain and resentment on both sides of the border. The festering grievances would grow and amplify themselves until they sputtered into renewed violence and possibly open warfare. Partition is not a viable long term solution. However, it is the only "solution" being considered by the world powers belatedly imposing themselves on the Bosnians.
As leader of a country officially committed to the support of equality, freedom, and due process, President Clinton has perversely decided to support the partition scheme. Worst of all, Clinton is attempting to involve the American military in defending and perpetuating the travesties committed by the Serbs, creating the precursors for a long bitter regional war of terror - with Americans once again set up by their own government as convenient targets of choice for both sides.
While those who hauled the stars and stripes draped body bags back home from Lebanon, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Somalia were able to recognize the results of a failed foreign policy, our government is yet again unable to consider any other alternative than endlessly repeating its past mistakes. But then, the politicians don't have to do the dying.
The police on the "peaceful" streets of America demonstrate on a daily basis that regardless of how many cops are on the force, no matter what extraordinary powers they're granted, the police have never been able to directly protect citizens' lives and property. The policy is even less effective when faced with a committed and organized opposition. The only force in history that has ever brought lasting law and order has been an armed and determined citizenry. Self interest is the only power capable of overcoming greed and violence.
The Bosnians only requested the easiest possible response from us - the right to purchase arms with which to defend themselves. The Bosnians are quite willing to do their own fighting. It is our own government that is only willing to consider alternatives that put American lives at risk. Clinton has already injected American aircraft and crews into the war, and is now demanding to put at least 20,000 American ground troops in harms way.
America and the rest of the nations contributing "peacekeeping" forces stand on the brink of yet another endless unwinnable bloodbath defending the failures of our leaders. Time is running out to stop the insanity.
Send arms to Bosnia not bodies.