As I am recording this in my office in New York, Sarajevo is in imminent danger of falling, negotiations are going on in Geneva, and the United States is teetering on the verge of some kind of military gesture. The Serbs started their campaign against Sarajevo on June 28th, that is, a month ago. They moved progressively: first the electricity was cut off; then the gas; then the diesel fuel. Finally, they launched a military attack.

Conditions are now worse than at any time during the sixteen-month siege of Sarajevo. The electricity has been cut for nearly a month and there is a shortage of diesel. The hospitals are without power. The water supply is contaminated. The first cases of dysentery have been reported and hepatitis has increased. There is imminent danger of epidemic diseases.

When conditions became intolerable and international pressure mounted, there was some temporary relief: the Serbs allowed three diesel tankers to pass into the city. Some of the fuel was used for emergency services at the hospitals and some to power the water pumps. In about a week, the pumps will have to be shut down again for lack of fuel. Who knows what will happen in a week? Fighting in the outskirts has led to the loss of some strategic points. Morale is still surprisingly high but the situation is becoming untenable.

I follow the situation in Sarajevo particularly closely because my foundation has been very active there. We provided coal, firewood and some charcoal during the winter, we have been repairing and extending the gas lines, we helped restore the bakery, we provided seeds for planting. Until we installed a satellite phone system there was no way the civilian population could have contact with the outside world. The only clean water that is available has been installed and maintained by my foundation. It consists of two deep wells from which water is pumped to water taps that are out of sight of the snipers, though unfortunately not out of range of the artillery.

The situation in some of the other enclaves of eastern Bosnia is even worse than in Sarajevo, and central Bosnia, which had been relatively stable, is now destabilized by the influx of refugees and by chaotic fighting between Serbs, Muslims and Croats. We are heading into a human catastrophe of the first magnitude. It does not quite compare with the holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany but, in one respect, it is worse. We did go to war with Germany, whereas in Bosnia we are standing idly by.

The world doesn’t seem to appreciate what is at stake in Bosnia. We are aware of the human suffering, we are outraged at the atrocities, we are humiliated by the inability of both the United Nations and the European Community to prevent violence. But we do not quite understand the implications of our failure to intervene militarily. If we did, we would have intervened long ago.

What is happening in Bosnia will demonstrate, once again, that borders can be changed by force and the world will accept the accomplished fact, the fait accompli. There is nothing new in this; it has happened before. It merely goes to show that we have not succeeded in establishing a new world order which is capable of upholding the rule of law, protecting human rights and resolving conflicts peacefully.

Events in Bosnia have also shown that there is no limit to the brutality that can be employed in the service of a national goal; indeed, that brutality against the civilian population is an effective instrument of national policy. That is a much graver matter. Brutality contradicts what our civilization stands for. It has always existed, but it is what we are trying to overcome.

The unspeakable brutality that we have witnessed in Bosnia has been committed in the name of a doctrine, the doctrine of the ethnic state. That is where the danger lies. The ethnic state leaves no room for people with different ethnic identities and ethnic cleansing can turn ethnic identity into a matter of life and death. If it prevails, it is the end of our civilization as we know it. I realize these are large words, but I believe they are justified.

This is not the first time that our civilization has been threatened by a doctrine. Communism posed such a threat and, before that, the Nazi dogma. Indeed, almost any doctrine can become a threat to our civilization if it is taken seriously enough and if it can gather sufficient force. In the Middle Ages, people used to go to war over the doctrine of transubstantiation.

A sense of ethnic identity has been a powerful force throughout history. In particular, it has played an important role in the formation of the modern state. As an historical force it has been rivaled only by religion, especially if we treat communism as a form of secular religion. There is nothing inherently evil in having a sense of ethnic identity. On the contrary, it is an important element in holding a nation together and the existence of different nations and nationalities has given our civilization the diversity it needs to be viable and creative. But when ethnic identity is promoted to a doctrine it becomes harmful. When it is used as the criterion of citizenship it infringes on human rights; and when it is used as a justification for destroying rival ethnic groups it begins to endanger civilization. That is what is happening in Bosnia.

The civilized world has been surprisingly complacent. Public opinion has been aroused from time to time by pictures of atrocities and stories about the suffering of the civilian population but governments have gone out of their way to defuse public concern and, on the whole, they have been remarkably successful. The Balkans have been painted as some kind of hellhole where ethnic conflicts are endemic and that one should stay out of, if at all possible. One can engage in humanitarian relief and conflict resolution, but one should avoid taking sides because all sides are to blame.

This is the message the general public is receiving but the politicians and the Foreign Office ought to know better. They are probably influenced by what is going on in Northern Ireland and by their memories of what happened in Yugoslavia during the Second World War. They ought to remember Munich.

Munich was the appeasement of an aggressor, a failure of political will in a democracy and it was the prelude to something much bigger and much more painful. It can be argued that Milosevic is no Hitler and a Greater Serbia does not pose the same threat as Nazi Germany did. Maybe so, but the similarities are disturbing. Hitler laid down his program in Mein Kampf, while Milosevic adopted a blueprint for a Greater Serbia drawn up by the Serbian Academy of Sciences. It is true that Greater Serbia will never be as powerful as Nazi Germany so that, on his own, Milosevic can never equal Hitler. But the principle he stands for can spread. Conditions are particularly propitious for it.

Communism was a universal closed system. It has failed. The region which had been dominated by communist dogma could now join the universal open system that we call the free world, but that would require a helping hand from the free world, because an open society is a more sophisticated, more advanced form of organization than a closed one. Without such help, the universal closed system based on communism is likely to break down into particular closed systems, based on the principle of national or ethnic identity.

In order to mobilize society behind an ethnic principle, you need an enemy. If it does not exist, you need to invent one. That is what Hitler did when he espoused antisemitism. In the post- communist world, you don’t need to look very far because communism, in its universalist zeal, suppressed national and ethnic interests and there are many scores to settle.

Instead of a single power seeking world domination, as in the case of Hitler’s Germany, there will be a multiplicity of local conflicts. But the effect on the world may be equally devastating. You can be sure that the lessons of Serbian victory in Bosnia will not be lost on the so-called patriotic movement in Russia—not to mention the boost that the suffering of defenseless Muslims is going to give to Islamic fundamentalism in places like Egypt and Algeria—or France and England for that matter.

What is most disturbing is the way the free world is responding. Democratic leaders often avoid hard choices. That is what happened before the Second World War, that is what is happening today. Instead of taking a firm stand somewhere along the way, we have opted for conciliation and humanitarian assistance. But humanitarian goals cannot always be achieved by humanitarian means. By making it clear that we are not willing to intervene militarily we have set ourselves up for one humiliation after another.

The authority of the United Nations has been severely undermined. Wearing a blue helmet used to afford some protection but that is no longer the case: the Deputy Prime Minister of Bosnia was murdered in cold blood while under the protection of United Nations troops and the other day a group of British soldiers wearing blue helmets was disarmed by Bosnian mercenaries. The so-called safe areas are unsafe and unsanitary refugee camps. Earlier this week, for the first time, UN troops in Sarajevo were shelled by Serbian artillery. The UN response was: Don’t do it again.

The British government has played a particularly insidious role. I am not sure whether it was by design or not, but by putting a peacekeeping force on the ground it was able to prevent the United States from using air power on the rare occasion when it was ready to do so. Not that the United States government was all that eager to follow through! Secretary of State Warren Christopher practically asked to be dissuaded when he came over to Europe for consultations. The image of Warren Christopher wringing his hands and saying “we have done what we could” will go down in history just as Chamberlain’s umbrella did. Two days after Christopher made his public statement, Sarajevo suffered the worst shelling in its history.

The whole story is so disgraceful and the situation in Bosnia so pitiful that we do not even want to think about it. Our ability to suffer humiliation and to sustain moral outrage has its limits. I know it from my own experience. I set up a humanitarian foundation for Bosnia as an expression of my outrage and in the hope of goading leaders of the civilized world to take a

firmer position. I have become deeply involved in Bosnian affairs, receiving frequent reports and taking decisions. But lately I have found myself focusing on other things and avoiding having to deal with Bosnia. It is just too painful. I notice a similar tendency among policymakers and in the media.

The Western powers seem to have written off Bosnia. But the cup of humiliation is not yet empty. Indeed, the worst may be yet to come. The international community is not willing to take the responsibility for a settlement that amounts to Bosnian surrender. Therefore, it is standing idly by while the situation continues to deteriorate, secretly hoping that the Bosnian government would agree to a deal that the international community cannot even propose. But the Bosnian army is unwilling to surrender because most of them have been through a process of ethnic cleansing and do not want to do it again. Therefore it will continue to fight on even if it means untold suffering for the civilian population.

What is to be done now? I feel strongly that we must take a stand even at this late stage. We must choose a limited objective, one that can be accomplished at a politically acceptable cost. I have a concrete suggestion. I propose lifting the siege of Sarajevo. The Serbian roadblock that separates the airport from the town cannot be defended: the threat of military action would be sufficient to remove it. There have been several instances in both Bosnia and Croatia where roadblocks were removed by the show of force. The bombardment of Sarajevo could be stopped by issuing an ultimatum demanding the withdrawal of artillery within 24 hours. After the recent shelling of UN troops it is not even necessary to give advance notice. I was told at a briefing in the Pentagon that we know where virtually every one of the 1400 pieces of artillery in Bosnia is located and we could take out most of them in one stroke. Getting rid of the snipers could then be left to the Bosnian army.

I realize that the British government has been strenuously opposed to the use of air power because it would endanger the troops on the ground. Let’s get the facts right. British troops are nowhere stationed in locations where they could be directly threatened by the Serbs. Their exposure is to the Croats and Muslims. Only when they are escorting convoys do they come into contact with the Serbs and they have done precious little of that lately. Therefore this is merely an excuse for inaction.

I also realize that the US military are keen to stay out of Bosnia. The lesson they have learned from the Gulf War and before that from Vietnam is that military action should be confined to situations where we have a dear objective; we can bring overwhelming force to bear and we can accomplish our goal with minimal loss of life. Incremental engagement is to be avoided at all costs; Bosnia is disqualified on all these grounds. But I talked to General Colin Powell and he told me that he is ready to follow orders provided the President defines his objectives clearly.

The objective is clear: We must prevent the creation of a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia. If we agree to the principle of the ethnic state and to the enlargement of Serbia and Croatia by force, all hell will break loose. Renewed fighting between Croatia and Serbia becomes almost inevitable because Croatia cannot give up its Serbian dominated part, the Krajina, without a fight: it would cut the country in two. Kosovo and Macedonia are at high risk. There is also trouble brewing in Vojvodina where the Hungarian population is under pressure from colonization by Serbs. But the real danger is in the former Soviet Union. The Armenians are already engaged in ethnic cleansing against the Azeris around Nagomo-Karabakh. As Milosevic is having his way in Bosnia, the so-called patriotic forces in Russia are gathering momentum.

There has been a noticeable shift in Russia’s policy toward its neighbors in places like Georgia in recent weeks. Vice-President Rutskoi is baiting Ukraine—and both Russia and Ukraine have thermonuclear weapons. The objective in Bosnia is not to achieve victory but to prevent the victory of the ethnic state. And the best place to take a stand is Sarajevo.

Sarajevo is more than a city of 300,000 inhabitants; it is a symbol of open society which is now threatened with destruction by the doctrine of the ethnic state. Believe it or not, Sarajevo is the most cosmopolitan, tolerant and civilized place in the whole of the former Yugoslavia, where four different religions have coexisted for centuries (there has been a large Jewish community there since the 15th century when they were ethnically cleansed in Spain), where YUTEL (a Yugoslav television station) found refuge when it was chased out of Belgrade, where people are actively opposed to the principle of ethnic or religious discrimination. It is one of the ironies of fate that the Muslims in Bosnia are city-dwellers and far removed from the fanaticism we have come to associate with Islam. Let’s face it, there is a lot of prejudice against Muslims in Europe. It has influenced European policy towards Bosnia at every level. It permeates even the United Nations forces and the humanitarian effort. It is an expression of our prejudice, not theirs.

Why should we get involved at such a late stage? There is a simple reason: we were wrong not to get involved earlier. I met with Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in the House of Commons on January 14th and urged him to lift the siege of Sarajevo. He told me that the people up there would not stand for it. And then he said, “Milosevic can’t last much longer anyhow.” I was flabbergasted. It was one of the worst mistakes in political judgment and it is time to admit it.

We must also start thinking beyond Bosnia. The world order as we have known it since the end of the Second World War came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet empire. Instead of two superpowers keeping each other in check, there is only one superpower left and it is unsure of its mission. It is certainly unwilling to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Nor is it willing to throw its full weight behind the United Nations. On the contrary, it seems determined to draw a sharp dividing line between its own forces and those of the United Nations. It jealously guards the reputation of its own forces but does not seem to give a hoot about the prestige of the blue helmets. That much is clear from recent experience.

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has sought to build up the authority of the United Nations but he ran afoul of the European Community and particularly of Britain. At the same time, events have shown that the European Community is unable to develop a common foreign policy. Yet we desperately need a new world order, otherwise we are going to have disorder. We must agree on some basic principles, otherwise our civilization is truly in trouble.

I have a suggestion which is going to raise some eyebrows. I propose that the principle of open society ought to be accepted as the basis of the new world order and the creation and preservation of open societies ought to be recognized as the prime objective of foreign policy.

This idea is very far removed from current thinking. Foreign policy is supposed to be concerned with the pursuit of national self-interest and most people do not even realize that they are living in an open society. By open society I mean a society where no dogma has a monopoly, where the individual is not at the mercy of the state, where minorities and minority opinions are respected. Whether an open or a closed society prevails can be a matter of life or death. I learned that at an early age when I nearly ended up in a gas chamber on account of my ethnic origin.

Once we recognize the principle of open society as the prime objective of foreign policy everything becomes much clearer. We can see the mistakes we have made. We ought to have worked for the internal transformation of both Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union instead of trying to preserve them, and we ought to have applied the criteria of open society before we recognized any of the successor states. Then we would not have recognized Croatia without protecting the Serb minority there and we would have been a little more aggressive in protecting Bosnia—not to mention Macedonia, whose government is desperately trying to preserve a multi-ethnic state. Macedonia is at the mercy of Greece and Yugoslavia today and practically has no choice but to break the embargo because it gets no support from Europe. I ask you: Does that make sense?

We would also know better what to do going forward. First, we would persevere with the prosecution of war crimes. There is enough evidence to hand down indictments, and if we maintain the pressure we might be able to bring some of the culprits to trial. After all, we have not given up on the Lockerbie case and Khaddafi is still an international outlaw.

Second, we would fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet empire. We would reestablish a credible deterrent; without it, violence is bound to spread. We would redefine the mission of NATO. What is the point of maintaining a powerful military force if we do not know how to use it?

But deterrence is not enough. We must also provide a constructive alternative to ethnic strife. I first proposed a new kind of Marshall Plan in 1988 at a conference in Potsdam, which was then still in East Germany, but I was laughed out of court. Now that unemployment is rampant throughout Europe, it may be time to think about it again. But at this point I must stop because I am in danger of losing touch with reality. First things first: Let’s deal with Bosnia while it is still there.