For the Moment, Sarajevo Is Optimism Central

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There was potent symbolism in the fact that Sarajevo, just four years removed from a devastating war, was safe enough and sane enough Friday for 40 world leaders to gather there and talk about their newest reclamation project, Kosovo. But those were Serb bombs that flattened Sarajevo, while NATO’s leveled much of Kosovo and Serbia. So there’s a little more pressure on the allies to help clean up. The U.S. has already promised $500 million in aid to Kosovo, and on Friday Clinton and the Allies came bearing proposals that are supposed to prevent a recurrence of Balkan troubles -- and keep NATO in the defensive role that is its supposed mission. A proposed stability pact for Southeast Europe, said envoy extraordinaire and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, "envisions a Europe at long last undivided, prosperous and free — a Europe where war becomes unthinkable."

Paging Neville Chamberlain.... But a rebuilt, prosperous, democratic, peaceable Balkans is a good a pipe dream as any, and credit the Allies for realizing they won’t get far as long as Slobodan Milosevic is still around. Indeed, much of the summit was devoted, if a bit clumsily, to making Milosevic jealous and his people angry. First he wasn’t invited, and his political opponents were. The allies also made clear, with some objection by the Russians, that any economic aid would go exclusively to Kosovo. And at a "round table" with local journalists later Friday, President Clinton will leave a chair at the table empty to symbolize Milosevic’s isolation. Ooh. As long as Serbia is hostile, there can be no real reconstruction -– the legendary Marshall Plan, after all, was imposed on a Europe in which Germany had been put out of business. And it’s doubtful reconstruction could take root until the KLA can be trusted to run Kosovo like a civilized place. When the next Balkan summit is held in Pristina, we’ll know to be encouraged.