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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stiff Conditions Or Just Excuses Over Bosnia?

President Clinton this week spelled out before the United Nations the strict conditions on which he will in future deploy American troops on U. N. -sponsored missions. He put the best face on what is in fact a shrunken compromise from his earlier hopes of working closely with U. N. peacekeepers.

"If the United States is to say 'Ye's to peacekeeping, the United Nations must learn to say 'No'", he told the General Assembly.

The idea of the last remaining superpower becoming a global supercop has been eroded by the reluctance of Congress to pay for it, or to let the U. N. command American troops. The president was forced to back down after a long rearguard action against congressional critics who want an instant withdrawal from Somalia and question his commitment to send U. S. forces to Bosnia.

On Bosnia, after long negotiations with Congressional leaders last week, Clinton has listed three firm conditions for U. S. participation in the U. N. and NATO peacekeeping effort. These conditions are stiff enough to look uncomfortably close to an excuse for inaction.

The first is that they be explicitly invited in by all the warring factions in Bosnia, who must also demonstrate their readiness to cooperate with an effective cease-fire, a separation of forces and the withdrawal of heavy artillery.

The second is that other countries agree in advance to help pay for the U. S. deployment, estimated at some $4 billion a year. and the third is that the U. N. and the allies agree to a clear "exit strategy" for the U. S. to withdraw on time if the process works well, and at a time of White House choosing if the peace-keeping turns sour.

The bumpy course of the Somalia operation, the elusive peace agreements in Bosnia and Haiti, and the increasing violence in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have combined with the growing isolationist mood in Congress to force a reassessment of Clinton's initial policy of routine cooperation with the U. N.

In his presidential campaign last year, Clinton called for the creation of "a standby, voluntary U. N. rapid deployment force to deter aggression and protect humanitarian operations". This has now been dropped in the face of Congressional opposition.

Although U. S. presidents have traditionally sought to maintain their prerogative as commander in chief, Clinton is ready to grant Congress rather more authority in the deployment of troops overseas. His aides have apparently indicated to senior Congressmen that he will seek a formal resolution to authorize the deployment of up to 25, 000 U. S. troops to Bosnia.

Clinton is also weighing a Congressional request that he address the nation before sending the U. S. First Armored Division from its bases in Germany to keep the peace in Bosnia. This would in effect make this Clinton's operation, full of political risks. But his diplomats and soldiers insist that American and NATO credibility are now at stake if they are not ready to implement a Bosnian peace agreement once it is reached.

The White House national security adviser, Tony Lake, last week tried to define the new American foreign policy as "enlargement", the attempt to widen the family of free market democracies. It sounded good, but the reality is that Congressional doubts are forcing these ambitions - and America's horizons - to shrink.