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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Resolve Needed for Bosnia Peace

The arrival of the first of 60,000 NATO troops in Yugoslavia on Monday is the manifestation of a new responsibility and commitment by U.S. President Bill Clinton to bringing an end to the long and bloody conflict in Bosnia. The trick now will be to stick by that commitment.


Clinton deserves praise, as does his envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, for bringing the warring sides to Dayton, Ohio, and getting the peace accords signed. They were able to succeed where Europe so ignominiously failed because the United States -- once it had landed on a coherent policy -- spoke with a single, believable voice.


International commitment has otherwise been notably thin on the ground as far as ex-Yugoslavia is concerned. And without wishing to belittle the efforts of former negotiators such as Lord Owen or Thorvald Stoltenberg, or to ignore the achievement of the United Nations in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who would otherwise have starved, it must be said that only a country with the muscle of the United States stood any real chance of making an impact on events in Yugoslavia.


The European Union and its constituent members lacked the political will and cohesion required to make men like Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic or Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic sit up and take notice. Nor did Europe have the tools with which to make believable threats to use force.


But the dispatch of the NATO force is only the beginning of a peace process that is certain to be tough to implement. This will be no simple policing operation, but a matter of persuading, by diplomacy or coercion, large numbers of heavily armed forces to roll over. To imagine that this can be done without a shot being fired would be naive. There are sure to be clashes; there are sure to be casualties among the NATO troops; and the troops are sure to be needed longer than they wish to stay.


What is crucial now is that the United States keep to its commitment, even when the body bags start arriving home. The first American deaths may well be followed by a wave of outrage in the United States and a backlash against the president who sent U.S. soldiers to their death in a foreign land. The soaring approval ratings that greeted Clinton's announcement of the force could just as easily swing the other way.


Doubtless the Clinton administration is fully aware of this and weighed the consequences before making the commitment. But for the sake of Yugoslavia and the credibility of the "new world order," everything must be done to help the Dayton peace deal succeed.