The 1991 Gulf War was seen at the time as a watershed in international relations. It was the first time that the superpowers--whose rivalry had been the source of so much international friction and violence over the last half century--had cooperated in a major military action under the auspices of the United Nations. President Bush's embrace of collective security in Iraq was built on cooperation with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev through explicit authorization from the UN Security Council on the use of force to stop aggression. At least rhetorically, Bush couched the intervention in terms of strict adherence to international law. Stopping Iraq in Kuwait was meant to set a precedent to use the UN wherever possible to establish international rule of law. Of course, U.S. national interests were supported; oil was at stake. This explained why the incipient, post-cold war cooperation started in the Gulf. The absence of interests also explains why the "new world order" proclaimed by Bush was put on hold when President Clinton pulled U.S. troops out of the UN humanitarian mission in Somalia in October 1993.
Still, U.S. interventionism did not end with the back-to-back embarrassments of a U.S. soldier's dead body dragged through the streets of Mogodishu and, a week later, U.S. and Canadian peacekeepers being prevented from disembarking in Haiti. Clinton engaged in more short "wars," or at least interventions, than any American president since Wilson. Some would argue that the Weinberger/Powell doctrine of certain victory cum superior power cum national interests cum U.S. public support was quickly abandoned because of Wilson and Clinton's common idealism. Although both favored an actively engaged U.S. foreign policy on behalf of democracy and humanity, the Clinton "doctrine" of humanitarian intervention has been mostly honored in the breach. The frequent U.S. interventions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo and indirectly in East Timor, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and other UN peacekeeping missions, have been guided by equally compelling considerations: U.S. domestic politics.
As President Bush stated on the eve of a massive U.S. bombing attack against Iraq over the latter's occupation of Kuwait, "What is at stake here is more than one small country, it is a big idea: a new world order," an order that would supplant "the rule of the jungle" with "the rule of law." (1) The "new world order" was to be based on strict observance of international law as defined by the United Nations. This was further articulated by Bush and Gorbachev in the Paris Charter for a New Europe in 1991:
We support fully the United Nations and the enhancement of its role promoting peace, security, and justice. We affirm our commitment to the principles and purposes of the United Nations as enshrined in the Charter and condemn all violations of its principles.
However, as Weiss has explained, "Former President Bush's heralded `new world order' has obviously not materialized." There is still no consensus concerning international humanitarian intervention, although "a fragile body of UN and state practice is emerging." (2) Even a cursory examination of this emerging body of UN and state practice does not seem to suggest that that the "rule of the jungle" will be supplanted by the "rule of law" anytime soon.
Although international interventions under the aegis of the UN have taken place during the 1990s--such as peacekeeping and election monitoring in Nicaragua and Haiti, and human rights monitoring in El Salvador (1992-96) and in Cambodia (1990-93)--cooperation among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council has declined markedly. The Clinton administration increasingly found UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Russians, and the Chinese obstructing U.S. foreign policy goals in the Security Council--despite the fact that U.S. influence in that organization has been at its zenith.
The result in Kosovo has been to go it alone without explicit, prior Security Council authorization, which at least rhetorically was the foundation of the Bush's "new world order." Although the United States has not altogether "abandoned multilateralism," (3) it has, as the leader of the occasional "rescue" or "posse" mission, (4) resorted to increasingly less strict, and more self-serving, interpretations of the UN Charter. In some cases, the United States has effectively abandoned a positivist, strict construction of the UN Charter, the fragile basis of international law. In the Haiti intervention beginning in September 1994 and ending on 31 March 1995, the Security Council deferred the attack decision to the United States. In Bosnia, the UN and NATO had "dual-key" (veto) power, with the United States and NATO deciding by mid-July 1995 not to consult the UN if they expected opposition. In Kosovo in 1999, the United States and NATO furthered this shift in policy by not consulting the UN secretary general or the Security Council before bombing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Haiti set a new precedent in international law because it was the first time that the UN and the Security Council authorized a Chapter 7 invasion of a sovereign country and removal of its government, despite the absence of any threat to, or violation of, international peace. The authorization was based on human rights violations and the need to protect democracy.
Bosnia set a precedent as the first case where the Security Council sanctioned dual-key joint decision making on the use of force. In practice, NATO's large attacks received UN authorization through the deputy to the secretary general, (5) who subsequently decided to remove the UN from further involvement in peace making in Bosnia. The eleven-week NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia beginning in March 1999--the first attack by a regional, intergovernmental organization on a sovereign state without Security Council authorization--set a new precedent for intervention. Although Russia and China had supported NATO action against the Bosnian Serb regime based in Pale in 1995, they opposed the 1999 NATO attacks on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the UN Security Council. The resulting peace plan was finally approved (with China's abstention), but harsh criticisms of illegality, against both the war itself and how it was waged, were voiced by China and Russia. (6)
Those three occupations are the three largest humanitarian interventions in history. (7) They cost about $3 billion in Haiti, $7 billion in Bosnia, and about $10 billion in Kosovo. (8) The massive international interventions stand in contrast to the large majority of humanitarian emergencies in which there is no significant UN involvement. From 1989 to 1995, by one estimate ninety-six violent civil conflicts have occurred, but ninety-one of them did not result in humanitarian interventions. (9) Why not? Why were there interventions in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and not in Rwanda, the Sudan, and Tajikistan?
In this article, I assess how UN humanitarian interventions under the leadership of the Clinton administration resulted not from the influence of international norms and institutions, as is commonly believed, but from domestic factors such as the mass media, public opinion polls, and election cycles. I consider the way in which domestic politics affects the decision to intervene and thus contributes to international precedents on the law of intervention.
THE "CNN EFFECT"
The news media strongly influence public perceptions of contemporary political issues and may raise the salience of some issues over others. Viewers exposed to repetitive television coverage of a particular problem generally become more convinced of its importance and the need for action. Presidents pay attention to public opinion. They are generally savvy about the effects of television coverage and how it affects their political fortunes. During the U.S. campaigns in Grenada (1983), Panama (1989-1990), and the Persian Gulf (1991),
the military operations were kept secret and reporters were barred from combat areas. Some of them were given limited access to the staging areas, but only under military supervision. As a result, reporters had to rely on government briefings and films, some of which turned out to be incorrect or misleading. (10)
Television indirectly influences political agendas where humanitarian interventions are concerned. It is interesting that although in none of the cases I consider here--Bosnia included--was there killing comparable with that which took place in Rwanda, Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, or the Sudan, the television coverage of each of them--Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo--was enormous. Collectively, they constituted the number one foreign policy story in the U.S. media through most of the Clinton administration.
The constant flow of television footage into American living rooms helped to exaggerate the importance of these cases, raised their salience in foreign policy debates, and, in all three cases, contributed to a public consensus for action. The decision of the Bush administration to intervene in Somalia, George Kennan noted, was prompted by
The exposure of the Somalia situation by the American media, above all television.... The reaction was ... occasioned by the sight of the suffering of starving people. (11)
Similarly, the Haitian refugee issue became unusually prominent, in part because of the relentless television coverage of the Haitian boat people, the stories of atrocities, and the media's demonization of the Haitian military junta. This coverage moved the policy preference of the public toward invasion after initial opposition. A poll published on 27 July 1994, for example, showed that the public favored sending U.S. troops to Haiti by a margin of 54 percent to 43 percent, if all other options were to fail. (12) In late September 1994, after newscasts showed shocking, cold-blooded murders in Haiti, U.S. forces were authorized to prevent homicide.
The intervention in Bosnia was preceded by three years of television coverage of the atrocities being committed there. The "CNN effect" regarding Serb concentration camps was far more powerful than either the eloquence of the Bosnian ambassador or the sustained Serb killings of Muslims in 1991-93, which hardly caught the attention of the U.S. public, in part because most of it had taken place in remote villages out of a camera's eye.
Although the Serb artillery attacks on the Sarajevo market were scarcely worse than the routine sniping in that city, they took place near a Holiday Inn where the press corps stayed and where television images could be readily recorded. Two days after the 28 August 1995 mortar attack on the Sarajevo market, which killed thirty-five people, NATO began its massive raids on the Bosnian Serb military.
The effect of media coverage of Kosovar Albanian refugees on sustaining U.S. support for seventy-eight nights of air strikes was considerable. Some of the most striking images, broadcast nightly on American television, were of the traumatized and malnourished children who made up as many as half of the 80,000 refugees at the camp at Kukes, Albania. The shock effect this had on the U.S. public led to support for the U.S.-led bombing campaign on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The international legal implications of bombing another sovereign state without specific authorization of the UN Security Council was scarcely of concern. What mattered most was that the Clinton administration was finally "doing something" about Milosevic.
For the most part, Western media did not deal much with issues of international law in their coverage of Kosovo or NATO's eleven-week war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. BBC Newshour broadcasts during the Kosovo crisis in 1999 did not contain one report concerning the war's legality. The only time that I heard the issue raised in the U.S. media was in an interview with the Russian ambassador to the UN on the Charlie Rose show in March 1999, at a time when the bombing campaign was already well under way and debate on its legality had already become moot.
PUBLIC OPINION, POLLS, AND THE ELECTION CYCLE
Public opinion bears directly on the decision to intervene because presidents weigh the effects on their own political fortunes in upcoming elections. Presidential approval ratings are the best predictors of presidential reelection and hence strongly influence presidential decision making, even more than the perceived state of the economy.
This is especially the case with Clinton, who declared to British Prime Minister Tony Blair that, "I'm just going to go down in history as a guy who won elections." (13) In winning his elections, Clinton relied on polls as much as, or more than, any other president in U.S. history. His former advisor George Stephanopoulos noted that "Clinton relied on polls to an absurd extent at times, even to decide where to take a vacation or what clothes to wear." Clinton, as Elizabeth Kolbert has observed,
did not just take polls on major public policy issues; they were even counseled on vacation spots. In the summer of 1995, we have since been told, all the President really wanted to do was to play golf on Martha's Vineyard, but Dick Morris sent him hiking in the Rockies instead. Golf, Morris advised the President, was a Republican sport. The voters he needed to win over were the kind of people who went camping. (14)
In 1994, Clinton's approval ratings declined to the lowest level of any U.S. president. While domestically he was secure, the situations in Haiti and Bosnia, with the constant images of starving refugees, killings, and U.S. inaction, contributed heavily to low public perceptions of his performance as president. This motivated Clinton to change policy. Less than two months before the 1994 congressional mid-term elections, Clinton made the decision to invade Haiti. Bosnia's Dayton talks took place during the Democratic primary, less than a year before the 1996 presidential election.
Contemporary polls showed that the public was in favor of an invasion. Four days before the Security Council voted to authorize "Member States to form a multinational force under unified command and control and, in this framework, to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure from Haiti of the military leadership" (15) a strong U.S. majority of both parties supported sending Americans to Haiti.
By invading Haiti, Clinton improved his very low public approval ratings six weeks before the 1994 mid-term elections. The unexpected sensitivity of the African American community--a major electoral bloc of the Democratic Party--on the Haitian issue in 1994 undoubtedly prompted Clinton to replace chief U.S. negotiator Lawrence Pezzullo with William Grey, the nation's highest ranking black congressman. The decision to invade Haiti followed soon thereafter. U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, who supported Clinton's decision, asserted on the eve of the Haiti intervention in September 1994 that "everyone knows the open secret that this mission has been motivated only by U.S. domestic politics." (16)
The Haiti intervention contributed to Clinton's approval ratings, as revealed in a 1994 Gallup poll. (17) However, this did not prevent the Republicans from gaining control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the Eisenhower administration. Subsequent foreign policy successes in Bosnia brought even higher levels of popularity for Clinton's 1996 re-election.
Clinton's stand on the use of force in Bosnia largely mirrored the ups and downs of U.S. public opinion polls. In May 1992, 55 percent of those polled opposed U.S. air strikes against the Serbs, and 61 percent of women--the base of swing votes that had brought Clinton victory in 1992--opposed them. Even Clinton's own putative base of Democratic voters opposed U.S. armed intervention by 55 percent to 36 percent. By July 1992, only 35 percent favored the "U.S. taking the lead with air strikes against the Serbs." (18) During this period, candidate Clinton opposed further U.S. involvement in Bosnia. (19)
However, with the revelations of "ethnic cleansing" and the images of Serb-run concentration camps, by the next month, August 1992, 53 percent of registered voters favored U.S. participation in a UN-authorized intervention involving air strikes or ground troops, with 65 percent favoring them if charges of Serb torture or concentration camps turned out to be tree. (20)
Clinton then switched tacks, criticizing Bush's policy on Bosnia. However, public support for intervention waned during Clinton's first year in office. By late January 1993, about one week after Clinton took office, 57 percent favored sending U.S. ground troops to restore peace in Bosnia, despite the confirmation of concentration camps and the use of torture. By October 1993, only 40 percent favored "contributing 20,000 US troops" for a UN peacekeeping force under consideration by the Clinton administration. (21) Clinton chose not to intervene.
Concerns over the appearance of foreign policy incompetence and the upcoming election cycle emerged in the Clinton administration during prenegotiations for Bosnia in September 1995. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke argued that the Bosnian situation had already put the election on the line for Clinton and that decisive action was necessary to resolve the conflict. He argued that the only way to solve the Bosnia crisis and to improve the president's electoral prospects was to send a signal that the United States was seriously committed to forcing a negotiated solution. (22) The subsequent bombings coerced a negotiated peace among the three parties at Wright-Patterson Air Base in Dayton, Ohio, producing Clinton's greatest foreign policy achievement.
Largely as a result of the interventions, the percentage of the public rating the president's handing of foreign policy as "good" or "excellent" rose steadily: from 31 percent in 1994 to 55 percent in 1998. During this same period, approval among political elites increased from 30 percent to 55 percent. (23) However, although Clinton aggressively pursued humanitarian interventions, he was careful not to buck the public's opposition to high risks of casualties--a clear public preference, the effects of which he had experienced in Somalia, and which heavily influenced policy on subsequent foreign policy ventures.
The legal issues involving forcible intervention in all three cases were largely irrelevant to the U.S. public. What it cared about most were limiting U.S. casualties and success in achieving the foreign policy objectives of the United States.
The end of the cold war brought an end to the bipartisan anticommunist consensus in Congress, with its traditional deference to the executive, and saw the return of divisive and partisan congressional politics to the realm of U.S. foreign policy making. Because they are less likely than most foreign policy questions to be seen as critical to national security, humanitarian crises are more likely to be subject to the vicissitudes of congressional partisanship and thus more likely to be the hostage of U.S. domestic politics.
Since they have gained the chairs of all committees, some Republican politicians, especially Senator Jesse Helms, have fought commitments to humanitarian interventions and to the United Nations. In the three humanitarian interventions, Congress helped to delay intervention by threatening to criticize the president at the first sign of any casualties or policy failures, as had occurred in Somalia. Consequently, the U.S.-led attacks in Haiti and Bosnia were delayed by several years, costing the lives of thousands of people.
In the Kosovo intervention, the U.S. response was at least a year later than was generally considered necessary. The attacks were finally carried out by the Clinton administration only as the approval rating of the Republican majority in Congress reached its nadir in the aftermath of six months of unpopular impeachment-related events.
In summer 1995, Congress insisted on holding hearings on Bosnia before the Dayton peace talks began. Congress voted three to one in a nonbinding resolution that congressional permission was needed to authorize any troops for a Bosnian peacekeeping mission. Key legislators, including then Senator William S. Cohen, insisted that American forces not remain indefinitely in Bosnia. Clinton was forced to promise a one-year limit on the deployment of peacekeeping troops.
Congress also made its influence felt in the articulation of NATO's new role in U.S.-led multilateral peacekeeping missions. Following the November 1995 Dayton accords, Congress raised questions about whether Article 5 of the NATO charter banned "out-of-area missions" beyond the NATO countries' own territory. (24) Later, Congress proposed the so-called Ashcroft amendment, which would have forced the president to certify that NATO would be used only for collective self-defense, (25) and would have mandated the advice and consent of the Senate for any NATO out-of-area mission. Under the amendment, "purely internal disorders or revolutions" such as those in Bosnia and Kosovo "would not be considered `armed attacks' within the meaning of Article Five" of the NATO charter. (26)
The Ashcroft amendment did not reach a vote in Congress, but the tacit threat of congressional opposition remains--prompting Clinton, before he undertook intervention, to issue a symbolic Presidential Decision Directive stating that no UN peacekeeping operation or international legal obligation would be pursued unless it was in the U.S. national interest.
Because it is constitutionally intended to be a parochial body concerned largely with domestic interests, Congress is less inclined than the executive to concern itself with the fine legal aspects of U.S. foreign policy or to respect the authority of international conventions and institutions. The contempt with which the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, delivered his recent dressing-down of the UN and his threat to withhold $2.2 billion worth of payments unless it "reformed" itself in a manner more to his liking, are sad testimony to this fact.
Academic debate on the effects of bureaucratic politics on foreign policy making is largely over degree; few would assert that they are irrelevant, particularly on divisive policies such as humanitarian intervention. The literature on bureaucratic politics focuses primarily on two factors: the competition between government agencies that undermines cohesive presidential leadership and the standard operating procedures and attitudes that complicate implementation of presidential policy. In most matters of foreign policy, bureaucratic agencies compete for influence and push for their particular policy preferences. They may drag their feet in executing the policy of a president.
In all three cases dealt with in this article, bureaucratic agencies influenced the formulation of interventionist policy and the execution of those policies. Generally, the Defense Department took a "minimalist" policy stance on intervention and the State Department took a "maximalist" stance regarding how and when to attack and how ambitious the peacekeeping missions should be. (27) The Defense Department, fearful of casualties and of leading on civilians with overoptimistic forecasts of results, has been interested in increasing security, resisting peacemaking, and opposing "mission creep."
In war, the Defense Department is naturally the bureaucratic subject of greatest interest. It insisted on many of the key strategic parameters in all three cases, especially limiting risks of casualties. In humanitarian interventions, where the White House sees little automatic political benefit, the Pentagon often receives deference from National Security Council (NSC) and the president's foreign policy staff.
However, the Pentagon often walks a fine line between insubordination to superior civilian decision makers and "normal" bureaucratic pluralism. After the death of sixteen U.S. Rangers in Somalia in October 1993, the military insisted (with little White House resistance) on very low risks of casualties in humanitarian missions. This began what Zbigniew Brzezinski has called "a new technological racism" based on the premise that the life of "one American service-man is not worth risking in order to save the lives of thousands." (28)
For Haiti, ground troops were included in two secret Defense Department task forces that planned possible invasion strategies for the Joint Chiefs, at the direction of the White House. (29) The only reason, however, was that the risks from combat were known to be minuscule. The threat from snipers led the Defense Department to base U.S. occupying forces in secluded military compounds from which they could not disarm threats, befriend the majority of the population, or effectively carry out the proposed peacekeeping/nation-building mission envisioned by the White House. No other agency had the power or the interest to get U.S. troops from behind their barricaded camps, an arrangement that Pentagon evaluators now consider to have been one of their largest mistakes. (30)
Both the Bush and Clinton administrations initially supported sanctions on Haiti, (31) a negotiated solution between Aristide and the military opposition, and Aristide's eventual return to Haiti.
Interagency foot dragging and restatement of tactical objectives led the administration to alter implementation. The Foreign Service, conservative to begin with, despised Aristide personally, especially after it interpreted his 1991 inaugural address as an attack on then U.S. Ambassador Alvin Adams. The CIA characterized Aristide as a psychotic Marxist in its reports and disseminated them to congressional Republicans. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the CIA were accused of supporting a rightist paramilitary organization, the Front for the Advancement of Haitian Progress, which terrorized Aristide supporters to induce him not to return. (32) Whether or not that is true, CIA and DIA paid informants did stage a rally at the dock where the USS Harlan County was to disembark in October 1993. The protest convinced President Clinton to call off the first planned UN peacekeeping mission, without consulting either the UN or the other participating country, Canada. (33) The CIA also lobbied Republican legislators against supporting Aristide by exaggerating rumors of his psychosis.
When public pressure finally forced the decision to invade, the Defense Department's secret plan became the only basis for execution. In the plan the Pentagon had designated the task of rebuilding the police and the justice system of the restored Haitian government to the State Department. However, the State Department had never been informed of the plan, which was, after all, secret. When, several days before the invasion, Secretary of State Warren Christopher was finally informed of the plan, he simply refused to accept the commission from the Defense Department. (34)
Because Justice Department programs for training criminal investigators, lawyers, and judges was not utilized in the initial phases of the mission, members of the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps were sent to Haiti. JAG officers are not trained in the legal code system of Haiti, which is based on the Napoleonic code, and focused primarily on univeral human rights. Eventually, the Justice Department's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program took over the primary training mission for Haiti's still-dysfunctional criminal justice system. In part because of internal U.S. bureaucratic politics, this aspect of the nation-building effort in Haiti has been widely regarded as a failure.
Although the Bosnia mission initially involved only air strikes, significant Pentagon resistance was registered in bureaucratic policy debates in 1995. Even during the second round of NATO bombing in September 1995, the military displayed resistance to White House directives. Holbrooke describes an order by commander Admiral Leighton Smith to Lieutenant General Michael E. Ryan, who was in charge of the bombing, not to discuss military operations with U.S. political negotiators. Admiral William Owens, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported to Secretary of State Christopher that the military had exhausted all of its targets and would strike at the same ones again.
Christopher and Holbrooke suspected that Owens was lying and feared losing "a chance to get anything in return for bombing." (35) Holbrooke explained diplomatically the Pentagon's bureaucratic obstructionism: "The military did not like to put their pilots at risk in pursuit of a limited political objective, hence their desire to end the bombing as soon as possible." (36)
Holbrooke reported that the Pentagon successfully obstructed his attempts to make the disarmament of assault weapons an obligatory, rather than optional, part of the Dayton pact draft. (37) As in Haiti, U.S. peacekeeping troops in Bosnia rarely attempted to forcibly disarm paramilitary forces. There were mostly voluntary buy-back programs of weapons from civilians, although the house-to-house searches by some of the fifteen battalions in Mitrovica and other parts of Kosovo in early 2000 were a notable exception. (38) The Pentagon's position was largely that of John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who stated in a broadcast interview, "Our terms of engagement do not require police actions or to find arms in homes or clandestine locations." (39)
Pressure from the Pentagon induced President Clinton to announce early in the war over Kosovo that no ground troops would be used in the operation, a move that many analysts contend undermined the U.S. negotiating position with Milosevic. According to a New Republic editorial:
The President rebuff[ed] the moral and strategic pleadings [to use ground troops and Apache helicopters] of America's closest European friend [British Prime Minister Tony Blair] in favor of the disingenuous counsel of the Pentagon's generals, who are not so much against using ground forces as they are wary of recommending it to a commander-in-chief whom they neither admire nor trust. (40)
Apparently, there was never any definitive U.S. decision to use ground troops in Kosovo. Newsweek claimed that the earliest they could have been deployed was four to six months after Milosevic capitulated (which occurred, ironically, because he believed the rumors of the imminent use of U.S. ground forces circulated by General Wesley Clark, one of the few dissenters on the position). (41) Ultimately, the Defense Department's position on the use of ground forces prevailed.
PRESIDENTIAL DECISION MAKING
President Clinton attempted to reduce the number of bureaucratic battles by increasingly closing the decision-making process in foreign policy debates to a "subcabinet" of only five or six officials. This Clinton version of Johnson's "Tuesday lunch group" included Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who was close to Clinton because of their common Rhodes Scholar connection, along with Holbrooke, Lake, and Berger, who were attached to the president and to his political fortunes by their work on his 1992 election campaign. Electoral politics predominated in this tight circle. Clinton's closest foreign policy adviser, Sandy Berger, noted:
most "grand strategies" were after-the-fact rationales developed to explain successful ad hoc decisions.... He prefers to "worry about today today and tomorrow tomorrow." (42)
Those five officials and President Clinton recalled how protracted debates prior to Kosovo, while arguably more democratic, had encouraged bureaucratic rivalries. Berger, in particular, who became national security adviser in Clinton's second term, had an aversion to bureaucratic turf fights. The president's "closest foreign-policy aide, perhaps the most influential national security advisor since Henry A. Kissinger," had previously served under President Carter.
[In] the State Department in the Carter administration, he fought in the trenches alongside the dovish Secretary, Cyrus Vance, against the more hawkish national security advisor, Mr. [Zbigniew] Brzezinski, and resolved to do all he could to avoid such fights if he ever found himself in a position of real power. (43)
In late August 1995, with most foreign policy principals on vacation and with Holbrooke arguing that Bosnia had put the 1996 election on the line for Clinton, the subcabinet, sans Albright, gained the president's approval for the first bombing attacks against the Bosnian Serbs. Objections by the Pentagon were circumvented, as Secretary-General Wily Claus simply informed them that NATO had been authorized to commence bombing. (44)
The decision to bomb in Bosnia was the result of an efficient, if somewhat undemocratic decision-making process, one that had been "streamlined" by the time of the Kosovo intervention. As a result, the U.S. response was much faster than in Haiti or Bosnia; the massive eleven-week bombing campaign against Yugoslavia was launched within five months of Yugoslavia's violations of the October 1998 agreement negotiated by Holbrooke.
One reason for the "efficiency" of the U.S. response is that the Clinton administration did not bother getting a specific authorization from the UN Security Council before it attacked. Most of the key U.S. decision makers in Clinton's subcabinet had intensely negative feelings about UN Charter law on the use of force. Albright and Holbrooke blamed the massacres at the UN safe areas of Srebrenica, Zepa, and Gorazde in the Bosnia war partly on the UN's interpretation of the laws on use of force. They also blamed UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali for arrogating the decision-making authority on the use of force from NATO. (45)
When Holbrooke and Albright took the lead on the White House's Kosovo policy, along with Secretary of Defense Cohen, CIA Director George Tenant, and NSC Director Berger, their attitudes toward the use of force were largely governed by their memory of the UN's ineffective responses in Bosnia rather than concern for such abstractions as the "fragile body" of international law emerging within the United Nations. (46) This perhaps explains why they felt compelled to arrogate the authority to attack the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to themselves. As Holbrooke recalls:
Madeleine Albright and I were strong longtime supporters of the United Nations.... Telling the U.N. that its involvement would weaken the search for peace was painful, especially for those of us who had grown up believing in the importance of the world body. But Albright stepped up to the task without complaint, and performed with a toughness that was productive, if not always popular. (47)
There was hardly any public debate--which would have been the more democratic approach--prior to the eleven-week bombing campaign on Serbia. (48)
Alhough it was denied by the State Department spokesman, James Rubin, this group ignored warnings from lower-ranking military officers that the Serbs would not capitulate quickly. (49) Berger, Albright, Tenant, and Shelton all assumed that a bombing campaign of about two days duration would be sufficient to force Milosevic's capitulation, and when that did not happen, they assumed that it would take a week at the most. Unified by bonds of mutual friendship and loyalty, the members of Clinton's subcabinet continued, throughout the crisis in Kosovo, to support the position to which their past decisions had committed them. A "homogenization of viewpoints" took place as they collectively overlooked or remained silent about some of the more unfavorable consequences of their policy recommendations. (50)
Not only did "groupthink" deliberation lead to the assumption that NATO bombing alone would halt the Serb expulsion of Kosovar Albanians, it produced the perception that "the only thing that Milosevic understands is force" and the two ultimatums in late 1998 and early 1999 that were essentially diktats for the secession of Kosovo from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It led the Clinton administration to take the position, contradicting all precedents in both customary and treaty-based law, that the breakup of Yugoslavia was not a violation of that country's territorial integrity, which is one of the most fundamental aspects of the UN Charter (Article 2(4)).
With no excuses for Milosevic or his excessive "counter-insurgency" in Kosovo, Holbrooke and Albright, instead of seriously negotiating with Milosevic, insisted that he accept the surrender of territory--the myopic appeasement policy that Chamberlain expected the Czechs and Slovaks to accept in 1938. In the process they have established an unsettling precedent for future humanitarian interventions.
The politicization of the "fragile body" of international law emerging in the United Nations is of concern because in the three interventions there was no clearly articulated attempt by U.S. officials to admit that the United States and the Security Council were changing international law. In Kosovo, the need for the United States to assert that it was trying to make new laws permitting humanitarian intervention would have made the intervention appear more consistent with international rules. That did not occur because the intervention, although humanitarian in consequence, was driven by the incentives of coercive diplomacy. The reason that U.S. decision makers, especially President Clinton, felt that a decision needed to be coerced in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo was that television had influenced U.S. public opinion to call for stopping the killing.
Although the three cases are unprecedented examples of collective security to save lives, in Haiti there were no mandatory conditions for collective security under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and in the former Yugoslavia there was no explicit authorization of Chapter VII institutions and processes. In these cases, international law appears to be the consequence, rather than the regulator, of political conflict. A bitter interpretation of Western policies in Bosnia was voiced when UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali asserted that the "West" and the United States in particular were, "using the United Nations as a substitute for making their own decisions and allocating adequate resources." (51)
Unfortunately, the cases of Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo are likely to be indicative of future humanitarian interventions because few states pose real threat to the security of the United States. In such cases, foreign policy will not end, but start at the water's edge. Deliberations on intervention will be strongly influenced by such domestic influences as the "CNN effect," public opinion polls, and other factors beyond the influence of international regimes and international law.
The vagaries of U.S. domestic politics have been, and in all likelihood will continue to be, largely unresponsive to UN Charter rules for authorizing the use of force. Even where the Security Council is intensely involved, humanitarian crises are likely to produce intervention only after the United States, the country with adequate resources, is politically mobilized. Most likely, this will be after a humanitarian emergency exists, because pictures of the suffering have belatedly appeared on television.
Although the UN may be the presumptive setting for decisions on the use of force, U.S. domestic factors will be as important as the humanitarian emergency itself in determining the timing and type of any intervention. Although negotiating power exists in other states and in the UN itself in settling disputes, the United States will have more power to impose constraints. U.S. domestic considerations will determine which humanitarian crises receive attention, where force is utilized, whether ground forces will be used, the height at which airplanes will fly, the type of military targets pursued, and so forth. The net result has been and could continue to be not only the marginalization of international law, but the perception that U.S. decision making is hypocritically proclaimed and inconsistently applied. The results do not concern many U.S. citizens or many foreign policy elites. Each situation becomes a crisis for reasons that reflect domestic and foreign factors but is not organized under any U.S. doctrine of humanitarianism or national interest. There must be goals to impel U.S. actions, but television coverage must not dominate presidential administrations. President Carter learned in the Iran hostage crisis that nearly every major incident of international terrorism can become a U.S. domestic political crisis.
Yet, the domestic politicization of humanitarian emergencies in which the United States has the capability and legitimacy to intervene to save lives and prevent further chaos will inhibit U.S. action. Ultimately, the harm to innocent victims is bad enough. The ability to mobilize UN-based, peacemaking operations may not support U.S. interests either. U.S. presidents must assert a doctrine of humanitarianism that the United States will practice so that domestic considerations cannot turn major foreign policy decisions into aspects of a permanent election campaign.
(1.) George Bush and Brent Scrowcroft, A World Transformed (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), 363-64, 493.
(2.) Thomas G. Weiss, "Intervention: Whither the United Nations," Washington Quarterly 17, no. 1 (winter 1994): 124.
(3.) Donald Puchala, "Outsiders, Insiders, and UN Reform," Washington Quarterly 17, no. 4 (Autumn 1994): 161-73.
(4.) Thomas G. Weiss and Amir Pasic, "Yugoslavia's Wars and the Humanitarian Impulse," with commentary on this article by Andrew S. Natsios, Morton Winston, Alain Destexhe, and David R. Mapel, Ethics and International Affairs 11 (1997): 105-50.
(5.) The secretary-general's deputy, Kofi Annan, approved Operation Deliberate Force for Bosnia in late August 1995 under nominal, if debatable, Security Council authority, which also did not contemplate several weeks of bombing.
(6.) See the excerpts from Security Council Resolution 1244 in Section 2 and the debate on that Resolution in Section 3 of John Carey, ed., United Nations Law Reports 33, no. 11 (July 1999). See Russia's accusations in a letter of 27 May 1999 also in Section 3, 159-60.
(7.) The Clinton administration insisted on not calling them wars and on eschewing the term genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo.
(8.) As appropriated for the war in Kosovo in the FY1999 supplemental budget. A cost estimate of $4 billion in the war's first month came from the New York Times, 14 April 1999. President Clinton asked for $5.9 billion on 17 April 1999 to continue the war. Associated Press, 18 April 1999. Additional requests followed.
(9.) P. Wallenstein and M. Sollenberg, "The End of International War? Armed Conflict 1989-95," Journal of Peace Research 32, no. 3 (1996): 345-60.
(10.) Stephen J. Wayne, The Politics of American Government (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997), 405.
(11.) George F. Kennan, "Somalia, Through a Glass Darkly," New York Times, 30 September 1993, A25.
(12.) CNN/USA/Gallup Poll, interviewing dates 15-17 July 1994, George Gallup, The Gallup Poll 1994 (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1995), 122-23.
(13.) "Things will have to get better," editorial, Economist, 31 July 1999, 14.
(14.) Elizabeth Kolbert, "Those Poll-defying Republicans," New Yorker, 25 January 1999, 25. See also Jonathan Schell, "Master of All He Surveys," The Nation, 21 June 1999. Of course, Bill Clinton's extraordinary sensitivity to polls does not mean absolute dependence on them. Personal judgment, as well as sensitivity to the particular opinions of financial contributors, reduce the influence of public opinion as measured by polls.
(15.) UN Security Council Resolution 940 (S/RES/940), 1994.
(16.) Paraphrased from memory of television interview by author.
(17.) From Gallup web-site,
(18.) The Gallup Poll 1993, 139.
(19.) Ibid., 97.
(20.) Ibid., 42.
(21.) The Gallup Poll, 1994, 270.
(22.) Richard Holbrooke, To End a War (New York: The Modern Library, 1999), 192-93.
(23.) ."A View from the Summit," Economist, 27 March 1999, 28.
(24.) Article 5 authorizes NATO force where a Member-State's territory or its armed forces overseas are attacked.
(25.) Meaning only for defense, and not as collective security by the Security Council and NATO, has come to mean for humanitarian purposes.
(26.) Congressional Record, S7893, 9 July 1998. See
(27.) The U.S. military's "open-contestation" against military policy, especially on Bosnia, constitutes an authoritarian prerogative typical of democratizing regimes, not of consolidated democracies. Blatant military disagreements with presidential policy are more likely over humanitarian interventions when a presidential direction is ambiguous. This leaves open the possibility for inter-agency feuds over whether to use force.
(28.) Originally stated on the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" show on Public Broadcasting System and a Wall Street Journal op-ed, and quoted in R. W. Apple, Jr., "A Domestic Sort with Global Worries," New York Times, 25 August 1999, A1.
(29.) The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered the development of a forcible invasion plan. Task Force 180 was formed almost a year before Aristide was reinstated as president, soon after President Clinton ordered the USS Harlan County not to disembark in Haiti in October 1993. In January 1994, the plan was named Plan 2370 to destroy the Haitian Army and all its paramilitary links. Walter E. Kretahik, "Planning for `Intervasion': The Strategic and Operational Setting for Upholding Democracy," in Kretchik, Robert F. Baumann, and John T. Fishel, Invasion, Intervention, and `Intervasion': A Concise History of the U.S. Army in Operation Uphold Democracy (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Press, 1998).
(30.) Only small contingents of Army Special Forces traveled throughout the countryside, with light arms.
(31.) Even though candidate Clinton had criticized President Bush's policy in the 1992 campaign, several days before he took office, Clinton announced that the United States would continue the refoulement.
(32.) Alan Nairn, "Our Man in FRAPH," The Nation, 24 October 1994, and "Haiti under the Gun," The Nation, 8/15 January 1996, 11-15.
(33.) According to U.S. negotiator Lawrence Pezzullo, CIA informant Emanuel Constant provided misinformation about the threat from FRAPH snipers. Pezzullo, who was present with President Clinton and his advisors in the White House Situation Room, believed the CIA report that exaggerated the threat and sent the USS Harlan County back to the United States. Interview by telephone, 25 November 1997.
(34.) The U.S. Atlantic Command had drafted the political-military plan. There was an interagency meeting where the Department of State was told that it was assigned the mission of training the police. Usually the Justice Department (the ICITAP program for criminal investigators and the OPDAT program for training judges and lawyers) has this type of mission. The military planners had assigned training investigators, lawyers, and judges to the State Department, which does not have jurisdiction over international policing. When the State Department was told at the interagency meeting that it was assigned this task, the representative said, "We should not do this." The Justice Department, because it had not been included in the earlier planning either, also said "We are not prepared to do this mission." So, by default, the training was assigned to the Defense Department. This type of snafu, where the Defense Department picks up the ball on a task normally assigned to a civilian agency, is not uncommon. So, the assignment of policing to the State Department in Haiti, which was originally managed by Raymond Kelly, the former police commissioner of New York City, was not a precedent-setting event. On refusal of the State Department to participate in criminal investigations and training judges and lawyers see Walter E. Kretchik, presentation to the Haitian Studies Association Annual meeting, October 1997, Detroit; on the Justice Department's refusal to participate, see Water E. Kretchik, Robert F. Baumann, and John T. Fishel, A Consise History of the U.S. Army in Operation Uphold Democracy (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Press, 1998), 71.
(35.) Holbrooke, To End a War, 146.
(36.) Ibid., 145.
(37.) Ibid., 222.
(38.) President Aristide dissolved the Haitian Army in December 1999; it was decommissioned with the assistance of the U.S.-led, multinational force, but that decision took the United States completely by surprise. The KLA is to be demobilized in Kosovo, with parts converted into a police force.
(39.) Sunday Morning program, ABC-TV news, 24 September 1994.
(40.) "Groundless," New Republic, 7 June 1999, 12.
(41.) John Barry and Christopher Dickey, "Warrior's Rewards," Newsweek, 9 August 1999, 40-41.
(42.) R. W. Apple, Jr., "Nimble Security Juggler: Sandy Berger, the Strategist and the Politician," New York Times, 25 August 1999, A10.
(43.) Apple, "A Domestic Sort with Global Worries," A10.
(44.) Holbrooke, To End a War, 99.
(45.) Holbrooke, To End a War, 64-65; Michael Dobbs, Madeleine Albright: A Twentieth Century Odyssey (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1999), 349-67.
(46.) Weiss, "Intervention," 124.
(47.) Holbrooke, To End a War, 201-02.
(48.) See the discussion on consensus below.
(49.) According to Susan Woodward, interviewed on "Weekend: All Things Considered," Public Broadcasting System, 27 March 1999. On the BBC in late 1998, prior to the Holbrooke-Milosevic pact, one commentator over-warned, arguing "No war has ever been won by air power alone." Actually, Haiti in 1994 was one such example. The war over Kosovo in 1999 was different from the 1991 Gulf and 1995 Bosnia wars because Milosevic was fighting with a much more powerful army for land inside his own country that he was determined not to lose, quite different from his interest and resources in another country Bosnia, or the situation with Iraq in the desert of Kuwait.
(50.) Irving L. Janis, Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes (New York: Houghton Mifflin College, 1982).
(51.) Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Unvanquished: A U.S.-U.N. Saga (New York: Random House, 1999), quoted by Ian Williams, "Boutros-Ghali Bites Back," The Nation, 14 June 1999, 64.
Henry F. Carey is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, Georgia State University.…