Speaking Out: In Bosnia, Clinton Could Make a Giant Stride for the Rule of Law

Article excerpt

Speaking Out: In Bosnia, Clinton Could Make a Giant Stride for the Rule of Law

President Bill Clinton's faltering response to the rape of Bosnia is a misfortune for world order, not to mention its negative effect on U.S. influence in international affairs and on the personal political fortunes of our chief executive.

The problem is not just indecision. Still worse is waffling--shifting from one decision to another and back again with a rapidity that the morning headlines and the nightly television news reports have difficulty tracking. The spectacle is reminiscent of the darkest days of the administration of President Jimmy Carter, when his decisions literally sent the U.S. military shuttling back and forth in response to Iran's seizure of U.S. diplomats in Tehran. First, Carter was speeding aircraft carriers and other warships to the Gulf in a massive military threat to Iranian authorities, then the vessels were pulled back, then sent forward, then pulled back.

A Series of Contradictions

Clinton has indulged in a long series of conflicting and contradictory forecasts, predictions and declarations of U.S. policies. He has publicly discussed options without first reaching a decision, always a hazardous approach to public policy. Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland writes: "American influence on the continent now risks being wobbled away as Europeans conclude that the United States is unsure about what it wants and even less certain about how to get it."

Early on, Clinton urged air strikes against Serb positions and arming the Muslims. Then he backed away from both positions. A week later he urged "tougher measures" in Bosnia. He urged lifting the embargo against arms shipments to the beleaguered Muslims but never insisted. Then he decided to send U.S. troops to Macedonia as "peacekeepers," but he has accepted a policy that lets Serbs keep territorial gains in Bosnia. In the plan, U.S. aircraft would help protect several "safe havens" for Muslims.

Serb leaders, with U.S. acquiescence, have successfully employed a series of ruses, the latest being the delays to permit a vote by their parliament on accepting a peace plan offered by the United Nations and then a plebiscite on the same question by citizens themselves. These schemes won the Serb forces weeks in which to extend and consolidate their conquests.

The choices are admittedly tough. If I were in Clinton's shoes, I would not send U.S. military forces to the former Yugoslavia unless they were a part of a major U. …