Bosnia I: Public Opinion's Influence on
Bush's Nonintervention Policy
At different points since 1990, American policy toward the former Yugoslavia reflected and rejected public opinion. As chapters 12 and 13 show, policy did not clearly reflect relatively supportive public opinion nor did major shifts in public opinion typically precipitate policy changes. Americans were notably reluctant to undertake an active involvement in the Bosnia situation, but were open to humanitarian assistance.
This chapter examines to what extent Bush administration policymakers were aware of the attitudes of the American people and responded to those attitudes in policy decisions. It asks whether their perceptions of public views accurately reflected the American people's beliefs and concerns regarding Bosnia and how the decisionmakers reacted to the perceptions. Analyzing benchmarks of the conflict illuminates these questions. At each benchmark, the chapters explore the relevant statements of the most important policymakers of the Bush and Clinton administrations. Thus, Chapter 12 looks at President George Bush, Secretary of State James Baker, Deputy Secretary of State (later Secretary of State) Lawrence Eagleburger, and Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney. Chapter 13 examines President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and Secretary of Defense William Perry.
The discussion uses differing sources to identify policymakers' views of public opinion. Frequently, policymakers presented their views in congressional hearings, which some considered a form of connection with the public and useful indicators of public sentiment, yet they are not direct evidence, as in poll data. Press exchanges also reveal occasional evidence of policymakers' sense of public opinion and its influence. Memoirs and public statements provide direct evidence of policymaking views of public opinion and its influence. Bush and Baker have written memoirs. Cheney provided an interview. Together, the responses of policymakers suggest their assessment of public opinion and its impact on their decision-making.
There were three major Bosnia benchmarks during the Bush administration. Fighting broke out in Bosnia in April 1992,1 the first benchmark event considered
1The European Community (EC) and the United States recognized the independence and sov-
ereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a unitary state under the control of the Muslim government
of Alija Izetbegovic on April 6 and 7, respectively.