Editorials

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

Editorials


Bosnian elections offer little hope

The biggest foreign-policy gamble of President Clinton's term is in the international spotlight today as Bosnians vote in elections set up by last year's Dayton peace accords.

For the president, the riskiest part of the Bosnian operation has been his commitment of U.S. troops to help enforce a shaky peace negotiated in Dayton.

Prior to the Dayton talks, some Americans had urged Clinton be more aggressive in using military force to curb Serbian aggression in the region. But there is no wide or deep public support for having American troops stationed in such a dangerous spot for no reason dealing directly or indirectly with U.S. security.

Clinton now has to hope the elections go well enough for him to plausibly declare them a success and then start to bring American troops home before they become embroiled in any serious fighting.

The best the president can hope for is that the balloting comes off without widespread violence. Many Bosnian refugees will be able to vote only by returning to their home villages and cities, and some observers fear that intimidation and force will be the order of the day.

In fact, observers report that intimidation has been common in the weeks leading up to the election, making it difficult for candidates to campaign and for residents to develop any real sense of who is offering what.

The problem is compounded by the absence of free media and the continued strong influence of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, indicted war criminals who remain free because the United States and its allies have declined to pursue them.

By all accounts, conditions for a meaningful election do not exist right now. Even the Clinton administration has lowered its expectations. Instead of vowing that the elections will be "free and fair," the administration now says they will be "democratic and effective. …

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