Magazine article Insight on the News

Ten Ways to Improve Post-Cold War World

Magazine article Insight on the News

Ten Ways to Improve Post-Cold War World

Article excerpt

It may or may not be too late for the United States and its European partners to help the people of Bosnia, but it is not too early to take stock of where American and Western policy went wrong and what we can learn from our mistakes. This is important, for Bosnia-like situations will be the rule rather than the exception in the post-Cold War world.

First, diplomacy must be integrated with pragmatism. The United States, as well as European governments, especially Germany, encouraged (or failed to resist) a spate of unilateral declarations of independence by parts of the former Yugoslavia. Little thought was given to questions of economic and physical viability or to the protection of minorities so as not to provide a pretext for war. We now are living with the consequences. Self-determination is not an absolute right any more than recognition is an automatic response. Both should be made conditional.

Second, diplomacy must be braced by force. Diplomats work in a context provided by the actual or potential battlefield. Negotiations must be based upon a favorable military balance if an aggressive party is to be persuaded to scale back what it seeks to conquer. Such a balance can be achieved only by arming one or more of the opposing sides to the dispute or by threatening and, if need be, carrying out sufficient military action. Arguments alone rarely are persuasive.

Third, better to use force early than late. Military force was not used by the United States and its partners until long after the Serbs had seized control of substantial Croatian and Bosnian territory. While it is by no means assured that early intervention would have persuaded the Serbs to act with restraint, it also is true that a rollback is always more difficult militarily than deterrence or defense.

Fourth, better to use too much force than too little. The few bombing attacks undertaken by NATO against the Bosnian Serbs were so modest as to hardly be worth it. The pain inflicted never outweighed the Serbs' gain. Any use of force must be large enough to undo a gain and send a message that aggression costs more than its benefits.

Fifth, avoid the all-or-nothing syndrome. For too many people the choice in Bosnia has long been staying aloof or introducing hundreds of thousands of ground troops and becoming a full-fledged participant in the civil war. …

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