Magazine article National Defense

Rush to Deploy Troops Hurts Diplomacy, Says Ex-Envoy to Bosnia

Magazine article National Defense

Rush to Deploy Troops Hurts Diplomacy, Says Ex-Envoy to Bosnia

Article excerpt

A former U.S. diplomat who served in the Balkans said peace in the region only will come if the province of Kosovo is divided between the warring parties. He believes U.S. policy-makers currently are fooling themselves into thinking NATO military intervention can bring stability to the area.

Former foreign service officer George Kenney is one of the most vocal critics of current U.S. policy in that region. Earlier this month, he spoke on the subject during a panel discussion at Shepherd College, in Shepherdstown, a bucolic village in West Virginia's eastern panhandle.

In response to Clinton administration pronouncements of victory, in the wake of a 70-day bombing campaign, Kenney loosed a succinct reply. "The most you can say is, it was a draw ... We are just kidding ourselves about what has been accomplished," he said in an interview shortly before the panel session.

Kenney, who described himself as a "progressive Republican," resigned as acting officer in charge of Yugoslav affairs in the European Bureau of the State Department in August of 1992, to protest a shift in the Bush administration's approach to the explosive situation in Bosnia. "The Bush policy of doing nothing was better than doing half of nothing," Kenney said. "Up to a certain point, Bush had adroitly avoided direct involvement."

He admitted that the Bush administration opened the door to a Balkan vortex that inevitably sucked U.S. foreign policy into a proactive response to the conflict, by choosing to support the Bosnian Muslims.

The U.S. military strayed into politics and diplomacy while dealing with the crisis in Bosnia, Kenney asserted. This development, he thinks, has dangerously blurred the lines between a military response and a diplomatic solution in Kosovo.

In his opinion, the crises in the Balkans were handled in a haphazard, ad hoc manner as a result of an over-active role of the military influencing the direction of diplomatic negotiations.

Once an advocate of air strikes against the Bosnian Serb military, Kenney said that he came to see the error of his ways because the Bosnian Muslims rejected a proposal to lift the arms embargo that existed at the time. "They knew that if the embargo was lifted the Serbs would come after them with everything they had," Kenney remembered.

He had supported the introduction of NATO forces, he explained, for the purpose of disarming the combatants and not for supporting one side or the other. "We got a settlement in Bosnia because both sides were exhausted and sick of fighting," Kenney said. "We had not reached that point yet in Kosovo when the bombing started."

Militarily, Kenney favors the deployment of a rapid reaction force in Kosovo, much like the one fielded in Bosnia. Its job would be to extinguish any "brush fires" that might erupt between the opposing sides. …

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