Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Contrasting Policies in Bosnia and Palestine Reveal U.S. Motivations

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Contrasting Policies in Bosnia and Palestine Reveal U.S. Motivations

Article excerpt

Contrasting Policies in Bosnia and Palestine Reveal U.S. Motivations

A year ago the U.S. belatedly did the right thing in Bosnia, putting its troops into the country as part of an international force to stop the sectarian slaughter. It worked. This month President Bill Clinton did the fight thing again, promising to keep some American troops in Bosnia until June 1998 in an attempt to head off a resumption of the fighting. It very likely will work again.

By contrast, in Israel/Palestine the U.S. tried to do the fight thing last May, indicating its strong backing for an election victory by Israel's Labor Party Prime Minister Shimon Peres. But Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu won, despite Clinton's efforts. Now that Clinton himself has been safely re-elected, he may try again to do the right thing by confronting Netanyahu over his reluctance to carry out Israel's Oslo accord commitments. But in challenging Netanyahu, the U.S. almost certainly will fail again.

If they examine why the Clinton administration succeeds in Bosnia but fails in Israel, Muslim states may learn how to deal realistically with the world's only current superpower. The causes of the Muslims of Palestine and the Muslims of Bosnia are similar. Both are defending the lands their ancestors have occupied for centuries.. So the fact that the U.S. government consistently tilts against the Muslim Palestinians and toward the Muslim Bosnians clearly has little to do with American attitudes toward Muslims. In fact, the American attitude is not based on religion at all. The opponents of the Muslim and Christian Palestinians are Israeli Jews. But although fewer than 2.5 percent of Americans are Jewish, U.S. support goes to Israel.

The irrelevance of religion is further demonstrated in Bosnia. There the enemies of the Muslim-led pluralist government are Serbian or Croatian Christians. But although more than 90 percent of Americans are of Christian heritage, and no more than 3 percent of Americans are Muslim, U.S. support goes to the Muslims.

To understand why, one must examine the Clinton administration's record in Bosnia, whose pre-civil war population was about 44 percent Muslim, 32 percent Serb, and 17 percent Croat, with the remainder consisting of Hungarians, Gypsies, Jews and other small minorities. U.S. sympathies, insofar as any existed, were extended to the legitimate, Muslim-led government. By contrast, Britain and France tended to be pro-Serb, based on ties dating back to World War I. German sympathies, also based on historical ties, went to the Croats.

The moral is that U.S. foreign policy is domestically driven.

Blocked by its NATO allies from supporting the Bosnian government, the U.S. resorted to subterfuge. It refused to use U.S. forces to enforce the United Nations arms embargo against all parties in Bosnia. When it was accused by France and Britain of ignoring or even facilitating Turkish, Saudi, Iranian and other Muslim arms shipments to the Bosnian government through Croatia, or by air directly to the Bosnian Muslim forces, the U.S. blandly denied it. Eventually, when arms from Germany to Croatia and from Muslim countries to the Bosnian forces enabled them to halt and even push back the Serbs, the U.S. intervened diplomatically, halted the fighting at agreed cease-fire lines, and committed 20,000 American troops for one year as part of a 60,000-person NATO force to maintain the peace.

Now, with both Bosnian and American elections behind it, the Clinton administration has committed itself to providing 8,500 troops for another 18 months as part of a NATO force of 30,000 to maintain stability while Bosnia conducts municipal elections and seeks to put into place institutions that will halt the breakup of the country. …

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