Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Action: `Too Little, Too Late'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Action: `Too Little, Too Late'

Article excerpt

They gave us our world," President Bill Clinton said of the fighting men who took the beaches at Normandy and turned the tide of World War II 50 years ago. They did, indeed. Not only in Normandy but on into Europe they fought, as did the Allied forces in the Pacific, until victory in 1945.

Germany surrendered in May of that year, Japan in September. And in June, delegates from 50 countries meeting in San Francisco completed and signed the United Nations Charter. They, too, gave us our world.

dagt It is ironic that, as we recall the peacemaking of 50 years ago, we seem so confused and without recourse when it comes to keeping the peace in our own time. Perhaps we have something to learn from past events.

It helps to recall, first, what a tremendous sense of relief accompanied the end of World War II. In addition to the horrific cost in human lives and suffering (30 million killed worldwide), normal life - even in the United States - had been suspended "for the duration."

Allied leaders were determined that nothing like the war that had just been concluded at such cost should be allowed to happen again. The consequences of acting against aggression too little and too late were fresh in their memories, and they wrote provisions into the U.N. Charter authorizing joint use of force to preserve peace. Numerous organizations (the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, etc.) were founded to foster economic and social development worldwide.

But the vision of a world of nations seeking prosperity and improved well-being while the victorious allied powers kept the peace was shattered by the advent of the Cold War. As the world polarized into two blocs in the late 1940s, the United Nations and many of its affiliates became arenas of contest, and many resources with potential for peacekeeping or enhancing development were thrown into the arms race.

With the end of the Cold War in 1989, it looked as though a revival were possible of the post-World War II dream of a stable world with strong nations acting together to keep the peace. The success of the Persian Gulf War in expelling Iraq afrom Kuwait in early 1991 strengthened this perception. But any hopes for such a world order were dashed when the outside world failed to oppose either the Serbian invasion of Croatia later in 1991 or the invasion of Bosnia in 1992.

American leadership and power, which had produced success in the gulf war, were missing in the former Yugoslavia. Our excuse that it was a European problem was disingenuous at best, considering the U.S. record of insisting for 40 years that the Europeans act militarily only through NATO and under American leadership.

With strong American leadership, a NATO blockade - with or without U.N. blessing - could have been imposed on all of Yugoslavia when the fighting broke out in 1991. …

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