Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Must Articulate and Commit to US Bosnia Strategy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Must Articulate and Commit to US Bosnia Strategy

Article excerpt

WHEN American F-16s started bombing Serb militia positions near Gorazde April 10, they signaled a heightened level of United States engagement in the war in Bosnia. If such a level of engagement is sustained, can the Clinton administration finally say that it has a helpful, effective policy toward that stricken land?

Bosnian tensions might, of course, continue to mount. President Clinton and his advisers need to have some well-developed contingency plans for follow-through. Would further Serb attacks on Gorazde or other designated "safe havens" bring more reprisals from the US and NATO, and the possibility of escalation on the ground? For three years, the Bosnians have been in desperate need of help against aggression by ethnic separatists. Escalation of American military commitment to Bosnia might be just the boost needed by special envoy Charles Redman's fairly adroit diplomacy.

But if it is botched, this escalation could become a long-drawn-out disaster, further sapping US willpower at home and its credibility overseas, and leaving the people of Bosnia once again abandoned to a frightful fate.

One hopes that these issues were fully discussed at the crucial April 6 meeting at which national security adviser Anthony Lake worked out the new American policy of engagement in Bosnia with the secretaries of state and defense. The next day, Mr. Lake said publicly that "neither the president nor any of his senior advisers rules out the use of air power to help stop attacks such as those against Gorazde."

That speech came just three days after Defense Secretary William Perry had stated, also in public, that the US "would not enter the war" to prevent the fall of Gorazde to the Serbs. Presumably, during the April 6 meeting these differences were fully aired and a successful consensus was reached on the view articulated by Lake. But might reservations about the new policy linger in the Pentagon, which since Vietnam has been deeply wary of entanglement in punishing foreign wars?

This is not the first time the civilian and uniformed leaders of the American military have seemed more "doveish" toward engagement overseas than other members of the national-security establishment. …

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