Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Election Keeps Clinton Cautious on Bosnia Moves

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Election Keeps Clinton Cautious on Bosnia Moves

Article excerpt

The apprehension of the White House about the safety of US troops in Bosnia is perhaps best seen in the on-the-ground orders that American soldiers must follow.

While British and French troops enjoy the summer sun in light fatigues in largely safe Bosnia, US troops must swelter in helmets and flak jackets, carry weapons at all times, and travel off base only in large convoys with radio back-up.

The orders are typical of what critics say is a US policy more concerned with avoiding casualties than bringing long-term peace to the former Yugoslavia. This policy, critics say, is driven in part by President Clinton, wanting to avoid any troop losses during his reelection campaign.

Despite bold intentions to deploy troops to enforce the 1995 Dayton peace accords, the US has consistently preferred diplomatic compromises over the use of force to address still-unresolved and critical problems in Bosnia.

Despite half-successful strong-arm tactics by US envoy Richard Holbrooke last week, two key goals of the Dayton accords remain unmet: neutralizing indicted war criminals and creating adequate condtions for fair elections.

"Clinton is wary that incurring US casualties in Bosnia will play into Republican hands," says an analyst with the UN High Representative's office in Sarajevo. "Republicans will attack him for having placed US forces in a country where few Americans think they have any strategic interests."

The US has consistently said the conditions of Dayton are crucial for achieving lasting peace. But US commanders of NATO-led forces in Bosnia have just as consistently said hunting war criminals is not their job.

Even as war-crimes investigators unearth fresh evidence daily of Serb massacres of Muslims around the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, critics charge that the Clinton administration has not pushed to bring to justice those thought responsible: Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic.

Mr. Holbrooke's trip last week secured the removal from power of Mr. Karadzic. But because Karadzic will remain in the town of Pale, the Bosnian Serb capital, it is widely assumed that he will continue to bolster Bosnian Serb policies of ethnic division.

Holbrooke admits his breakthrough was incomplete and "falls short of our goals." It was secured after 10 hours of "acrimonious" talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who signed the Dayton accord on behalf of Bosnian Serbs. But bringing the two high-profile officials to the tribunal, Holbrooke said, would be "a long and bumpy road."

Holbrooke's successor as envoy, Undersecretary of State John Kornblum, began a mission to the region July 23 saying that he would "push for the next step."

But critics argue that US diplomacy has not been sufficient. "What else could be done? …

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