Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Troops Won't Be Coming Home Clinton Will Use Monday Trip to Bosnia to Convince Americans That Troops Must Stay on to Prevent Wider War

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Troops Won't Be Coming Home Clinton Will Use Monday Trip to Bosnia to Convince Americans That Troops Must Stay on to Prevent Wider War

Article excerpt

It has long been a tradition for the president of the United States to pay Christmas visits to American troops deployed in far-flung corners of the globe.

This year, President Clinton will spend time with some of the 8,500 US peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But he will be bringing more than Yuletide cheer on his 12-hour foray to Tuzla and Sarajevo on Monday.

Mr. Clinton will also be asking a reluctant US military to stay beyond its scheduled exit date in June. It will be the second extension of the NATO-led operation that for two years has kept a shaky peace in Bosnia among Serbs, Muslims, and Croats after almost four years of war. Clinton's decision, which he announced yesterday, comes amid strong congressional opposition and is an acknowledgment that the 1995 US-brokered peace plan remains unfulfilled. The overriding concern driving the decision is that a pullout could lead to a war that could spread through the Balkans, creating a divisive conflict in the middle of Europe. The new force will be smaller than the current 32,000-strong contingent, but its size and mission length are still to be worked out by NATO. Clinton's visit to Sarajevo - a symbol of Bosnia's prewar multiethnic amity - also provides a compelling stage from which he is expected to appeal anew to the American public to back a continued US role in Bosnia. "The US is a necessary component of implementing the peace and maintaining order in Bosnia," asserts Kurt Basseuner of the Balkans Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Renewed bloodshed could be far more costly to contain. It would also represent a US foreign policy disaster that would call into question America's post-cold war commitment to European security - just as NATO grapples with the uncertainties of expanding into former communist Eastern Europe. Moreover, a resumption of war in Bosnia would constitute the failure of a key initiative on which Clinton's legacy as an international statesman will be measured after he leaves office in 2000. In deciding to participate in a new NATO force, Clinton maintains that enough progress has been made in implementing the 1995 Dayton peace accords to warrant a continued push toward their goal of maintaining a unitary Bosnian state. "The progress {in Bosnia} is unmistakable," Clinton said at the White House yesterday, "but it is not yet irreversible." Indeed, many officials insist the progress is tangible. "There are still problems, there is still resistance and unacceptable behavior on all sides," says one administration official. "But I don't think ordinary people want to go back to war. It's a new dynamic in comparison to where it was before." In the latest sign of what the official called a fresh resolve to advance the peace plan, yesterday US troops backed Dutch commandos in arresting two Bosnian Croats wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal. …

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