For Clinton, Battle Front on Bosnia Shifts to Congress and Sending GIs
George Moffett, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
AFTER intense diplomacy and NATO airstrikes, the Clinton administration has persuaded the warring parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina to lay down their arms and begin serious peace talks.
Now the hard part begins at home: persuading Congress to allow some 20,000 American troops to be dispatched to Bosnia to help guarantee the peace once a final settlement is in hand.
Indications are that lawmakers will give the green light only reluctantly and only after the ground rules for American military engagement are clearly defined.
"I'm happy with the cease-fire but still concerned about the use of American troops on the ground in Bosnia," says one leading critic of President Clinton's Bosnia policy, Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire.
"I'm sure you'll see that a large portion of Congress will want to have the president clarify - before American troops are sent - the issue of what they are going over there to do, why, what their mission will be, what the endgame is, and when they'll be out," he said.
Mr. Clinton announced last Thursday that Bosnian leaders had agreed to a 60-day cease-fire, due to begin today. Once the guns fall silent, preliminary peace talks will be held in the United States, followed by a full-scale international peace conference in Paris.
Significant issues will have to be resolved before a cease-fire can be translated into a peace settlement, including the map of a proposed new Bosnian federation. If and when they are, administration officials say, American participation in a NATO-led peacekeeping force of up to 60,000 will be indispensible.
"It's not going to happen unless NATO does it and NATO isn't going to do it unless the US does it," says one senior administration official.
Insisting that Bosnia is Europe's problem and not within the purview of US national interests, many lawmakers have questioned the wisdom of the administration's commitment, first made in 1994, to provide American troops to help monitor an eventual agreement.
If a viable settlement is reached at the bargaining table, lawmakers will have to make a politically risky and morally complex choice: Whether to go along with the president and bear some of the blame if American casualties result or whether to say no and bear the blame if the peace process fails. …