Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Dec 7 11:48:59 MST 1999

A peace that's about to explode

As more than 10,000 NATO troops prepare to leave Bosnia, the Clinton
administration is simply hoping stability will last until Election Day.

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By Laura Rozen

Dec. 6, 1999 | Four years after Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic,
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic
gathered in Paris to sign an American-negotiated peace agreement to end the
Bosnian war, it appears that the Bosnian peace process may depend not on
the three Dayton signatories but on the outcome of the upcoming U.S.
presidential elections.

Today, Milosevic is indicted for war crimes, Tudjman is close to death in a
coma in Zagreb and Izetbegovic's political associates have been accused of
skimming millions of dollars from Western reconstruction assistance. Of the
leading U.S. presidential candidates, only one, Vice President Al Gore, has
voiced commitment to sustaining the U.S. investment in maintaining peace in
Bosnia. Despite the presence of thousands of NATO troops and billions of
dollars in reconstruction assistance, domestic stability has failed to take

The prospect that Bosnia may not have a NATO peacekeeping force much longer
and millions of dollars in reconstruction assistance may soon disappear has
sent a shiver of panic through Bosnia, where a four-year-long war killed
more than 200,000 people in the worst atrocities in Europe since the
Holocaust. Since the peace agreement was signed in December 1995, the
Bosnian peace process has floundered on key issues -- despite the infusion
of $5 billion in reconstruction assistance, the presence of 30,000 NATO-led
peacekeeping troops and a legion of international experts working to
breathe life into democratic governing institutions. More than 1 million
Bosnians have still not been able to return to their homes in areas that
are controlled by other ethnic groups, dozens of the worst war crimes
suspects have not been arrested and Bosnia's Western-designed governing
institutions are dysfunctional.

Adding to the concern by Balkan watchers about the prospects for lasting
peace in Bosnia is the fact that Texas Gov. George W. Bush and former New
Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley have laid out foreign-policy platforms that
criticize U.S. military interventions in the Balkans. Both candidates say
the missions are exhausting military resources for conflicts that lie
outside the nation's vital national-security interests.

"I don't think the United States can be a policeman to the world. We don't
have the resources or the wisdom," Bradley told an audience at the Fletcher
School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In a recent foreign policy
address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Governor Bush said his
foreign policy would focus on trade, Russia and China, and would frown on
unclear peacekeeping missions in the Balkans.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who initially voiced criticism of NATO air
strikes in Kosovo, has since said the Clinton administration was wrong to
have not considered using ground troops in Kosovo. McCain has repeatedly
called for Europe to take the lead in the Bosnia peace efforts, and is
scheduled to outline his major foreign-policy initiatives in an address

"Suddenly, we're saying, we're out of here," says James Lyons, the Sarajevo
director of the International Crisis Group, a Western think tank and
advocacy group that has recently issued a report on the Bosnia situation.
Bosnian "'ownership' of the peace process has become the big buzzword. In
the end, the international community wants to disengage."

This week, SFOR began withdrawals that will take the force down from 30,000
troops to a projected 19,000 by April. Several factors are driving the new
sense of urgency to scale back troop deployments in Bosnia. Increasingly,
the Pentagon is complaining that its force readiness is being jeopardized
by extended heavy troop commitments in the Balkans. In addition to its
troops in Bosnia, the United States has recently committed 6,000 troops to
a 42,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping mission in nearby Kosovo.

In addition, Western officials have grown exasperated with Bosnian
officials who have consistently obstructed key aspects of the peace
process, such as minority refugee return. This week, the top international
official in Bosnia, Austrian diplomat Wolfgang Petritsch, fired 22 Bosnian
Serbian, Croatian and Muslim mayors and local office holders for
obstructing the peace, and banned them from political life forever.

"There is a certain urgency, because support for the peace process in
Bosnia Herzegovina is decreasing," said Alexandra Stieglmayer, a
spokesperson for Petritsch, about the firings. The NATO-led stabilization
force for Bosnia, SFOR, "is now reducing the number of troops in the
country by a third. And it's getting increasingly difficult to get donor
support for Bosnia."

(complete article at

Louis Proyect

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