June 6, 1996 | Commentary on Russia
The White House recently announced it would expand the role of the U.S.-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia to include scouring the countryside for war criminals. This is something the administration specifically promised not to do, a role that was purposefully left out of the Dayton Peace Accords because of its divisiveness and its potential for indefinitely expanding the Bosnia mission and producing casualties.
Why is the administration taking this step? It wants to apprehend Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic, both still exercising control over Serb-held territory. And no wonder: If these two are not apprehended, it will be difficult for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to sanction elections scheduled for September, as called for in the peace accords.
Without elections, no stable government will be established in Bosnia. With no government, withdrawing U.S. troops, as President Clinton promised, may not happen. In other words, the house of cards the president set up in Bosnia could come crashing down.
Of course, if by November election time it doesn't look like U.S. troops will come home soon, the president's Bosnia policy will be revealed for what it is: a jerry-rigged, politically tuned deal that puts U.S. forces at the mercy of events that can spin out of control at any time. To avoid this perception, the White House apparently is willing to risk substantial U.S. casualties -- both Karadzic and Mladic travel with 50 to 60 heavily armed escorts. But if Americans die, a la Somalia, the backlash could be even worse.
The whole mess is typical of the foreign policy ineptitude shown by this administration from the beginning. The Clinton team, influenced by its opposition to the Vietnam War, came into office confused about which situations warrant U.S. military intervention, and which do not. It became clear that the president believed multinational peacekeeping was the wave of the future for U.S. foreign policy. The administration appeared more comfortable with the idea of "foreign policy as social work." This global utopianism led the president to commit America to dubious peacekeeping efforts in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, with sometimes tragic, never satisfactory results.
Few Americans realize how many gross errors and misjudgments have been made in foreign policy. Consider:
This is no way to conduct foreign policy.
Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D., is Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies and Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.