The Bosnia peace agreement, brokered in private marathon sessions by the Clinton administration, raises many more questions than it answers. One thing, however, is certain: the clarion call "never again" rings hollow, and in effect aggression pays.
If the pact seems to be working it would be a God send for President Clinton in his second term election bid. But if American peace keeping forces in Bosnia suffer heavy casualties it could be his political demise. The big domestic question is whether the Republican-controlled Congress will authorize, and even more important finance, the sending of some 20,000 American troops under NATO command to the Balkans. Senator Bob Dole, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has instead repeatedly called for the lifting of the arms embargo against the Bosnians.
Exhausted now, the parties to the brutal war in Bosnia, mercifully, hopefully, have agreed to stop the killing. But the future looks bleak for the Bosnian Muslims.
What will the peace pact achieve that could not have been realized without the sacrifice of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslim Serbs. Had President Bush stood firm, the Orthodox Christian Serbs could have been stopped dead in their tracks. But there was to be no "line in the sand" for the Muslims. Mr. Bush had an election coming, the euphoria over the Gulf War was wearing thin, and the U.S. had no vital interests, like oil, in far off Bosnia.
Today, a number of factors have come together. The Roman Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslim Serbs in recent months have recaptured large parts of their territories from the Christian Serbs. This exploded Washington's nonintervention scenario that repulsing the aggressor Christian Serbs could involve the U.S. in an open-ended Vietnam-type war. The United Nation's dismal peace keeping failure, the differences between NATO allies and the Atlantic Alliance's exposure as "a paper tiger," along with reports of large scale Christian Serb war crimes forced the Clinton administration to say 'enough is enough' and get NATO air power to knock out Christian Serb radar systems and weapons. Meanwhile, the international sanctions against Belgrade were hurting Serbia. President Slobodan Milosevic, now uncertain of support from the ailing Russian President Yeltsin, was forced to accept the Clinton peace accord.
But for Bosnia itself the future looks grim. Major issues remain unresolved. How long will U.S. troops be in Bosnia to keep the peace? If fighting breaks out again, will the Bosnian government have access to military supplies. Will refugees return to their properties or receive compensation and from whom? Will those indicted for war crimes, like the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, be handed over for trial by the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. Will those whose friends and families have fought and died in the holocaust learn to live again in peace? Finally, will Bosnia continue to exist as agreed to in the treaty, or will the Muslims ultimately be left with only a city/state: Sarajevo?