House Republican Policy Committee
Policy Perspective
Christopher Cox, Chairman

Embracing Milosevic, Iranians Hasn't Worked


August 7, 1996

Introduction: Delayed Pullout

Last November, as he prepared to order American troops to the former Yugoslavia, President Clinton promised in writing to the Speaker of the House what the nation's top soldier, Gen. John Shalikashvili, had told Congress in testimony a month before: that "we have set one year as a deadline for withdrawal of these forces from Bosnia-Herzegovina."

In testimony before the House International Relations Committee on November 30, 1995, Secretary of Defense William Perry confirmed the one-year duration of the mission. He said:

"[W]e have based our planning and our scheduling of this force on it being there for 1 year ... building down the force for withdrawal at the end of about 1 year."

Not all were so sanguine that the Bosnia mission's goals, ill-defined as they were, could be accomplished within the time-frame the Administration promised. During an October 18, 1995 hearing, Tom Lantos, a senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, was justified in saying to Secretary Perry,

"I think I understand why the administration facing a hostile Congress is promising a 1-year deadline, but I think it is a dangerous course of action because I think there is a very strong possibility that at the end of the year we will find it necessary to extend the mission. I think it would be more honest to say so at the outset."

In March 1996, several months into the deployment, the administration was still publicly committed to withdrawing the troops after a year. Robert Hunter, the President's Ambassador to NATO, stated flatly, "We, as NATO, took a very careful decision about how long we were prepared to stay. We agreed on a year. We went in together, and we're going to leave together." And Richard Holbrooke, until recently Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, said, "The president has given a very clear commitment on the 12 months. That is our policy. It will remain our policy."

Not for long. By June 7, 1996, the NATO regional commander, Adm. Leighton Smith, was saying that "there will be forces here beyond a year." Defense Secretary William Perry acknowledged that the Dayton Accords, the basis for the U.S. deployment, call for the mission to end in December, but said that he would recommend keeping U.S. troops in Bosnia next year if NATO thinks "some further action is needed" in the region.

As The New York Times reported on June 13, "Mr. Perry's comments were the latest concession by the Clinton Administration that the original time frame for removing the NATO peacekeeping force may have been unrealistic, and that bringing peace to the Balkans is proving more difficult than the Administration forecast when it brokered a peace accord last year."

Apparently everyone in the Administration isn't on the same page. On the same day that Secretary Perry said U.S. troops could stay longer in Bosnia, President Clinton said, "I believe that we should stick with our timetable. We believe that IFOR can complete its mission in about a year." The next day, as his spokesman asserted that "there has been no change in the President's view of the current IFOR mission," the President stated, "We believe that it has to be an effective military force certainly until December 20 and then some draw-down can begin after that" (emphasis added)--a subtle, but significant shift from the previous one-year-and-out "commitment."

We know now that the situation in Bosnia is far from stable enough for U.S. troops to withdraw--not least because, as CIA Director John Deutch went secretly to Bosnia on July 5, 1996 to investigate, Iranians and foreign nationals are burrowed into Bosnian society despite Clinton Administration assurances to the contrary.

Justifications for an Extended Deployment

There are several reasons the Administration may offer as to why the situation in the Balkans merits an extension of the IFOR mission in Bosnia. The most salient reason is the absence of substantial civilian, political reconciliation programs which the Dayton accords mandated would obviate the IFOR military deployment. Secretary Perry had said at a November 30 International Relations Committee hearing that "I also believe that in a period of about a year, through our presence and through our actions there, we will be able to provide the secure environment tasks that we have talked about here to get started and take root." Six months into "Operation Joint Endeavor," they have not taken root.

In fact, they have barely gotten started, due in large part to the Administration's failure to establish a concerted policy. In a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, it took three months of infighting among the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Defense and State Departments, and the Agency for International Development before the Administration decided what initiatives for reconstruction and reconciliation the U.S. should undertake. Defining this aspect of American policy was not even begun until the Administration requested a supplemental appropriation of $198 million on February 21, 1996.

Even within the State Department, the delineation of responsibilities is convoluted. Holbrooke's successor, John Kornblum, is ostensibly in charge of Bosnia policy, but Bill Montgomery was given the civilian implementation portfolio. Then Bill Clinton appointed a friend from the 1972 McGovern campaign, Richard Sklar, to serve as Special Representative of the President and the Secretary of State for civilian implementation in Bosnia. Who is in charge here?

One of the chief signs of the underdeveloped civilian dimensions of the intervention is the emerging concern over the democratic elections scheduled for September 14, 1996 in the Bosnian-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. One of the key problems is the desire of some Bosnian Serbs to vote for sadistic war criminals like Radovan Karadzic (who only reluctantly stepped down as the candidate of the so-called "Serb Democratic Party" for President of the Bosnian Serb Republic), despite the Dayton Accords' proscription on the participation of suspected war criminals. Another is the concern that fraud cannot be averted in an election scheduled so soon. One international aid official told The Washington Post on August 6, 1996, "Everybody knows these elections aren't going to be fair and aren't democratic.... When do they become a farce?"

Another reason Administration officials might cite for extending the U.S. deployment beyond the one-year time frame is the need to capture wanted war criminals. But the problem here is not a matter of time, merely one of clarity of purpose. U.S. military officials (for example, Admiral Smith) and political appointees at the State Department (such as Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck) have contradicted each other as to whether or not one of the aims of IFOR is to deliver war criminals to the Hague for trial. NATO forces have either failed to try, or failed in trying to arrest the likes of Karadzic or Bosnian Serb warlord Ratko Mladic. The credibility of the West and NATO are at stake in punishing perpetrators of ethnic cleansing, mass murder, population relocations, internment camps, and systematic rape of women. Having let "safe areas" such as Srebrenica, where victims of a July 1995 massacre were dumped in mass graves, be overrun under "U.N. Protection Force" auspices, the West has yet to follow through on the vigorous pursuit of war criminals. Only four of 75 suspects indicted by the Hague tribunal have been arrested. Now the Administration has called Holbrooke out of retirement to try to "negotiate" the indicted war criminals out of office--tacitly admitting its own impotence, incompetence, or both.

Perry said at the November 30, 1995 International Relations Committee hearing, "I believe that one year is sufficient time to create [a] military balance." Yet the Administration could well argue that the military deployment must continue because a durable and stable balance of power has not been established--not least due to the fact that the Administration has not commenced a program to see to the arming of the Bosnian Federation and the training of its soldiers for the self-defense of the Bosnian Muslims. In exchange for then-Majority Leader Dole's support of the deployment of over 20,000 American soldiers, the Administration pledged to commence such a program as soon as possible. Yet even though an Alexandria, Virginia firm has been awarded a contract to do the job, nothing has been implemented.

And why not? For two reasons. First, symptomatic of the fragility of the Bosnian-Croat Federation, the Bosnian Parliament has only now agreed to establish a joint Bosnian-Croat military command structure, despite an agreement in the Dayton Accords to create a combined federation defense ministry. The Clinton Administration made the development of a joint command a prerequisite for the release of $100 million in U.S. aid. As such, the flimsiness of the Bosnian-Croat entity, which the Administration helped cobble together, is yet another failure in forging political unity in the Balkans.

Second, the "arm-and-train" program has not begun because of the Iranian presence which lingered in Bosnia long after the IFOR deployment on December 20, 1995. The reason for this Iranian foothold in Bosnia is the Administration's own refusal to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia in 1993, 1994, and 1995 so that Bosnia could defend itself--an inherent right it possessed under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. As Senator Dole argued on January 4, 1995, when he introduced legislation to lift the embargo and assist Bosnia, doing so "would reduce the potential influence and role of radical extremist states like Iran" in Bosnia. President Clinton vetoed that bill. But beginning in April 1994, his Administration had actively facilitated the flow of Iranian arms through Croatia to Bosnia--and of Iranian personnel right behind them. Not until June 26, 1996, six months after the IFOR deployment, did his Administration certify that the Iranians it virtually invited into Bosnia had finally left.

And even then, the Iranians weren't really gone. The Washington Post reported on July 8, 1996 that "Islamic militants from Iran and other foreign countries are employing techniques such as forced marriages, kidnappings and the occupation of apartments and houses to remain in Bosnia." What's more, according to the Post, the Clinton Administration knew that its certification that the Iranians were gone was wrong and that several hundred remained. The Post wrote that "[Director of Central Intelligence] Deutch made an unannounced visit to Bosnia on [July 5], and, a Bosnian government source said...Deutch's visit appeared to stem partly from fears of a possible attack on Americans in Bosnia" by the Iranians.

In trying to meet the conditions for arming and training the Bosnians, the Administration has been tripping over its own pro-Iranian policies at every step--and now that carelessness toward Iran may directly threaten American soldiers.

Questions to Ask the President

The absolutely incoherent drifting Clinton Bosnia policy raises questions that Congress, in its proper oversight role, must ask the Administration:

Will the Administration reverse its once-unambiguous pledge to get those troops out of Bosnia after one year? If so, why? How long will American troops be in Bosnia? Will the Administration answer these questions before the November election?

What--if anything--is now the mission of the vaguely-named "Operation Joint Endeavor"?

What is the relationship between IFOR's military mission and the civilian reconciliation and democratization program also initiated by the Dayton Accord? Are political reconciliation and democratization part of IFOR's mission? If the civilian program is underdeveloped, does that mean the troops must stay?

Is the pursuit of war criminals part of IFOR's mandate? After some six months in Bosnia, have the U.S. and the West determined conclusively whether NATO will assist the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in prosecuting suspected agents of ethnic cleansing?

Is the United States a neutral participant in IFOR, or the protector of the Bosnian Muslims, the chief wronged party in the Balkan conflict? Has the Clinton Administration even confronted this question, six months after the deployment of IFOR?

Can the Dayton Accord "have it both ways" on so many critical matters and still create a meaningful peace? Can enforcement troops act both as neutrals and as partisans of the Bosnian Muslims? How can the Dayton framework simultaneously call Bosnia a unified nation and partition it in two (into the Federation and the Serb Republic)?

Conclusion: Coddling Terrorists and Dictators Doesn't Work

The Dayton Accord appears more and more to have been a fraud. Obsessed with multilateralism and willingly gulled into accepting the moral equivalence of aggressor and victim in the Balkan conflict, the Clinton Administration has been unable to solve complex conflicts with accomodationist diplomacy. It has, in effect, maintained the United States's neutrality between the friends and enemies of freedom.

President Clinton's one-dimensional pursuit of "peace processes" has now run aground not only in the Balkans but in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and North Korea. After the Administration dealt the worst blow in decades to America's special relationship with Britain by inviting Gerry Adams, the head of the Irish Republican Army's political arm, Sinn Fein, to Washington, the IRA repaid the U.S. by reigniting its terrorism. Despite--and most likely because of--its relentless courtship of Hafez Assad, the Administration has failed to broker a peace between Syria and Israel, while terrorist bombings in Israel led the electorate to reject the Clinton Administration's shameless tilt toward Labor in the May 29 elections. And after rewarding Stalinist North Korea's nuclear program with massive financial aid in the Agreed Framework of August 12, 1995, North Korean military forces started systematically penetrating the Demilitarized Zone to intimidate South Korea.

Preponderant evidence indicates that this pattern of failed "peace processes," coddling terrorists and dictators, doesn't work. Yet it is being repeated in Bosnia. Deutch's secret mission to investigate the Iranian infestation is only one of many signs that the conditions necessary for an American withdrawal--conditions that the Administration once promised would be in place in one year--are conspicuously absent.

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Last updated August 21, 1996