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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bill Clinton: American Engagement

Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the United States:

American Engagement, by Bill Clinton, Wall Street Journal Commentary: Ten years ago, at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio, the leaders who had waged a brutal four-year war in Bosnia ... finally agreed to peace... after intense international military and diplomatic pressure led by the United States. At the time, almost everyone predicted that the Dayton Peace Agreement would fail. To enforce the agreement, I sent 20,000 U.S. soldiers to Bosnia as part of a 60,000-troop NATO peacekeeping force... After the genocide of 1995, when more than 7,000 men were murdered in Srebrenica, it was clear that only NATO under America's leadership could ensure peace. Still, a large majority of the American public opposed my decision. Some expected heavy casualties; some feared another round of war, with Bosnia split in two and the need for our troops never-ending. On the day before the Dayton Agreement was to take effect, the House of Representatives voted three-to-one against an American troop deployment to Bosnia. Despite this opposition, I felt the United States had to act in order to stop the atrocities and try to bring peace and stability to the region. ...

Dayton ended the war. It will not resume. The region is now stable and peaceful...  Bosnia is one country. It does have two distinct entities, one Serb and one a Croat-Muslim Federation, but movement is unimpeded across the boundary line... The country has a single currency and a single economy. ... Almost no one dared to predict these successes a decade ago. To be sure, Dayton was not a perfect peace. ... But it achieved vital national security interests. It ended the worst war in Europe in half a century, which threatened the peaceful integration of Europe after the Cold War. It, and subsequent events in Kosovo, laid the basis for a multiethnic state, which has lived in peace for a decade with its neighbors. It triggered the events that led to the dictator Slobodan Milosevic's removal and trial at The Hague for war crimes. Additionally, at the time of Dayton we estimated that there were more than 1,000 Islamic extremist fighters in Bosnia, and Iran had forged close ties to some in Bosnia's government. Special provisions that we wrote into the military annex of the Dayton Agreement gave us the opportunity to use NATO troops to clean out those cells, even as al Qaeda was building its organization in the heart of Europe.

We were well aware of Dayton's shortcomings. ... Regrettably, one major Dayton task remains to be met. While this year the authorities in the Serb republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina have assisted in the transferal of some 12 indicted war criminals to the International War Crimes Tribunal, ... Without the arrest and transfer of all indicted war criminals, especially Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, justice will not have been done and the Balkans will be unable to leave the past behind them.

Bosnia's 10-year path since Dayton reminds all of us privileged to lead U.S. foreign policy of a simple truth: Every one of us who starts a large initiative will be out of office before America's job is done. Progress takes time... Therefore, we cannot undertake an initiative without preparing to hand it off -- by building support across the aisle at home, and by finding international partners who will pick up the job when America is occupied by new challenges. To this end, my administration built our policy around gaining allied support and adding international help over time. ... Today Bosnia and its neighbors are on their way to becoming part of a Europe whole and free -- something every American president since Harry Truman has wanted. This could not have happened had America not sustained our partnership with Europe during the difficult process of making peace. ...

Today, the United States is again showing leadership in the region. ... After this week's focus on Bosnia, I look forward to the far more daunting task that lies ahead for ... resolving the final status of Kosovo. The long delay and rising tensions will make negotiations harder, but they must proceed with strong American involvement. Looking back, it is clear that the United States and our European allies should have acted in Bosnia earlier. But when America did act, with bombings followed by the diplomatic initiative that culminated in Dayton, we made a decisive difference. ... Was it worth it? Absolutely. While there is still work to be done, ... the dream of a Europe united, free and at peace, is still alive.

    Posted by on Wednesday, November 23, 2005 at 01:41 AM in Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (3)

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