KEEPING THE PEACE
December 22, 1997
After announcing his decision to maintain a military presence in Bosnia until a lasting peace has been achieved, President Clinton paid a Christmas visit to the U.S. troops stationed there. Following a background report by Charles Krause, Margaret Warner and guests discuss the current state of peace in Bosnia and the extended U.S. mission.
MARGARET WARNER: Now for three perspectives on where things stand in Bosnia. Gen. George Joulwan was supreme allied commander Europe for NATO from 1993 to 1997--he set up and commanded the NATO operation in Bosnia until his retirement in July; Obrad Kesic is a Balkan analyst at the International Research & Exchanges Board, a private, non-profit group that organizes professional and academic exchanges for emerging leaders in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. And David Rieff is a journalist and author of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West. Gen. Joulwan, what has the military mission achieved for Bosnia so far?
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
December 22, 1997:
A background report on the current state of peace in Bosnia.
December 18, 1997:
Samuel Berger discusses the decision to keep troops in Bosnia.
September 23, 1997:
National Security Advisor Samuel Berger discusses NATO's future in Bosnia.
September 15, 1997:
Bosnia holds municipal elections for the first time in seven years.
August 26, 1997:
NATO takes a tougher stance with war criminals.
August 11, 1997:
Elizabeth Farnsworth interviews Richard Holbrooke, chief U.S. negotiator of the Dayton Peace Agreement.
July 10, 1997:
NATO's arrest of Bosnian war criminals.
May 13, 1997:
Newsmaker Interview with Bosnian Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic.
May 12, 1997:
Departing NATO Supreme Commander General George Joulwan discusses the mission in Bosnia.
December 20, 1996:
Two Bosnian experts discuss the military and civilian efforts of SFOR.
September 16, 1996:
Richard Holbrooke discusses the Bosnian elections.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Bosnia.
The importance of the military mission.
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (Ret.), Former NATO Commander: Well, in the last two years I think they've achieved a great deal. Everything that was set out at Dayton in what we call Annex 1 B has been accomplished. The force has been separated. The former warring factions have been separated. Land has been transferred, and the heavy weapons of the former warring factions are now in about five or six hundred heavy weapons storage sites. In addition to that, we've de-mobilized the force and so the military threat is much less. In addition to that, we've assisted the civilian agencies and organizations in the elections that were held in ‘96 and ‘97. We also have built 60 different bridges, 2500 different kilometers of road, opened four airports, and have really provided this secure environment for civilian implementation to take place. But we can bring an absence of war, but we cannot bring peace. As the President said, that can only come from the parties, and I think through a very proactive civil implementation program.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Mr. Kesic, what has the civil mission achieved so far, do you think?
OBRAD KESIC, Balkan analyst: Well, there has been several significant achievements, but there's also been many obstacles on that path.
MARGARET WARNER: Tell us the achievements first.
OBRAD KESIC: Well, first the achievements, I think, to list a few of them, one is that the bulk of the assistance that was promised, especially in the first round of funding--$1.8 billion--has arrived and has been used for various renovation, reconstruction projects throughout Bosnia. These have--for the most part--been a tremendous deal to restore the infrastructure that was there in place before the war. There still is a tremendous need for additional funding and for more to be done, and I think this is a clear item that can be labeled a success. In addition to that there is seedlings of joint institutions that have been developed between the three communities. This has been very slow going, and this is probably one of the areas that has received most of the criticism. But it has to be acknowledged that these institutions have take root, and over time perhaps can bud into some kind of joint institutions that will bind these peoples together.
MARGARET WARNER: David Rieff, your assessment of the changes brought thus far on both sides, military that is, and civilian.
David Rieff: "Well, the military mission in terms of stopping the war has been a total success. In my view, the civilian mission has been a failure."
DAVID RIEFF, Author: Well, the military mission in terms of stopping the war has been a total success. In my view, the civilian mission has been a failure. The fact of the matter is that refugees have not been able to return to areas where they are not in the majority ethnically; that is, Muslims can return to Muslim-controlled areas but not to majority Serb areas. That is a deal breaker. It's all very well, as the President does, to talk about Dayton as the job of the leaders in the region, but the truth is the same leaders who brought the war about are still in power. And as long as they remain in power and as long as the refugees don't return safely, I think what you've got is an armed truce, very ably managed, I should add, by the international community.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree, Mr. Kesic, that refugee return really is "the" test?
OBRAD KESIC: Well, I think there are many tests. I agree with what Mr. Rieff has said for the most part, that is, that in the civilian side there has been definitely a lack of success when you compare it to the military implementation of the Dayton Accords. But I think that there's more to be said about what is being done. And I think one of the biggest problems there has been from the very beginning of Dayton is that there is an inherent contradiction within Dayton. First of all, the goal of Dayton is unclear in many people's eyes. That is, is keeping peace enough, or do we have to restore or rebuild or build, in some people's opinion, a multi-ethnic, multi-national state of Bosnia? And I think when you respond to that question, that determines how you'll approach dealing with every other aspect of civilian implementation.
MARGARET WARNER: I want to get back to that question, but, first, General, your view on what David Rieff just said about refugee return; that it isn't going well. Is that true, why not, and how important is it?
DAVID RIEFF: Well, I really think, as I've said before, that it is the key to reconciliation. How we do it is the issue, and that is going to take, I think, a great deal of political guidance and political will to make that happen. I don't see that right now, but we should say on the other side, thousands have returned, many of them to majority areas, some to minority areas, but I think it's going to take a great deal from the international community to develop the political will to make it happen.
MARGARET WARNER: But in a nutshell, why is it so difficult? Is it the resistance of the local leaders?
DAVID RIEFF: Well, I think in many cases, yes, that's part of the problem. You have very strong what I would call sort of warlords, thugs in many cases that aren't at the local level that are resisting this change. I will say that I've always felt that if you could have a momentum for peace and that comes from the civilian implementation, if you can show a better way of life, get electricity and power and other things working, I think you can create a climate where a majority of people will opt for peace, not war. And I think we need to continue to try to do that, while the international community gets their act together on the return of refugees.
MARGARET WARNER: David Rieff, back to a question or an issue that Mr. Kesic rose--brought up about whether the real premise of Dayton was to create a kind of--a unified state. One, do you agree that's one of the premises of Dayton, and two, what do you see about the interest and willingness of people there to do that?
The Dayton Accords.
DAVID RIEFF: Well, two points. First, Dayton is, as Mr. Kesic says quite correctly, although I would put it more stark, a schizophrenic document. It both calls for a unitary state and it lays the groundwork for a partition. Both things are possible in the Dayton framework. Maybe that's why people would get on board, because they could interpret it, like the famous Rorschach blot, as they saw fit. Right now, I think we're heading toward that velvet partition, and that is the version of Dayton that has come to predominate. I sympathize with the general's idea that we need to muster the will, but since D plus 1, since the beginning of Dayton implementation, that will has been absent, and I don't see anything to suggest that it's more present now.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you see anything to suggest the will is present in sort of who wins elections, or how the law or the media or all these various institutions operate?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN: I truly think that in time we will see because I think petition is going to take you back to a situation where war is also possible. So I don't think petition is going to be the answer. I think it's an easy answer to some. But I don't think it's a true answer. We have come a long way. There's been a great deal of sacrifice by not just the military but the people of Bosnia, themselves? I really think we should still give a multi-ethnic state a chance, and I think that has to happen, but, again, the key I think is in the international community, and I believe that will develop in the near future.
MARGARET WARNER: How do you see this issue that you brought up?
OBRAD KESIC: Well, I think for the most part I agree with Mr. Rieff. I think that there was a clear lack of political will on implementing most of the aspects of the--civilian aspects I should say of the Dayton Agreement. I don't see a great deal changing over the past couple of months, and I haven't seen it. I think one of the things that's most troubling to me is--especially on the refugee issue that you've pointed out, is that as we're talking about getting people back to their homes in Bosnia right now as we speak, there is another exodus occurring in neighboring Croatia that's going to affect the ability of getting people back in their homes in Bosnia, and that's from Eastern Slavonia, where every day now you have about 300 Serbs leaving their homes, some of them making their way to Bosnia, and obviously taking people's homes who used to live in Bosnia. So this is a very complex issue, and unless we begin to approach this with a more dynamic game plan to deal with it, and other issues concerning the civilian implementation. I'm afraid we are heading for some type of soft partition or velvet partition, as Mr. Rieff has mentioned.
MARGARET WARNER: David Rieff, what effect do you think it will have on the parties who up till now have always been working under a deadline? There have been a couple of different deadlines for NATO to withdraw. What impact is it going to have on the parties now that the President has said essentially the U.S. and NATO are staying there without a definite time deadline?
DAVID RIEFF: Well, in the absence of a willingness on the part of the NATO forces to impose more than just a cease-fire but actually assist in refugee return--and there doesn't, as I said before, seem to be any political will for that--I don't think the presence of NATO troops is a problem for those warlords. The point about partition is it's just as regrettable, as Gen. Joulwan says, but it's taking place every day on the ground. Every day that precisely a Serb thrown out of Eastern Slavonia moves into a Muslim's home in Banja Luka in Northern Bosnia, the partition of Bosnia becomes a sure bet. That's what's on on the ground, for all the talk about implementing Dayton.
MARGARET WARNER: What do you think is going to be the effect of staying on, on the parties?
Gen. Joulwan: "I think personally that with time we're going to continue to see positive change."
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN: I think personally that with time we're going to continue to see positive change. It may not come as fast as we would like, but I think we'll continue to see positive change. What has to happen is what the President said about the parties themselves. There has to be some realization of their responsibility in all of this, and I think that's the key to it, if you can get the parties to get some movement. I would hope we would not--we would not go immediately to partition. I think that would be the wrong signal to send.
MARGARET WARNER: And briefly your view on whether this extension makes the parties more or less likely to do what they have to do.
OBRAD KESIC: I think it's going to have very little effect in the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Agreement, but I think it sends a very positive message that the United States is committed, and I think that in very practical terms it prevents the resumption of the conflict.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, well, thank you all three very much.