An agreement that basically recognizes that Bosnia exists in two entities; a
Serb entity and a ... Bosnian Croat entity. And then they work out and say
okay, how do we get to that. And they basically develop a series of carrots and
a series of sticks. The sticks include telling the Serbs that if they don't
want to negotiate that we are ready to lift the arms embargo. To arm the
Bosnians, to conduct air strikes for a year in support of the Bosnian aims. ...
And it's telling the Muslims and the Croats that if they don't cooperate we're
ready to leave. We're ready to have the UN withdraw and to leave them to their
own devices. |
Those are the kinds of sticks that were ready and the carrots were on the
details of the negotiation. ...
... First of all, Tony Lake has to sell it to the President, right? Or at
least get the President on board, obviously. How did [Lake] do that?
Basically he kept the President informed as he was developing the end game
strategy. One of the advantages of somebody like Tony Lake, who's the National
Security Advisor, is he sits around the corner from where the President works.
That's a major advantage over the Secretary of State, who is down the road. Or
the Secretary of Defense, who's across the river. He sees the President. Every
morning he goes in and gives him a national security briefing.
Now when Tony Lake would walk into the office every morning he felt like he had
a big 'B' on his head because the President would always ask about Bosnia. And
as he was developing his strategy he would tell the President, 'Mr. President,
I'm really working on this, I think we're getting somewhere'. And as soon as he
had a good draft he showed it to the President.
And the President said 'I like it, I think this is a good idea.' And then Tony
turned to the President and he said 'You know, I have to get the others on
board. We have to start working with them.' So he said 'I have a meeting with
the other principles, with Warren Christopher, the Secretary of State; Bill
Perry, the Secretary of Defense; Madeleine Albright, the Ambassador to the UN;
and General Shalikashvili or General Shali as he was known, the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff.' Tony would meet with them every Wednesday for
And he said 'Mr. President, it would be very useful if you came by and dropped
in and tell them that you think we need a new policy on Bosnia, and that you
like the ideas that I have.' In fact, on July 18th there was a meeting in Tony
Lake's office, over breakfast, he lays down his paper to his colleagues and
said 'This is how I think we need to resolve the Bosnia issue. I would like to
have your points of view about how you would like to do it.' At that point the
President comes in, he sits down, and he basically tells the others 'You know,
Tony's got some good ideas here but I would like your ideas too about how we
can resolve this issue.' But making very clear that, one, he knew where Tony
Lake was coming from and, second, that he liked those ideas; a major
bureaucratic plus in the bureaucratic infighting.
And from that the process moves along in order to get the State Department and
the military and the Defense Department to give input to where we ought to go
on Bosnia policy.
And where in that group was the resistance?
The resistance was basically coming from everybody, except from Madeleine
Albright who liked the idea very much. She had told the President some weeks
earlier that the United States foreign policy credibility was at stake here.
... So she was with Lake all along, she was the hawk in this Administration.
The resistance was coming from Christopher and Bill Perry, to a significant
extent. But mostly from Christopher and was in two ways. One, they didn't want
to think about the long term. They didn't want to do this long term end game
strategy kind of thinking. There were immediate problems. As they were meeting
the crisis in Srebrenica had just exploded. Srebrenica was a small, Muslim
enclave that the Serbs took over in mid-July and, as a result of their attack
on the enclave, not only took the enclave but got all the women and children
out and killed up to 8000 men, or they're still missing.
The first reports were coming in and what Perry and Christopher wanted to do
was how are we going to respond to this immediate issue. So that was a big part
of the resistance. They wanted to focus on what do we do now. We don't have the
time to think about what do we do in the long term. ...
You can't just wish [the end strategy] into happening. It has to be
negotiated. So whose responsibility is that going to be?
The decision by the President was to send Tony Lake to convince the allies to
come on board. But then to have a special envoy to negotiate the final details
with the parties and to try to get a negotiated settlement. The question was
who was that going to be. Warren Christopher felt very strongly that this kind
of negotiation has to be done by someone from the State Department. And the
obvious person, in his mind, was his Assistant Secretary for European and
Canadian Affairs, Richard Holbrooke.
Holbrooke, who had been Ambassador to Germany in the first year of the Clinton
Administration, had been brought back to Washington in part to resolve the
Bosnia issue. He had been fairly frustrated about the direction of US policy.
He had been one of the hawks on this policy, wanted it to be more robust. And
through 1994 and particularly in 1995 had become quite disillusioned with US
policy. That it wasn't taken in the right direction. And just before he was
nominated to be a special envoy he had indicated that he might well return to
He had remarried just recently and he was ready to go, in particular since the
policy wasn't moving in the right direction. But then he got the call from
Strobe Talbot, the Deputy Secretary, asking him to take over from Tony Lake. To
meet Tony Lake in London and to take over the shuttle with the parties in order
to get a deal with the parties.
What had Holbrooke been arguing during this frustrating period? ...
Holbrooke's basic argument was that we needed to launch air strikes. To use
massive air power in order to get the Serbs to come to the table. In that he
was on the same line as Madeleine Albright and, in many ways, the same line as
Tony Lake. Tony Lake's response to the Holbrooke requested policy, however,
was--one, what do we do after air strikes. And, second, how can we use air
strikes to marry it to diplomacy. And the beauty of the end game strategy was
that it took the forceful option that Holbrooke and Albright had supported, and
married it to diplomacy.
So when Dick Holbrooke becomes the envoy, what is the end toward which he is
moving? What's his brief?
The brief he has is to negotiate a deal, well any deal he can find, but a
negotiated deal based on what was in the end game strategy. Which was a
division of Bosnia into two entities. Where the size of the entities was less
important than the fact that the nature of the borders were such that they
could defend themselves. ...
What made that position viable?
... Three things changed in August 1995 that enabled the end game strategy to
succeed. First, the Croats start a major ground offensive. First in Croatia in
which they move all the Serbs out and then, ultimately, together with the
Bosnians into Bosnia and start defeating the Serbs. They show the Serbs they're
not ten fee tall, that in fact they can be defeated.
Second, in response to a shelling of the Sarajevo marketplace in late August
NATO launches a massive air campaign against the Serbs. And together with the
ground campaign that the Croats and the Bosniaks are conducting are changing
the territorial balance on the ground. Closer to the 50/50 split that Mr.
Holbrooke was supposed to negotiate.
And, third, Slobodan Milosevic, the President of Serbia, decides to take
control of the Serbs. He decides, even before the bombing starts, that he is
going to be the guy to negotiate the peace. Because he does not trust the
Bosnian Serb leadership, that for two and a half years has prevented any
And those three things enable Holbrooke to come to the table with the best
chance of success in the three year war. ...
... At this conceptual stage, ... was there any understanding about whether
or not this commitment was open-ended? In other words was there a time frame on
As negotiations were proceeding with Holbrooke and the parties, in September
and October 1995, in Washington the high level officials are spending all their
time figuring out what kind of force needed to be deployed. What the US
participation was going to be. And what that force was going to do. What was
driving the people in Washington was the belief that you could put a force in
here and establish a military balance between the Bosniaks and the Serbs within
about a year.
And that within about a year you could then withdraw the NATO troops, including
the US troops, and leave the military balance in place and then hopefully have
an agreement being implemented.
... Let's be real clear about this. In other words, we would only need an
American military presence in Bosnia for a year because our purpose was
What was our purpose, particularly the end point, in this context?
... The purpose of the force was to be there long enough for a balance of power
to be created inside Bosnia between the Muslims, on the one hand, and the Serbs
on the other hand. So that when the force was withdrawn, hostilities would not
resume. It was the judgment of the military, a judgment not challenged by
anybody else, that by having us arm the Bosnians and -- if we could also reduce
the Serbs -- a balance of power could be created within the region in about a
So that's all it would take. If that was our purpose we would go there, stop
the shooting, lift the embargo, let the Bosnians, let the Muslims arm, create a
balance of power, a mutual deterrence would exist there, not build states.
Create a balance of power and that would take about a year.
That would take about a year. Our strategy, our exit strategy, was to build a
military balance of power that would enable peace to become not self-sustaining
but hostilities, those hostilities would not resume.
So our end game policy had implicit in it an exit strategy?
Absolutely. We spent a lot of time in Washington in September and October and
into November thinking through what our exit strategy was. There was a
political requirement for us to be in Bosnia for a short period of time. The
Hill was telling the Administration okay, if you want to go in that's fine but
don't go in too long. But there was also the belief that what we were really
engaged in here was ending the war in Bosnia. And ending the war in Bosnia not
by any particular building a new state but ending it by creating a military
balance on the ground.
... Was there any political imperative in the assertion, added by the
President and the Administration, that we'll be out of there in a year?
There was a judgment made by the Administration, a judgment based on frequent
and high level consultations with people on the Hill, that there would be no
support for a long term, open ended engagement in Bosnia. Second, there was no
thought being given to a long term, open ended engagement in Bosnia because the
fundamental goal of our engagement in Bosnia militarily was to be there in
order to allow a balance of power to be built.
But that fundamental goal would change, wouldn't it?
It changed as the mission progressed. ... We changed our goals. What happened
into 1996 and really into 1997 was that we changed our goals from establishing
a military balance of power on the ground to building a new Bosnia. To what
became the reigning phrase to get the full implementation of the Dayton
Accords. These Accords were highly ambitious in describing a new state
consisting of democratic entities cooperating in a new integrated economy.
And if the full implementation of Dayton was what we were there for we were
going to be there a very long time.
But Dayton was the creation of Richard Holbrooke?
So Richard Holbrooke, our envoy, toward a peace mission whose brief was to
implement the end game strategy, which implied for America a very limited role,
Richard Holbrooke goes to Dayton with that brief and what? Throws it away and
creates something new?
The end game strategy was quite vague about what the nature of the final
political deal was going to be, the nature of the agreement. Except that there
should be two entities within a single state, that it should have a
constitution that would allow minorities to have their rights respected, etc.
But it left quite vague what this was supposed to be.
Nor did the end game strategy have an exit strategy for American troops there.
That was being developed as Holbrooke was negotiating the details ultimately in
Dayton. Of what became the highly ambitious agreement to build a new Bosnia.
The principals and others were working in Washington to figure out what it is
that a military force would be doing in support of that agreement. And the two
were in essence talking past each other.
Holbrooke, the negotiator, was trying to negotiate the best possible deal he
has. He says in his book, and I think quite rightly so, that this was the last
opportunity that we would have the parties in the same room. Anything that was
not written down, that we didn't get in Dayton, we would never get. So it was
determined, Holbrooke says, to get anything we can.
There had to have been a debate about exactly what the military, IFOR, would
be doing once they got there.
There was a big debate. In fact, there were two major principals meetings;
meetings at which the chief cabinet officers were there, chaired by Tony Lake.
And you had Bill Perry, the Secretary of Defense, and Warren Christopher,
General Shalikashvili, and Richard Holbrooke as the chief negotiator. All in
the White House situation room, this room in the basement, debating about
exactly what it was that IFOR ... would be doing.
And they had such questions on should the force be deployed throughout the
territory of Bosnia or just to help defend the Muslim territory and not go into
Serb territory. Should it be placed on the border of Bosnia to show that this
was an independent state. Should it go after and nab war criminals. Should it
help refugees return, not just to their majority areas but to have Muslims
return to Serb areas. And all those kinds of questions that were inherent in
the Dayton deal that Mr. Holbrooke was negotiating.
And the fundamental nature of that debate was between what Holbrooke calls
maximalists and minimalists. He was the maximalist. He believed that for the
Dayton deal that he was negotiating to actually work, to be implemented, the
only capable military force that was there, the only capable presence that was
there, ought to do more rather than less.
It ought to help refugees return, it ought to guarantee freedom of movement
throughout the area. It ought to, whenever necessary pick up war criminals when
they could find them. On the other side was the military and, in fact,
everybody else in the Cabinet. Their view was that we ought to go in and end
the war and guarantee that the war was ended. And then we build up a balance of
power and we get out.
That was our policy.
That was the policy that we were trying to pursue at that time. Our fundamental
goal in getting involved in Bosnia in the summer of 1995 was to end the war.
End the war in a way to push this issue off the agenda, to finally, finally
solve this problem.
Richard Holbrooke's fundamental goal was to negotiate a peace. A peace that was
sustaining and self- sustaining over the long term.
... And, as importantly, this internal debate was ... also, in effect, the
drawing up of the mission papers for the military commanders. So they'll know
what it is they're supposed to do and what they're expected to do. And areas
that they're not necessarily expected to venture into, which in itself could
become quite problematic.
And Holbrooke, you tell us, was arguing one side which was the broader
involvement. And everybody else was on the other side. So what's the outcome?
Well, there were two problems with Holbrooke's argument in pushing this. One
was that the military, and General Shalikashvili, who was never angry, a gentle
man, blew up at Holbrooke. When, basically, the issue who was going to tell the
military what-- How to do their job. And Shali's point of view was I will tell
the military how they do their job. You tell me what the mission is, I'll tell
you how to do it. And if the mission is to end the war, I'll tell you how to do
it. And you're not going to tell me.
That was one of the basic problems. The other one was there was a fundamental
difference between what the goal was here, whether it was to end the war or to
build the peace. And in the end, of course, if you have the Secretary of State,
the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the
National Security Advisor on one side, guess who wins. So the mission becomes
what Holbrooke calls in his book a minimalist mission. A mission that says that
NATO will do as little as is necessary for the military tasks.
With one exception. Shali proposes at this meeting that the commander would
have the right to do whatever he thinks is necessary to fulfill the
implementation of this agreement.
So that's the bone he throws to Holbrooke?
That's the silver bullet clause. The silver bullet clause is we can do anything
we want. But you can't tell me that I have to do these things. The local
commander will make the decision on what he does.
That local commander ... becomes Snuffy Smith.
Who becomes Snuffy Smith.
And so Snuffy Smith, quite literally, in resisting Holbrooke's implorations
to expand the mission, to guard grave sites, to hunt down war criminals, to
guarantee safe passage to refugees, [in resisting] all of the broader, more
expanded undertakings that Holbrooke was urging upon him, ... all Snuffy Smith
is doing, then, is executing decided American policy?
Right. Snuffy Smith has a list of tasks that are given to him by NATO. He
fulfills those tasks. They're very narrow. Of course, he's also got the
authority to act in whatever way he wants. If he decides that it is necessary
to protect grave sites, he can do so. If he decides it's necessary to go after
war criminals, he can do so. But he doesn't have to.
... It's his decision as the man on the ground.
That he would make on the basis of military judgment?
The military needs to make a judgment about ... how the tasks that it has been
assigned will be executed. And Snuffy Smith, as the commander on the ground,
decides how to do that.
Now, if somebody higher up tells him to do something different, he'll do it
differently. And, in fact, he at times gets told to do something differently.
[What do you mean] by a higher up?
Shalikashvili or the Secretary of Defense. Formally he works, of course, for
the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, who's an American general in NATO. But
that American general has also two bosses; not just the NATO council, he also
has the President of the United States.
... [Snuffy's] not obliged, then, to follow Dick Holbrooke's communiques.
Never. Dick Holbrooke is not in the chain of command.
... So, with that silver bullet and with his own idea of what the end result
should be, Dick Holbrooke goes to Dayton. He meets with the leaders, he
negotiates a settlement. And somehow it seems that our mission was transformed
in that process. Was it ...?
Not really. What happens is that Dayton has two facets to it, a political side
and a military side. The military side, known as Annex 1-A to the Dayton
Accord, is very precisely drafted. In fact, all the input comes from the
military and from NATO. And it lays out very specifically what the tasks are
and where they're limited. And it contains the silver bullet paragraph, the
commander on the ground can do anything he thinks is necessary to implement the
And then you have this whole body of political documents, which basically build
a new Bosnia. It talks about refugees having to come back. It talks about
building elections and a new constitution. It talks about protecting ethnic
minorities. It talks about war criminals having to be picked up, etc. And these
political documents stand quite loose from the military document. They're not
But it creates this new structure. Then ultimately the question becomes how do
you implement it. And the question then is well, if the military ain't doing it
and the civilians can't, you've got this disconnect. And that becomes the
problem in 1996 and beyond.
But isn't that disconnect sort of built in? I mean, isn't it implied in the
very fact of this agreement?
The disconnect is right there because Holbrooke wants a very ambitious
political agreement. He thinks that if he doesn't get it now he'll never get
it. If you don't get refugee returns guaranteed in this agreement, he'll never
have that guarantee. And if the military is not going to guarantee their return
I still want to have it on a piece of paper. And the tension between what the
military will do and what, in fact, needs to be done to implement Dayton is
built in at Dayton.
How does this disconnect show itself, post-Dayton, on the ground in Bosnia?
The first time it shows itself is in February 1996 when territory in Sarajevo
is transferred from the Serb side to the Muslim side. And the Serb leadership
tells the Serb residents that they've got to go. They can't allow themselves to
be transferred and become part of the federation side. They've got to leave.
And they leave not just by leaving, they leave and take literally the kitchen
sink with them. And they burn every building. And what happens is that the
civilian structure that is implementing Dayton consists, at that point, of one
guy who doesn't have an office. He says I can't do anything.
And the military just stands by and says, as Sarajevo burns, says not my job.
Nobody told me to go in there and take the fire out and do those kinds of
things and make sure that the kitchen sink stayed. That's not my job. That's
the first time the disconnect is there.
Should history blame Snuffy Smith for that? Or, in fact, was it not his job
and, in fact, did he have the resources, the mandate, the wherewithal to have
done something? To act as a fireman and put out those fires?
There was no requirement in Snuffy Smith to have done this. On the other hand,
when Sarajevo burns, when the capital city of the country in which you're
trying to build peace is burning, and you have the capacity, which you do, and
the manpower to do something about it, and you have the right through the
silver bullet paragraph to do something about it, you probably should have done
There was at least a second manifestation of this disconnect. It became an
issue fairly early on that there were these assigned war criminals running free
in Bosnia. And whether or not the military should be tasked to chase them down
and apprehend them and turn them over to the international court. Holbrooke
argued that the military should be involved. Tell me about that.
One group of people, and it was particularly Holbrooke but others in the State
Department too, believed that so long as you had major war criminals in power,
present in Bosnia, you could never solve the issues here. And these guys have
gotten to get rid of. The only way you were going to get these people is to use
military force. The other group, the White House, the Secretary of State, and
of course the military said well, wait a minute, this is risky. This is risky
business. ... US military forces are not equipped, they're not trained, to be
manhunters. We're not law enforcement people.
Now, we are willing and if the situation arises and as we're doing our job and
we see a war criminal, to pick that guy up if the tactical situation allows;
i.e., if there are not great risks. But don't ask us to go and find Radovan
Karadic, the president of the Serbs, or General Mladic, the army commander,
because doing so will lead to a firefight and may, in fact, endanger the
mission. And here you had, on the one hand, force protection. The protection of
the force and the protection of the limited mission galvanizing the military to
say no, we don't want to do this kind of thing. On the other hand Holbrooke
saying as long as I've got war criminals here this thing that we did at Dayton
is not going to work.
Who at the White House is arguing for protection of the mission, as
opposed to expansion?
The military comes in and says this is not our job. ... Shali, Perry, as the
Secretary of Defense, General Clark, General Joulin, who's the head of NATO.
They all come in and they say we don't do it. And this is an issue that goes
all the way to the President. And the President says 'I think that if you see
these guys, nab them. But, I agree, we're not going to hunt down war criminals.
That's not our job.'
So the President did agree?
He agreed. Everything that is in Dayton on the military side, the President
And the President was not, at this point at least, was not urging that
Snuffy Smith be ordered to go hunt down criminals and guard grave sites?
Absolutely. The President is very sensitive about, although he's Commander in
Chief, he learned very early on that you don't tell the military how to suck
eggs. They know how to do this themselves and the President is not going to
tell General Shali how to do his job.
... [In '96] Holbrooke is making the case, damn it, Snuffy Smith is not
doing enough. He's got to undertake some of these broader tasks -- putting out
fires as Sarajevo burns to hunting down war criminals. To whom is he making
that argument in Washington? How does Washington hear that playing out? Do they
hear that Snuffy is resisting?
They do early on. Remember Holbrooke, of course, resigns in February 1996. So
the architect of Dayton isn't there to implement it. But you do get pressure
more and more from the State Department, which takes on the Holbrooke legacy
and regards Dayton and its full implementation in the maximalist way that
Holbrooke wants it, as now becoming the State Department mission. So the State
Department comes and starts to pressure more and more that the military needs
to do more. ...
And Christopher, in fact, by June of 1996 becomes a great advocate for going
after war criminals. He's not telling the military they have to do it, he's
just saying that if we don't get these war criminals, if we don't get Mr.
Karadzic, in particular, who's the President of the Serb entity, this thing
ain't going to work.
But even from that point of view is Snuffy Smith ... seen ... as being
headstrong and recalcitrant?
No, I don't think that Snuffy Smith is really the problem. I know that Snuffy
Smith is the problem in Holbrooke's book but there was a mission here that was
clearly agreed. It was true that Snuffy Smith and General Joulin were not the
ones who were going to expand on that mission to enlarge on the scope.
Remember these were difficult times. We went in fully expecting to have a
firefight. Fully expecting to be shot at by the Serbs. And here we had a task
in the first six months of 1996 separating the forces, patrolling a zone of
separation, making sure that territory was transferred from one side to the
other, without people getting killed. And, at the same time, starting to
implement some of our other tasks; guaranteeing freedom of movement, breaking
down checkpoints. These were difficult things under the best of circumstances.
And it is true, I certainly believe it would be true, that if we had gotten war
criminals early on it would have been better for Dayton. And it would have been
better for peace in Bosnia. At the same time that was not the fundamental task
that Snuffy Smith was set. These were issues that would have to be dealt with
It becomes a mission accomplished. Snuffy Smith's folks almost miraculously,
in retrospect, accomplish their tasks.
In six months.
... There is an election, the President is re-elected, Bosnia is not
noticeably a deciding factor in the voters' choice. There is a new, second
Clinton Administration. And I gather in early 1997, as the new Administration
is put together, there erupts a new debate--What now should be the role of the
military? A reconsideration of its mission? ...
What happens in the course of the second half of '96 and into 1997 is a
realization that we're not going to be building the balance of power that would
enable us to move out. Certainly not in the time frame that we thought we were
going to do it. In part because we didn't have the money to arm the Bosnians
but in part because arming two different sides in a single country is not the
best way to keep that country together. So, the contradiction in many ways of
the balance of power approach, the contradiction that was in Dayton, is coming
home to roost.
And in the second half of '96 we're starting to think what needs to be done to
make this country one in which the peace is self-sustaining. And we're starting
to look more and more at the non-military aspects. Not on the balance of power
but on creating central institutions, etc., getting refugees returned, etc.
And it becomes clear that this is going to take a long time. It also becomes
clear that if we're ever going to resolve this issue, the military, as the most
capable instrument inside Bosnia, will probably have to do more. And in 1997
we finally face the question should the military do far more than it has so far
done in order to enable the task of building a self-sustaining peace to be
fulfilled quicker. Or should do less, in which case we will stay. And the
balance here is between being there for a very long time and not doing very
much. Or doing a lot more but also getting out quicker.
So now we are into the 2nd Administration. There is a new voice, if you
will, for what remains of the military's argument that we have a limited role
and we don't want to expand ... under these circumstances... . And that is the
new Secretary of Defense, William Cohen. And is there a moment when this
debate comes to a head?
There are two moments. In March 1997 there's a meeting between the new
Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, the new Secretary of Defense, William
Cohen, and the new National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger. It's called the
ABC, Albright, Berger, Cohen meeting. In which the question is raised by Bill
Cohen constantly saying our troops are coming home in June 1998. And Berger and
particularly Albright saying well, we don't know whether our troops are going
to come home in June of 1998. We have to have a similar line.
And at that point Berger orders a policy review and there's a major internal
review done by State and the NSC which looks at what do we need to do in order
to accomplish the mission. And that leads to a very important meeting in May
1997 with the President in which Berger goes through, issue by issue, do we
agree that 'x' needs to be done, that refugees need to return, that central
institutions need to be put into place, that we have to have a viable police,
etc., goes down the whole list.
And on each issue there's a question of what is SFOR's, the new NATO force,
role in helping secure that. And they get agreement on what SFOR will and will
not do. Through that process Cohen comes on board on the mission. The mission
for SFOR becomes larger than it was, certainly in the very early part of 1996
but even in the early part of 1997. SFOR is going to be more proactive and less
reactive in helping and supporting the implementation of Dayton.
How does that happen? ... In other words what we're saying is the maximalist
The maximalist view, in the end, wins.
Holbrooke wins. What happens is we change our goals from ending the war to
building a peace. And ending the war was crucial for 1996. Building a peace
becomes crucial for the 21st century.
It implies many things, some of them potentially problematical, at least
political[ly]. Including a long term commitment to Bosnia, doesn't it?
We now have an open-ended commitment to Bosnia. The President decided, in
December 1997, that the United States would remain as part of a NATO force in
Bosnia. And he did not set a new deadline. He had set a deadline in the first
time of twelve months. He then, when that deadline wasn't met, set one for
eighteen months. He says 'we're not going to go down this road again.'
We're going to have a commitment to a mission and here is the mission. Here are
the benchmarks that need to be fulfilled in order to achieve that mission. And
we're going to be there as long as it takes.
This is a significant shift, it strikes me for a couple of reasons. One, and
most importantly, the narrower definition of the military mission in Bosnia was
not, presumably, just a willy-nilly recalcitrance. It was a lessons-learned
position that had roots in Vietnam. Lord knows it had roots in Somalia, it had
roots in some way in Haiti and Beirut. This was almost an institutional
military point of view that in some way had to be overturned before ... the
President could have this policy change, isn't it?
Right. Two things happened, I think. One is personnel changes. The guy who now
runs the NATO force is General Wesley Clark. General Wesley Clark ... was the
representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs on the Holbrooke negotiating team
in Dayton. He's the guy who wrote Annex 1-A, which put together the original
military mission. ... He knows Bosnia extremely well. And Bosnia and success in
Bosnia becomes critical to NATO, not just to the United States. Now he's a NATO
general so getting success becomes important.
The second thing that happens is that the circumstances change. When we move in
in December 1995 the expectation is that US forces are moving into a situation
that's extremely dangerous, that it may well lead to a shooting war. We go in
and we have a very exacting military mission. We implement that mission and, in
fact, we do it without firing a shot. Then we're there and the real question is
if we can't leave what is it that we're going to do.
Are we just going to be patrolling the zone of separation or should we lend our
hand to make sure that the election ballots are delivered to the stations that
they need to be delivered. That if there is a mob rioting that we can, by
putting an Apache helicopter above them, disperse the mob. That if the police
is attacked that we, by being there, being present, back them up and in fact
provide them some security. So the mission changes as a result of a new
environment. The fundamental military mission is completed. We believe that
withdrawing the troops would lead to a resumption of fighting because there is
no balance of power. So we're there.
And then the question is--we can stay there and be there for as long as it
takes for new generations and the ethnic hatreds to stop? Or we can try to
... But implementing Dayton does, in some regard, imply sitting there and
waiting until the ancient hatreds are dispelled. ...
Absolutely. I think that, in fact, if you look at the SFOR mission statement
today it's not that different from the IFOR mission statement then.
Why is so much more being undertaken then?
Well, it actually isn't that much more. But the difference is when you face the
possibility, in fact the belief of the likelihood, of fighting you're going to
be backward leaning. You're going to be leaning backward and saying wait a
minute, we have to be very careful. When you're there, you've been there for
two or three years, you can afford to become forward leaning. To lean and give
more support to the civilian effort over time. But the essential mission
remains the same, it just is which way are you leaning.
You mentioned changes in players. When did Shali leave?
Shali left in September '97.
So, did Shali ever sign on to this expanded plan?
Yeah, absolutely. Shali is not a guy-- General Shali clearly was one of the
more forward leaning in the US military from the very beginning. On the
question of war criminals, for example, he was very well aware that getting
these guys was important to the fundamental success of the meeting. He didn't
want the US military to have the primary role but he was very much involved in
figuring out how the US military could help in this process, for example.
But, again, we have a changing mission. That used to be ... blasphemy within
the military. The idea of committing our guys and women over in some foreign
land with a specific mission and then once they're there changing it. That used
to be flatly unacceptable. In the Colin Powell and the old military think that
was no. It was an absolute issue. It's changed, hasn't it?
I think when the military looks at these kinds of problems they are much, much
more aware than they were in 1993 or even when we went in in 1995 what it takes
to be a successful peace keeping mission. I think they have realized that they
have two choices. They can stay and do little but they're going to be there for
a very long time or they can do more and try to get out earlier.
And because they want to get out earlier, because they want to have these
soldiers available for other missions, more important missions, they are
willing to lean more forward than they would otherwise be. To undertake tasks
that initially they didn't think was necessarily the right thing to do.
And leaning more forward in Bosnia has-- Let's see, where are we now, 1999.
Not only not out after a year, not out after two, three, four, five. When?
I think we're there for ten to fifteen, if not twenty, years but not forever.
Because the mission hasn't changed that much. We're not bringing refugees back,
we're not protecting them, we're not doing what Dick Holbrooke wanted us to do
in October 1995. We're picking up some kind of war criminals but in very very
restricted kind of ways. We still haven't picked up Mr. Karadzic, who's in
Bosnia, or Mr. Mladic, who's in Bosnia, the two most notorious war criminals,
who were responsible for the massacre in Srebrenica. There are lots of things
we're doing-- There's lot of assistance we're giving to the civilian effort but
it's not as much as other people would like us to do.
But is Bosnia, in some way, predicate to Kosovo? I mean, we are already
Absolutely. The lesson we learned in Bosnia was that if you want an agreement
implemented, the military is the most capable instrument and will therefore
have to support the civilians to a much larger degree than we realized in
October 1995 would be necessary.
But that can be a very dangerous lesson?
It could be a dangerous lesson if you step over the boundary. If you go too
far, if you start becoming a police force, if you start becoming election
officials. If, in fact, you start doing the civilian tasks that civilians need
Have you had a look at the proposed settlement in Kosovo?
With the proposed settlement in Kosovo, I'm much more worried on the security
tasks than I am on the civilian tasks. I think on the security tasks what
we're asking the force to do is to ensure the withdrawal of tens of thousands
of Serb forces and the disarmament of a guerrilla movement. That is the
demilitarization of a guerrilla movement. There's nothing like that we did in
And this is a guerrilla movement that at this moment is quite robust.
We were talking about anywhere between 8000 and 15,000 troops that need to be
demilitarized. And, in fact, that have succeeded in bringing Kosovo where it
is today. Without them there would have been no negotiation and there would
have been no agreement. There would have been no NATO troops.
A circumstance that Americans should be cautious about?
I think if the United States participates in this mission we better be
prepared, one, to really participate and not to do it a bit on a fly--by
saying 'let the Europeans do most of it and, by the way, we're only deploying
our forces in the least dangerous area.'
If we're going to participate let's participate for real. And, second, we
have to be prepared that this is a dangerous mission. That what we're dealing
with is putting a lid on a very very boiling kettle and we're likely to see
There's three big differences between Kosovo and Bosnia. In Kosovo you have
no cease-fire. In Bosnia, when NATO troops entered on December 20th, there
had been a cease-fire for two and a half months. Second, in Bosnia the
parties were exhausted. They had been fighting for three years. They didn't
want to fight any more. In Kosovo they're just getting started.
And, third, the kind of military mission that was laid out for IFOR in Bosnia,
which required 60,000 troops to implement, separating some forces where we
knew where they were, is very different than the military mission that we're
laying out here--which is demilitarizing a guerrilla force which we don't know
and don't know where it is and making sure that the Serb troops are not all
withdrawal but just partially withdrawn. And that they don't carry the kind
of weapons that they have now.
So we're being even more tentative regarding Kosovo in what is a more
dangerous situation, a more demanding situation?
The US is being more tentative, yes. Absolutely. In fact, whereas in Bosnia
we had made the fundamental decision that we were going to lead this effort
because we believed nobody could do it as well as us, in Kosovo, we're
entering a more dangerous mission and letting others lead the effort. I don't
think that's necessarily the lesson we learned in Bosnia.
To the degree that there is a maximalist view, a Holbrookian view, that
something can be done in terms of long term stabilization of this terribly
troubled region as expressed through what, once upon a time, was called nation
building--has that view prevailed regarding our posture now in Kosovo?
I think at the moment the maximalist vision, which says that when you have
agreements you make them highly comprehensive and you build what in effect are
new societies, with democratic institutions, with new police forces, with
reconstruction economically and otherwise, that vision has now won. It won in
Dayton and it is winning in Rambouillet.
What hasn't been settled yet is the role of the military in bringing this
about. To what extent is the military the instrument that brings about freedom,
elections, democracy, and ensures that there is a police that is capable of
enforcing the law without torturing its subjects. And it does it in democratic
principles. That debate hasn't been settled at all.
The military still believes that its mission ought to be fundamentally
military, not nation building, not maximalist in that sense. And there are
those on the other side who believe that in order for the maximalist vision to
work the military is the most capable, in fact the only institution capable of
providing the kinds of means necessary to do this. It needs to have a
maximalist position. That debate hasn't been resolved.
And, therefore, we have this conundrum in many ways. That we have a political
strategy that says the only way we can solve these conflicts is to build new
societies but we don't yet have the means, either military or civilian, to
ensure that we can succeed in that effort.
smith & holbrooke +
uses of military force +
nation building +
lessons of vietnam
tapes & transcripts
pbs online +
web site copyright 1995-2013 WGBH educational foundation