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interview with ivo daalder
Daalder served as the Director for European Affairs on the National Security Council from 1995 through 1996.  In that  position, his principle responsiblity was Bosnia policy.  Currently, he is a visiting fellow with the Brookings Institute, where he is completing work on a forthcoming book, Getting to Dayton: The Making of America's Bosnia Policy in 1995, (Brookings Press, summer 1999).

In the spring of 1995, National Security Advisor Tony Lake...prodded the President and his team to the formulation of what would become a new policy [regarding Bosnia]. ... How does that happen? ..

picture of ivo daalderWhat happens in June and into July 1995 is that in early June, Tony Lake goes to the President and tells him our policy is not working. I'm thinking of some new ideas. Would you allow me to do this. And the President says I agree. Our policy is not working, I'm not in control of my own destiny here. I'm not in control of events. We need to get this policy straight. ...

... Tony Lake takes that admonition to heart and he gathers in his office his chief deputy, Sandy Berger, and his chief European affairs person, Sandy Birchbau, and says let's start thinking about this. ... Let's do some what he calls blue sky thinking. Think about six months ahead and how do we get there. ... And they agree that in six months they would like to have a peace agreement.

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. 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 breakfast.

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 private life.

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 serious negotiations.

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 it?

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 relatively limited.

Exactly.

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 year.

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?

Right.

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 agreement.

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 connected.

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 something.

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 agreed with.

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 later.

It becomes a mission accomplished. Snuffy Smith's folks almost miraculously, in retrospect, accomplish their tasks.

In six months.

Without incident.

Right.

... 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 view wins?

The maximalist view, in the end, wins.

Holbrooke 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 implement Dayton.

... 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 committed?

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 to do.

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 Bosnia.

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 people killed.

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.

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