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"Give War a Chance" is the story of two American leaders whose lives and experiences reflect the Vietnam generation's conflicting views about the use of America's military might. It is the story of Richard Holbrooke, U.N. Ambassador-nominee, architect of the 1995 Bosnian peace accords, and ret. Admiral Leighton "Snuffy" Smith, a Vietnam war hero who became NATO's commander in Bosnia and whose mission was to enforce the Bosnia peace. Each man spent his formative years in Vietnam, but--some thirty years later--the Balkans crisis brought them into direct conflict over the role and responsibilities of today's military in securing and maintaining global peace.

"Dick Holbrooke represents the new idea of America's place in the world, a kind of moral imperialism, a forceful projection of American ideals in places where U.S. strategic interests are not necessarily apparent," says FRONTLINE correspondent Peter J. Boyer. "Snuffy Smith is a battle-tested warrior, loyal to his life-experiences and ever-mindful of the limits and risks of military might."

Through incisive interviews with Holbrooke and National Security Council staffer Ivo Daalder, FRONTLINE examines how the Clinton Administration, composed largely of Vietnam-era doves, came to embrace the concept of muscular diplomacy in the Balkans--bombs for peace --overcoming a cautious military leadership rooted in the experience of American military interventions over the past thirty years.

Along with military decision makers such as General Colin Powell, Admiral Smith joined in developing a new military doctrine on the use of force that was designed to acknowledge U.S. preeminence in the world but would avoid Vietnam-like entanglements and draw on the hard lessons of Beirut, Kuwait and Somalia.

However, as "Give War a Chance" chronicles, the careers and world views of Admiral Smith and diplomat Holbrooke collided in the Balkans where Holbrooke came to believe that only NATO/U.S. military intervention could stop the slaughter, force Serbian leader Milosevic to negotiate, and help rebuild the country into a multi-ethnic society.

In developing and delineating the military's responsibilities in Bosnia, Holbrooke explains, "I was a maximalist. I wanted the NATO force to do as much as possible."

But Admiral Smith was reluctant to undertake certain military tasks without adequate force and a clear definition of the military's mission. Holbrooke has charged that Admiral Smith resisted demands that NATO forces arrest Serbian war criminals. The dispute ended in 1996 when Smith was relieved of his Bosnian command.

Since then, the military has assumed a broader mission in the Balkans, taking on more tasks in Bosnia and bombing for peace in Kosovo, again hoping to bring Milosevic to the negotiating table. Richard Holbrooke's maximalism, for the time being, has won the day.

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