Here's a story most newspapers buried, if they ran it all all: Bosnia's three key ethnic/political groups (Muslims, Serbs and Croats) have all agreed to unify their nation and end the tripartite government bequeathed them by the Dayton peace accords negotiated in 1995 after a heavy round of American bombing.
No longer were racial hatreds so deep that these three factions needed to stay away from one another. Now the desire to centralize to join Europe and grow economically has overcome the animosities that led to 250,000 deaths in the early 1990s.
Should we expect a similar article 10 years hence about Iraq?
As intense as the killing has been in Iraq, with 30,000 civilian and 2,000 U.S. military deaths, it doesn't come close to Bosnia's quarter-million genocide. But constitution-making, nation-building and planting the seeds of democracy have still worked in Bosnia.
To cap it all off, the Bosnian Serbs said that they would undertake "all possible measures and actions to find and apprehend" the two most widely sought war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, once their political and military leaders.
President Bill Clinton was right to invest in "nation-building" after U.S. military action in Bosnia and 2000 presidential candidate George W. Bush was wrong to criticize him for it. And now President Bush is right to push nation-building in Iraq, while ex-President Clinton is wrong to criticize the military action as a "huge mistake."
Nation-building, while tedious and costly in lives and money, is the only way to reconcile hatreds so that the great cycle of revenge killings and wars does not continue to hold nations in its grip.
Symptomatic of the growth of an Iraqi democracy was the declaration at the recent Arab League meeting by both Shiite and Sunni Iraqi representatives demanding a schedule for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
We all agree that America needs, ultimately, to withdraw from Iraq (though possibly keeping a base there to assure that the bad guys don't regain power by military means). But Sunnis have been trying to blast us out, with each bomb amplifying Democratic and liberal calls back home for a pullout. But now both factions have joined as part of a political process to call for a timetable for withdrawal, a signal breakthrough. The Sunnis have invested in the political process to effectuate a U.S. withdrawal and the Shiites have accommodated them.
Even if only to expel American troops, the factions, bitter enemies for centuries, have now come together in a political statement. The progress this shows is immense and its promise is immeasurable. It presages just the kind of unity and democratic cooperation we now see on the former killing fields of Bosnia.
Fortunately, Bill Clinton had the courage to defy the United Nations in 1995 and act to bomb the Bosnian Serbs (with NATO cooperation and sponsorship). Then he had the foresight to send in U.S. peacekeeping forces, a deeply unpopular step.
Now the former president fails to see how Bush's policies in Iraq will succeed just as his did in Bosnia. But his partisan myopia should not cloud our vision. Success in Iraq may seem as unlikely as it once did in Bosnia. But, if we persevere, it will come just as surely.