Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / December 18, 1997 / 19 Kislev, 5758
Bosnia, Haiti, and How Not To Conduct a Foreign Policy
COULD RWANDA BE another Clinton triumph in the making? Visiting the tribal killing fields last week, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said the West was partially to blame for the 1994 bloodletting because we didn't respond quickly enough to the Hutu massacre of 500,000 Tutsis.
The day Albright arrived, a guerrilla attack on a refugee camp left more than 300 dead. The United States-backed Tutsi government has it own human-rights problems. Here is a tempting opportunity for liberal nation builders.
But before American forces land in the jungles of East Africa, a brief survey of the president's other global achievements is in order.
Clinton will be in Bosnia next week. Administration sources say he will begin building the case for keeping American and NATO troops there well beyond the June 1998 deadline.
We've already missed two deadlines for withdrawal. When Clinton committed our soldiers to the butcher's shop of the Balkans in 1995, he assured us that the mission was to be of limited duration and "precisely defined with clear, realistic goals." It was and is none of the above.
"Peace is beginning to take root" there, security adviser Sandy Berger declares. If "peace" is defined as the absence of massive carnage, he's right. However, there have been little gains from the presence of 30,000 NATO forces (including 8,000 Americans) in Bosnia.
Unless you consider giving Iran a foothold in Europe to be progress. While the United States builds the Muslim Bosnian army, Iranian spies, in league with Bosnia's intelligence service, operate with impunity.
Hundreds of volunteers from the Islamic world remain in Bosnia. A Western observer, quoted in The New York Times, warns that "these mercenaries are well trained, both as fighters and terrorists. ... The moment they are given the order to set off car bombs or carry out assassinations, the whole mission could go up in smoke."
The Dayton-anticipated unification of Bosnia's warring factions remains illusory. There hasn't even been progress toward such symbolism as a common currency and license plates.
Refugees can return to their homes only under armed escort (few have). Hardliners continue to win election in the ethnic enclaves. Integration of the federation army (Croats and Muslims together, we shall overcome) is a myth. In the few integrated schools, Serb, Croat and Muslim students study different history books. One group's George Washington is another's Benedict Arnold.
Could it have been otherwise? Only Wilsonian naivete combined with Bushian hubris could imagine that half a millennium of religious hatred culminating in ethnic cleansing could be undone in three years.
Then there's Haiti, where the United Nation's mandate expired this month. The 20,000 American troops who disembarked at Port-Au-Prince in 1994 were ordered to re-establish democracy (in other words, to restore a thing that has never been) under Castro crony Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Today, Haiti has no prime minister and the government is in constitutional deadlock, with its Congress refusing to recognize fraudulent senate elections last April. Roads, electricity, telephone service and water systems are all rapidly deteriorating.
Over the past 15 months, two National Assembly members have died in attacks on legislators. The 2-year-old Haitian National Police is nearly as incompetent as it is corrupt. "National unity has dissipated," and Haiti is "slowly drifting toward chaos," says Donald E. Schulz, a Haitian-affairs analyst for the United States Army War College.
On Nov. 20, the Coast Guard intercepted a boat with 417 Haitians headed for Miami.
By offering stark lessons in what not to do, Clinton's foreign policy may serve a useful purpose after all. America's interests were never at stake in either Bosnia or Haiti. Try as the president might to dress up his follies in national security rhetoric, both interventions were driven by nothing more than a panicked altruism that ignored both history and prudence.
Precious military resources, which should have been used to prepare us for the next unavoidable conflict, were shipped to uniformed social workers in the Caribbean and Balkans. America's credibility suffered.
If we can survive three more years of Clinton's one-world burlesque, perhaps the next administration will give us an international strategy premised on our vital interests, instead of the flower-child foreign policy.