Op-Ed: Promise Them Anything

Promise Them Anything

By Paul Williams, The Weekly Standard, December 18, 1995

The 164 pages of the Dayton Peace Accords set forth numerous commitments by the parties. Notably absent, however, are additional commitments made by the United States and Europe to coax the parties into signing. These offcial but unwritten commitments are in many cases as important to a workable peace in Bosnia as those in the agreement.

One may ask, then, why these commitments remained unwritten. One conceivable answer is that the United States and its NATO partners were simply dishonest with the parties and never intended to fulfill their promises. But this is surely not the case. One must assume that the politics of the peace talks and the complexities of intra-NATO relationships were not conducive to putting these commitments into writing.

The primary oral commitment was a promise made by the senior Americans at the talks — the secretary of State, the secretary of Defense, and a three- star general — that the United States would ensure the immediate lifting of the U. N. arms embargo on Bosnia and would arm and train Bosnian government forces to a level of defensive parity with all Serbian forces operating in Bosnia.

When members of the Bosnian delegation questioned the willingness of the NATO partners to permit such a U. S. operation, they were told that Washington had bluntly informed the British and French of the plan, which would proceed with or without their consent, and that the arm-and-train program was considered essential to NATO’s exit strategy from Bosnia.

One and a half weeks into the peace talks, the Bosnian delegation sought to enshrine these assurances in a Memorandum of Understanding. To its surprise, the United States balked. The Americans’ unwillingness to sign on the dotted line should have given the Bosnians pause, but the U. S. delegation insisted that political imperatives required leaving the assurances unwritten.

The nature of these political imperatives became clearer as the U. S. negotiating team began to couch its commitment to arm and train Bosnian government forces in terms of “ensuring that such arming and training would happen” and demanding that the Bosnian government agree to regional arms control.

When pushed to explain why they were hedging the commitment to arm and train, the Americans asserted that their NATO allies would only support an arm-and-train program if it were coupled with a regional arms-control agreement. The U. S. delegation also raised “serious doubts” as to the willingness of Congress to support arm-and-train, as well as concern over preempting a congressional prerogative.

One might wonder at this point what became of the flash of American leadership in NATO and the U. S. promise to overrule allies’ objections to the arm-and-train program. One must also wonder where the U. S. delegation was getting its advice on the congressional mood, given that Congress on three separate occasions had called for the lifting of the arms embargo and already had allocated over $ 250 million for the immediate provision of weapons to the Bosnian government.

In case Congress had not made its views sufficiently clear, Majority Leader Robert Dole issued a statement calling for the inclusion in the peace agreement of a clear written commitment to arm and train the Bosnians.

On the penultimate day of the negotiations, the Bosnian delegation was presented with yet another European invention in the form of a U. N. resolution seeking to lift the arms embargo (as promised), but only in phases, which would prevent the Bosnian government from obtaining weapons necessary for its selfdefense until the NATO implementation force had begun to withdraw.

By the end of the Dayton peace talks, the unambiguous promise of the United States to arm and train the Bosnian government had been transformed into a series of commitments, which give the Europeans the regional arms-control regime and the phased lifting of the arms embargo they wanted and guarantee the Serbs a balance of military forces substantially in their favor.

They do not, however, enable the United States to fulfill an important piece of its military exit strategy, and they fail to provide any realistic expectation that the Bosnians will have the means of defending their fledgling democratic state when NATO withdraws in time for the 1996 U. S. presidential election.

The Bosnian government has shown flexibility by agreeing to an arms regime that allows Serbia two-and-a-half times more weaponry than Bosnia (with one- third of the Bosnian mount being allocated to Bosnian Serbs) and by agreeing to the phased lifting of the embargo even though this will deny the Bosnians the timely opportunity to acquire weapons for their own defense. Now the United States must keep its promises.

If the United States fails to fulfill its commitment to arm and train Bosnian government forces, one must doubt whether it will honor its other unwritten promises. The most important of these are the commitment to respond to Serbian aggression with over-whelming and disproportionate force; the commitment that NATO will patrol vigorously throughout the territory of the Republika Srpska (the Serbian part of Bosnia); the commitment that NATO will react immediately to potential threats of ethnic cleansing and to threats against returning refugees within its area of operations; and the commitment not to transform the NATO implementation troops into another hapless peacekeeping force by adopting the U. N.’s pacifist mentality.

Paul R. Williams, executive director of the Public International Law and Policy Group, served in the Bosnian delegation to the Dayton peace talks.


Op-Ed: For Peace in the Balkans, Indict Milosevic Now

For Peace in the Balkans, Indict Milosevic Now

By Paul R. Williams and Norman Cigar, International Herald Tribune, January 8, 1997

Slobodan Milosevic’s callous annulment of Serbia’s municipal elections and the resulting waves of protest have caught the United States by surprise.

But the only real surprise is why the United States has yet to realize that Mr. Milosevic is not the key to peace in the former Yugoslavia, but is rather the lock on the door. In trying to unlock that door, the United States must remember that in December 1992 the Department of State identified Mr. Milosevic as primarily responsible for the commission of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. The United States, now more than ever, needs to support an investigation into Mr. Milosevic’s responsibility for some of the worst war crimes in Europe since World War II. To sweep this issue under the rug of diplomacy will undermine the deterrent value of justice, and calls for individual revenge by the victims will be harder to quiet. The genuine peace we all seek from the Dayton accord Q and democracy in Serbia Q will be the victims of America’s reluctance to act.

An indictment of Mr. Milosevic can be sought on these grounds:

Direct responsibility. Whenever the Western powers, under the leadership of the United States, decide to act on their war crimes rhetoric, they may rely upon the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, which, though its previous pursuit of accused Serbian war criminals, has already laid the groundwork for indicting Mr. Milosevic on the basis that the Yugoslav and Republic of Serbia forces and agencies and their paramilitary armies controlled by him committed genocide.

Complicity. Mr. Milosevic aided the commission of war crimes by directing Serbian Republic forces and agencies under his control, including Serbia’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Internal Affairs, to assist the organization and operation of Serbian paramilitary armies such as Arkan’s Tigers, Vojislav Seselj’s Chetniks and Mirko Jovic’s White Eagles. Specifically, it was Mr. Milosevic who provided these paramilitary armies with weapons, training, money and transportation to Bosnia, where they were encouraged to slaughter civilians in areas secured by the regular army.

Command responsibility. Finally, Mr. Milosevic may be indicted on his overall command responsibility for the Yugoslav Army and federal forces that tried to carry out his plans for an ethnically pure Greater Serbia. As the dominant member of the panel that controls the Yugoslav Army Q the Yugoslav Supreme Military Council, and its successor, the Supreme Defense CouncilQ Mr. Milosevic was obligated under international law to prevent his forces from committing or encouraging and enabling others to commit war crimes. Unfortunately, the United States continues to delude itself that Mr. Milosevic is the only individual capable of ensuring that the Bosnian Serbs deliver on their Dayton promises. U.S. policy makers simply ignore that none of the provisions of the Dayton agreement have truly been put into effect, aside from the tasks directly attributable to the NATO peace force. The obvious reason for this failure is that although it was in Mr. Milosevic’s interest to sign the Dayton agreement to avoid losing the war and to secure the lifting of sanctions, it is not in his interest to promote respect for human rights, a strong Bosnian government, and certainly not the arrest and extradition of war criminals. It can no longer be business as usual for the West. Mr. Milosevic’s responsibility for war crimes, coupled with his outright contempt for basic democratic principles, must be met with renewed economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

As the Belgrade demonstrations continue, the United States must recognize that the key to enforcing the Dayton accords and assuring peace and democracy in the former Yugoslavia is not held by a war criminal. Instead, that key will be found by assisting the forces seeking to change Mr. Milosevic’s increasingly illegitimate and repressive regime.

Mr. Williams is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Cigar is professor of national security studies at the U.S. Marine Corps School of Advanced Warfighting. They contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.


Op-Ed: Dayton Still Plays Part in Peace Process

Dayton Still Plays Part in Peace Process

By R. Bruce Hitchner, Dayton Daily News, December 20, 2000

Recently in Dayton, Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Kosovar Albanians, and Pavel Jevremovic, the chief foreign-policy adviser of the new Yugoslav president, Vojislav Kostunica, sat down at the same table with Richard Holbrooke, President Stjepan Mesic of Croatia, and Wolfgang Petritsch, the high representative of the foreign nations that enforce the Dayton Peace Accords.

The scene was a dinner at the Dayton Art Institute organized by the Dayton Peace Accords Project.

An insignificant event?

It was the first time since the end of the war in Kosovo that Serb and Kosovar Albanian representatives had met. Jevremovic was the highest-ranking Yugoslav official to visit the United States since the accords were signed. 
It was also the first meeting between the Croatian president and a senior member of the new Yugoslav government.

It happened in Dayton.

Earlier in the day at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Hope Hotel, a chorus of leaders from both the international community and Bosnia-Herzegovina broke with five years of official international policy in publicly acknowledging that the Dayton accords require some modification to facilitate their implementation.

Richard Holbrooke, the chief architect of the accords, put it succinctly: “We must not only implement (the accords) fully, we must seek to correct those flaws and defects which have become apparent over time.”
The change in policy was announced in Dayton.

At a Nov. 18 press conference attended by the international media, President Mesic of Croatia announced that his country supports a strong central government and a single army in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Five years ago his predecessor, Franjo Tudjman, even while signing the Dayton accords, still harbored plans to partition Bosnia between himself and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Mesic chose Dayton, not Zagreb, to announce this change in Croatian policy toward Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Kosovar Albanian leaders Rugova and Hashim Thaqi, in separate press conferences at the Hope Hotel on the same afternoon, called for Kosovo’s independence and the permanent presence of NATO forces in the region. In 1995, all discussion of Kosovo’s status was excluded from the peace negotiations. Five years later, the future of Kosovo had finally become part of the Dayton peace process.

President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro, recovering from a broken neck caused by an automobile accident, chose to attend the Dayton conference to make a plea for his country’s right to determine its own future.

The future of Montenegro was a subject for discussion in Dayton.

Forty-eight hours before the fifth-anniversary conference began last month, the chief prosecutor of the war-crimes tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, decided to fly to Dayton to remind the international community of its responsibility – affirmed in the Dayton accords – to apprehend, indicted war criminals Milosevic, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.

Zlatko Lagumdzija, the head of the multiethnic Social Democratic Party in Bosnia-Herzegovina, told a Sarajevo newspaper upon his return from Dayton that “we must finally realize that Bosnia-Herzegovina is not only not the center of the world, but not the center of the region anymore. The conference demonstrated that if we are not capable of moving forward independently, we could lose any chance for progress.”

Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula summed up the significance of the Dayton conference: “Normally for diplomatic events, the various delegations gather at their own embassies and only come together briefly at receptions before the formal meetings. At Dayton, we were able to debate issues openly and candidly with a wide range of leaders, policy-makers, NGOs and then meet with them afterward to carry on discussions.”

For the people of the Balkans, Dayton is not only the place where the accords were signed, but where direct U.S. involvement in the region was formalized. Regional leaders know that if they or U.S. leaders speak in Dayton, Europe and the Balkans listen.

The Dayton Peace Accords Project’s annual commemoration of the accords has become something more than an observance of this city’s improbable contribution to peace in the heart of Europe.

As one U.S. State Department official put it, “It is now part of the peace process itself.’

R. Bruce Hitchner is chairman of the Dayton Peace Accords Project and director of the University of Dayton’s Center for International Programs.


Op-Ed: Staying Involved in Bosnia Makes Sense for America

Staying Involved in Bosnia Makes Sense for America

By R. Bruce Hitchner, Dayton Daily News

Should NATO forces, including U.S. troops, remain in Bosnia after June 1998, when the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR) mandate ends?

That is the question being debated quietly but earnestly in Washington these days. At stake is not only peace in Bosnia and the viability of an expanded North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but also the moral underpinnings of American foreign policy.

Of late there has been growing sentiment in some quarters for an end to the U.S. military presence in Bosnia in June, followed by a negotiated partition of the country – in essence, an abandonment of the Dayton peace process.

The Dayton agreement has hardly been a perfect vehicle for building lasting peace in Bosnia. Among other things, it legitimized the wartime division of the country along ethnic lines. In addition, some of the key objectives of Dayton have not been achieved, notably the failure so far to arrest indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, and the continuing inability of most refugees to return home.

Dayton has achieved its primary purpose of stopping the war and laying the groundwork for peace. But where do we go from here?

Let us consider first the question of withdrawing U.S. troops next June. It is possible that the departure of American forces alone from Bosnia would not in itself lead to renewed conflict. But what, then, of all those noble phrases about American leadership?

Indeed, we need only be reminded that it was not until the United States became directly involved in Bosnia that four years of bloody warfare and genocide were halted. While it is misguided to think Bosnia is a society of implacable ethnic hatreds (polls consistently show that an overwhelming majority of people want to live together in peace), reconciliation and recovery will take time, and the United States is the only power capable of ensuring the necessary conditions for the former to be achieved.

The partition of Bosnia also might appear advantageous for American strategic interests, since it would supposedly separate the warring parties into their own ethnically pure, sovereign states and thus eliminate the need for the presence of NATO forces. But what, then, of our cherished national interest in promoting justice and human rights around the globe?

I, for one, could not possibly see how we could explain to the world (and ourselves) that we had given up promoting ethic and cultural diversity, religious toleration, the rule of law and the right to live without fear because it did not jibe with our strategic interests.

The fact of the matter is that our strategic interests are well-served by staying the course in Bosnia. Indeed, the new ‘frontier’ of NATO extends from Poland to the Aegean Sea on a line that passes through Bosnia. To abandon Bosnia now would be counterproductive to our efforts to build lasting security and cooperation in Europe.

Finally, it is not enough to justify our continued presence in Bosnia in terms of our self-interest as a nation; we also must find solutions that will permit Bosnia to survive. Talk of ‘exit strategies’ without a search for solutions to the problems that face that country does not make for good policy and will certainly not get us out of Bosnia soon.

A possible first step, in my view, would be to consider whether a stage has been reached in which some improvements might be made to Dayton. Are we inexorably bound, for example, to the Dayton model of a Bosnian state comprising two hostile semi-sovereign ethnic entities, each with is own army? Or should we not perhaps begin to start moving in the direction of an undivided sovereign state of Bosnia? We might also ask whether ethnic identity is the only viable way to define citizenship in the Bosnia created by Dayton.

In the end, it is critical that we continue to pursue the process, however imperfect, begun here in Dayton. This is why we have invited Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, U.S. Ambassador Robert S. Gelbard, and Vice President Ejup Ganic of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina to speak at the Hope Hotel today, the second anniversary of the initialling of the Dayton Peace Accords.

Their presence in this city will, we hope, give strength to those who wish to see Bosnia survive, prosper and continue its rich historical tradition of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.

R. BRUCE HITCHNER is the director of the Center for International Programs at the University of Dayton.