Many Serbs I have met during the course of the conflict in former Yugoslavia
have been puzzled by American policy towards this region. They Ask:
- Why does your government say it stands for self-determination and
political freedom but would deny this to the Serbs?
- Why does your government depict the Serbs as invaders when we are
only fighting to hold on to lands that have belonged to our ancestors for
- Why does your government depict the Serbs as NAZIS when it was the
Croats and Muslims that actually sided with the NAZIS during World War II?
- Why does your government blame every civilian death or relocation
of non-Serbs on Serbian genocide but ignore the deaths and dislocations of
hundreds of thousands of Serb civilians in the Krajina and Bosnia?
- How can we make your government understand the fundamental
injustice of its policy towards the Yugoslav crisis?
It always seems to shock my Serb questioners
when I tell them that the Clinton administration knows full well
the truth about the situation in
the former Yugoslavia -- who has done what to whom over the past four years
and, indeed, over the past millennium, and who owned what land before the
It is you Serbs, I tell them, who are working under a misconception
because you do not understand that the declared justifications for American
policy towards the Yugoslav conflict are not the actual basis of American
policy. American policy towards the situation in the former Yugoslavia is
based an considerations much broader than the events in the Balkans. It is
concern for its global foreign policy objectives that drives American policy
towards former Yugoslavia, not a search for justice for the peoples of this
America's Global Primary Global Foreign Policy Interests
Two overriding strategic objectives are shaping American foreign
policy today. One is the concern that the United States retain its role as
the perceived leader of the western world and the other is that the United
States remain the preeminent economic power in the world. I believe these
objectives will continue to dominate American foreign policy thinking for
the foreseeable future, regardless of whether Kill Clinton or Bob Dole is in
the White House.
Evolution of Clinton's approach to Foreign Policy
When Bill Clinton came into office in January 1993 he had no
experience in making foreign policy. Even his top foreign policy advisors
were more academic philosophers than veteran foreign policy professionals.
Colin Powell, the hold over Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the
Bush administration, described President Clinton's early National Security
Council meetings as more like "graduate student bull-sessions or think tank
seminars" than structured policy making meetings. "Backbenchers sounded off
with the authority of cabinet officers." 
President Clinton's first major public speech concerning his
administration's approach to foreign policy was given to the United Nations
General Assembly in September 1993. In this speech he was almost euphoric
in describing the new world made possible 137 the end of the cold war. He
spoke of "a new era" for the United Nations which would come from "a new
spirit of cooperation between the superpowers."
"Our overriding purpose", he said, must be to expand and strengthen
the world's community of market based democracies." He made clear that his
intent was "to work in partnership with others through multilateral
organizations like the UN." He pledged American support for "the creation of
a genuine UN peacekeeping headquarters with a planning staff, with access to
timely intelligence, with a logistics unit that can be deployed on a
moment's notice, and a modern operations center with global communications."
Anthony Lake, the President's National Security Advisor, characterized the
Administration's approach as "pragmatic neo-Wilsonianism." Madeline
Albright, his UN ambassador, called it "aggressive multilateralism."
But as Fresident Clinton tried to put his neo-Wilsonian foreign
policy into practice he became increasingly frustrated by his inability to
build an international consensus around his foreign policy gambits. Few
nations, even traditional allies, felt the same imperative that the Clinton
administration did in dealing with the crisis over the nuclear program of
North Korea or nation building in Somalia. Fewer still shared the
Administration's urgency about taking military action to return exiled
President Aristide to power in Haiti or applying trade sanctions against
China in an effort to force it to become more democratic. President Clinton
also got nowhere in trying to sell his "lift and strike" solution to the
Bosnian crisis to the Europeans -- or to the American people.
By his second year in office, President Clinton knew that his neo-
Wilsonian approach to foreign policy was making him a target of ridicule at
home and abroad. American businessmen were educating him about the need to
consider the impact on America's economy of human rights oriented foreign
policy such as that directed towards China and political pundits were
criticizing him for abdicating America's world leadership role to the
Europeans. It was the Europeans who were engaged in the Bosnian crisis. It
was the Europeans who put together the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue.
President Clinton knew that he had to do something to make himself
appear to be an international leader in the eyes of the American people,
especially the power brokers who finance electoral campaigns, or he and the
Democratic Party would suffer the consequences at the polls. His solution
was to move towards a more assertive, "America first" foreign policy.
Since the beginning of 1994, the Clinton approach to foreign policy
has emphasized more traditional American themes: namely, that the world
needs American leadership and that America's ability to lead depends upon
its economic strength. President Clinton's earlier sentiments about all
things being possible via multilateral efforts are not heard anymore. In
Presidential Decision Directive 25 issued in December 1994, President
Clinton officially killed his experiment with the multilateral Wilsonian
approach to foreign policy. This directive restricts US participation in
collective security operations and declared that "the United states does
not support a standing UN army, nor will we earmark specific US military
units for participation in UN operations."
President Clinton now emphasizes his intention to "make sure that
we [America] move into the next century still the strongest nation in the
world" and "to make America the most economically competitive nation in the
world." He also says that his Administration "has earned a lot about
how the combination of American diplomacy and American force can achieve a
desired result and also develop public support within the United States for
I believe that this type of thinking has more to do with explaining
American policy towards the situation in Bosnia than the presumed misguided
moralist approach of the Administration. Under this philosophy the
Administration still works with other nations in dealing with world
problems, but the intent is no longer to achieve a consensus; it is to
force others to acquiesce to the American position.
NATO has felt the brunt of this new Clinton Administration foreign
policy approach for almost two years now. In the Balkans the west Europeans
have been repeatedly frustrated by American refusal to seek consensus. Lord
David Owen has publicly expressed his anger about how the American
government torpedoed peace plans he put together with UN representatives
Cyrus Vance and Thorvold Stoltenburg. There is also the matter of the
United State's unilateral declaration in November 1994 that US forces would
no longer participate in enforcing the arms embargo against the Bosnian
government. Worse still NATO has watched in frustration as the United States
took action (with the possible support of Turkey and Germany) to smuggle
arms into Bosnia in contravention of United Nations agreed resolutions and
to send several high ranking "retired" military officers -- including a
former commander in chief of NATO, a former chief of staff of the US Army
the former commander of ground forces in the Gulf War, a former chief of
the US Defense Intelligence Agency and many others -- into Bosnia and
Croatia to play an active role in increasing the intensity of the war at a
time when the lives of UN peace keepers from several NATO countries were at
risk in this area.
Many NATO nations are now chafing under the Clinton Administration's
determination to force the alliance into accepting rapid expansion of NATO
into Eastern Europe.
Bob Dole's Foreign Policy Approach
Under a Bob Dole Administration, America's foreign policy approach
would become even mare onerous. Instead of attacking the recklessness of the
current Administration, Senator Dole criticizes it for not being tough
enough! According to Dole, "U.S. foreign policy under the Clinton
Administration has been marked by a lack of assertiveness, a lack of
credibility, a lack of resolve -- in sum a lack of leadership. Does America
want to enter the next century as a superpower? The Clinton Administration's
answer is 'No'. From day one, this administration has been uncomfortable and
apologetic about America's lonely superpower status."
Bob Dole outlined his prescription for putting America's foreign
policy on the correct track in a speech at the Nixon Center for Peace and
Freedom in March 1995. In this speech Dole outlined five "Realities" that
would guide American foreign Policy under his Administration. The first is
that the world is entering a golden age of capitalism but this does not mean
automatic cooperation among all countries. There are countries who will not
play by the rules so the US must be ready to defend its economic interests.
Second, it is an "inescapable reality" that the security of the world's oil
and gas supplies, particularly those of the Persian Gulf, will remain a
vital national interest of the United States. This vital interest includes
not only the producing fields but also the pipelines and other distribution
means. Reality number three is that there is a danger to the US from the
spread of weapons of mass destruction and the US must be prepared to use
preemptive military strikes if necessary to prevent this spread. Fourth,
the US must be willing to intervene in crises caused by extremist religious
or ethnic factions affecting countries of special interest to the United
States like Greece, Albania, Turkey, Mexico, and "ethnic turmoil in the
former Soviet Union cannot be ignored." The fifth, and most dangerous,
"reality" that Bob Dole says should guide American foreign policy is: "the
fact that the geopolitical rivalry with Russia did not end with the demise
of Soviet communism.." Communism may be dead, he says, but Russian
imperialism remains a threat to US interests. Dole goes on to cite several
examples of how this threat is manifesting itself today, including the
continuation of "historical threats" to the near abroad and to prospective
NATO members over the issue of NATO expansion, "thereby confirming the need
to enlarge NATO sooner rather than later."
How the American Determination to Lead and Protect its Economic
Position Affects Its Current Policy Towards Bosnia and Future Policy
If one looks at American policy towards the Balkans from the
assumption that President Clinton's policy towards this region is driven by
his primary global foreign policy concerns to maximize American leadership
and economic strength, then the policy becomes somewhat more rational. The
United States could not accept the EU brokered peace plans of Lisbon, Vance-
Owen, and Owen-Stoltenburg because doing so would have caused Bill Clinton
to be condemned at home as having abdicated America's leadership
preeminence. To salvage his leadership image, President Clinton pushed aside
the UN and EU in early 1994, putting together the so-called contact group
approach as a multilateral effort, but one which now worked off a US State
Department draft. At the same time he began to take the unilateral actions
mentioned previously to directly aid the Muslim and Croat cause. The
eventual result was the agreement at Dayton which President Clinton
announced to the American people as if it were something America alone was
responsible for. "If America does not lead," he said, "too often the job
will not be done .... Europe alone could not end this war."
The determination to lead explains why an agreement in Bosnia had
to be on American terms, but it does not explain why the American terms
favored the Muslims. The explanation for this is money.
About two years ago I was snaking the rounds in Washington trying to
educate some of my former colleagues who were still in the government and
working policy issues affecting the former Yugoslavia. One of my friends in
the Pentagon stopped me in the middle of my harangue about the injustice of
American policy towards the Serbs, in particular the depiction of Serbs as
invaders of Bosnia and Croatia, and as the only perpetrators of war crimes.
"Ron," he said, "don't you think we know what you are saying? The simple
facts are these: we are getting incredible pressure form the Saudis and
others to help the Muslim cause in Bosnia. They remind us that the Islamic
world provides us with all the oil we want at relatively low prices, that
Islamic states have billions of petrodollars to invest in "friendly states"
and offer a potential market of over one billion people for the goods and
services of "friendly countries"; and finally, that the peace process
between Israel and the Islamic world "should go better if Israel's main
friend was also a friend to Islamic countries. When you weigh these facts
against what 8 million Serbs can do for America's interests, its clear what
direction our policy is going to take."
In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Jacob Heilbrunn
and Michael Lind of the journal The New Republic argue that the American
commitment to the Islamic connection is so strong that the US design is to
make the Islamic world part of a new American empire and that American
support of the Bosnian Muslims is part of the implementation of this
plan. They argue that the US perceives its hegemony in the Islamic
world to be key to offsetting the geopolitical power of a united western
Europe, and economically emerging China, and a natural resource rich
What all this means for the future relations of Russia with the
west is that for the foreseeable future the United States will continue to
place its struggle to hold on to its leadership position in western Europe
above considerations for improving relations with Russia. The viability of
NATO is perceived to be necessary to America's leadership of the west. NATO
is the only European organization that the US perceives that it controls.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is too
diverse in membership and there is no special privilege for the US as in
NATO, where the Commander in Chief is always an American and there is a
long history of US dominance of the political activities of the alliance.
For NATO to be viable, the US believes that it must look for new missions
and new membership. If one looks at the NATO charter there is clearly no
legally justifiable reason for NATO to be in Bosnia at the present time.
Conversely, if one looks at the charter of the OSCE, there is every reason
for this organization to be there. By being the champion of NATO expansion
the US hopes to add supporters for a strong US role in Europe.
One of the recurring themes for some time now amongst the American
foreign policy elite is that America is a European country. The Clinton
Administration subscribes to this idea and uses it to justify the need for
continued American leadership in NATO and for NATO's expansion eastward.
Richard Holbrooke, Clinton's Assistant Secretary of State for European and
Canadian Affairs, and most recent chief negotiator on the former Yugoslavia,
wrote an article entitled "America, A European Power," in the March/April
1995 issue of Foreign Affairs. In this article Holbrooke makes the case
that America's European interests justify its call for a new security
architecture in Europe of American design. The new architecture is based on
an expanded NATO. Holbrooke asserts that, "The West must expand to central
Europe as fast as possible in fact as well as spirit, aid the United States
is ready to lead the way... Expansion of NATO is a logical and essential
consequence of the disappearance of the Iron Curtain." Holbrooke says that
NATO expansion is directed at extending market based democracy to former
socialist states of Eastern Europe, not at countering some perceived
military threat from Russia. It would seem to me, however, that if extending
market based democracy was our goal we should push for expansion of the
European Union into these lands as it is focused on economic and political
matters, in contrast to NATO which was created as a military alliance
specifically created to counter a perceived threat from a Russian dominated
General George Joulwan the American Commander in Chief of NATO told
the Washington Post last month that NATO's actions in Bosnia are not about
the future of Bosnia but rather the future of Europe. I think this is
true. Bosnia is a test case for the new American designed security
architecture for Europe. If American goals here are achieved at little or no
cost, then the same approach will be applied elsewhere and it doesn't take
much imagination to predict where. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott
told the Pittsburgh World Affairs Council about three weeks ago that one of
the reasons that the Clinton Administration is determined to end the crisis
in Yugoslavia on American terms is: "If aggressive nationalism triumphs
there, it will not only be devastating in that region, it will be ominous
elsewhere as well..... Throughout the former Soviet Empire, dark forces
similar to those that have convulsed the Balkans are vying with those of
freedom and tolerance to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of communist
rule." In a speech at Indiana University, Secretary of State Warren
Christopher gave some insights as to who the Administration considers to be
among the possible dark forces of the old Soviet empire. According to
Secretary Christopher, "Russia's conduct in Chechnya has been tragically
wrong... I have urged the Russian government to end the carnage, to accept
a permanent mission from the OSCE and to reach a political settlement... But
its actions in Chechnya today threaten Russia's ability to emerge as a
democratic, multi-ethnic state."
As an American I too would like to see my country be an effective
world leader. But as a political scientist I know that power can be wielded
in the international arena in two ways. One way is to use situational power
in which an actor coerces others to do its will by threat or use of military
or economic resources. The other way is to use attitudinal power gained from
one's own exemplary record of performance as a society, or superior
expertise, or recognized moral standing, or charisma to convince others that
one's policy is the best for the situation at hand. The latter approach may
take more effort to be successful but its results will be more lasting. The
problem with relying an the coercive approach that Clinton and Dole seem to
favor is that sooner or later we will run out of luck and some nation or
coalition of nations will not acquiesce to American strong arm leadership.
The consequences then will be great for my country and the world.
 Colin Powell, My American Journey, (Random House: New York, 1995),
 President Bill Clinton, Address to the United Nations General Assembly,
 Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Back to the Womb?, Foreign Policy, July/August,
 President Bill Clinton speech to the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom,
 President Bill Clinton as cited in an article by Daniel William's and
Ann Devroy, "US Follows a Two-Pronged Doctrine: Force Projected Abroad
for National Security Policy Goals," The Washington Post, October 16,
 "Clinton Prolonged the War, Owen Says," Reuters News Wire Service
Report in Los Angeles Times, December 22, 1993; also see Lord David Owen
interview on BBC television program Panorama in November 1995.
 See for example, "US to Help farm Muslim-Croat Army in Bosnia," New York
Times, October 18, 1994; "US Retired General to Aide Muslim-Croat
Federation," New York Times, January 23, 1995; "Europeans Charge Bosnian
Army Gets US Arms," Reuters Wire Service Report, July 27, 1995; and "US
Admits Advisers, Denies Aiding Croat Attacks," Reuters Wire Service
Report, August 7, 1995.
 "Dole Foreign Policy," Associated Press Wire Service Report, Suptember
 Bob Dole, "Winning the Peace American Leadership and Commitment," speech
to the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom Policy Conference, March 22,
 President Bill Clinton, television and radio address to the American
people on Bosnia, November 27, 1995.
 Jacob Heilbrunn and Michael Lind, "The Third American Empire," The New
York Times, December 30, 1995.
 Richard Holbrooke, "America, A European Country," Foreign Affairs,
 Rick Atkinson, "NATO's Gunboat Diplomacy not Assured of Smooth Sailing,"
The Washington Post, September 13, 1995.
 Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, "American Leadership and The
New Europe," Address to the Pittsburgh World Affairs Council, December
 Secretary of State Warren Christopher, "U.S. Policy Towards the New
Independent States: A pragmatic Strategy Grounded in America's
Fundamental Interests," Address to Indiana University, March 29, 1995.