Note: By posting this Dr. Kissinger's text
we do not want to leave an impression that we are supporting in any shape
or form Dr. Kissinger's role during Vietnam war. The only thing we are
saying is that broad spectrum of people in the West are aware of the basic
facts concerning Balkans. People involved in the decision process, like
Dr. Kissinger, always know the facts.
Without permission, for fair
America in the Eye of a Hurricane
By Henry Kissinger
By the end of the year, we shall be facing a moment of truth
in Bosnia: It no longer will be possible to gloss over the incompatibility
between the military and political provisions of the Dayton Accords, which
brought about the cease-fire.
Los Angeles Times Syndicate
Sunday, September 8 1996
Excerpts from page C07
The Washington Post
(Taken without permission - for fair use only)
There are pressures to use NATO (and American) troops
to enforce the political provisions, and there is a presidential commitment
to withdraw our troops by Dec. 29. The looming crisis has four components:
The political provisions of the Dayton Accords require
free elections, a unified Bosnia-Herzegovina, free movement within Bosnia
and the right of refugees to return to their homes. None of these goals
is achievable without the massive use of force.
At the same time, by establishing cease-fire lines patrolled
by NATO, the military provisions of the agreement have the practical consequence
of protecting ethnic enclaves and therefore are an obstacle to the proclaimed
goal of unification.
Normally, elections presuppose the
existence of a country. In Bosnia, elections are projected to create a
country from among three deeply hostile ethnic groups. Not surprisingly,
each of those groups is manipulating the electoral process, not to encourage
pluralism but to unify itself for a showdown with the hated neighbor.
Amid this turmoil, the president's stated policy remains
that U.S. troops will be withdrawn by Dec. 29. The other NATO nations have
declared that they will follow suit.
If these contradictions are not remedied before the scheduled
American withdrawal, Bosnia is likely to blow up again.
Twenty thousand American soldiers find themselves at the
center of this looming crisis. At the moment, things seem calm because
we are in the eye of the hurricane, but as the various deadlines approach,
the success of the U.S. military deployment -- and the of our forces --
will depend on answers to these questions: What is to be the ultimate balance
between our military and political objectives? The role of our forces in
bringing about a political settlement? What, indeed, are we trying to accomplish?
Bosnia policy has reached this impasse because of a tendency
to pursue immediate goals without assessing their long-range consequences.
In 1991 the Bush administration aborted a plan nearly
agreed on between the Bosnian ethnic groups that would have created a loose
confederation amounting to partition. The reason for quashing the plan
was the fear that de facto partition of Bosnia might become a model for
the breakup of the Soviet Union, endangering Gorbachev's reforms.
In 1993 the new Clinton administration rejected a similar
plan devised by former secretary of state Cyrus Vance and former British
foreign secretary David Owen... this decision triggered a new ... round
of ethnic cleansing -- ...by all the parties.
In 1994 the Clinton administration,
in order to get around the U.N. arms embargo it did not wish to challenge,
encouraged the covert sending of arms from Iran to Bosnia. The result was
that fundamentalist and terrorist Iran now has a foothold in Europe.
In this manner our policy drifted toward supporting a
unified Bosnian state -- a commitment all the more remarkable because,
until it was created in 1992, Bosnia had never been
an independent state. Though Bosnian nationalists
claim that a flourishing state around Sarajevo existed in the 12th and
13th centuries, it surely did not have its present-day ethnic mix. And
it is the ethnic -- or, rather, the religious -- conflict (since ethnically
there are few differences) that has made the search for political unity
so intractable and so bloody.
For at least 500 years, Bosnia has
been a province at the frontier among the Muslim, Catholic and Serbian
Orthodox religions, and between the Austrian and Turkish empires. None
of its three religious groups -- the Serb, Croat and Muslim -- has ever
accepted domination by one of the others. Occasionally obliged to yield
to superior outside forces -- Turkish, Austrian or Communist -- they have
never submitted to each other.
NATO's recognition in 1992 of an
independent sovereign state of Bosnia called into being a civil war, not
a country. The three ethnic groups whose rivalries had broken up
Yugoslavia fought each other in the much smaller Bosnia with the savagery
characteristic of Balkan wars, ... in effect, there are no innocent parties
Given that past, a multiethnic state
runs counter to the principle of self-determination -- a defining cause
of America's foreign policy since the days of Woodrow Wilson.
It will be achieved only if imposed by massive force, not at the ballot
The Dayton agreement continues the pattern of short-term
fixes that produce vast long-term consequences. Its pursuit of a multiethnic
Bosnia has driven us to bring about (or, more accurately, to impose) the
so-called Bosnian Federation, which is a shotgun marriage of Croats and
Muslims. Together with its Serbian counterpart, the Bosnian Federation
is to constitute one of the two components of united Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In reality, the Croat and Muslim parts of the so-called
federation are to all practical purposes administered separately, fly their
own flags and, despite reluctant bows to our pressure, maintain their own
armies. In the city of Mostar, Croats and Muslims live on the opposite
sides of a river bisecting the town; they enter each other's part of town
only at physical risk. And comparable hatreds dominate relations between
the Serbian part of Bosnia and the so-called federation. What is proved
by trying to bring about a multiethnic state in these conditions?
Not surprisingly, the projected Bosnian elections are
turning into a travesty. Reports from each ethnic area are unanimous concerning
massive pressures and intimidation by the respective governing authorities.
Each group suppresses dissent and seeks to use the elections to solidify
its ethnic base for the ultimate showdown with the hated rivals. In the
meantime, the Clinton administration is impaled upon the horns of a self-inflicted
dilemma: It supports the Bosnian election as a means of withdrawing our
troops, while that withdrawal is being prevented by the electoral process
itself, because troops will be needed to police both the election and its
Why should NATO or American forces be asked to risk their
lives on behalf of such objectives? Two arguments have been advanced on
behalf of insisting on a multiethnic state: that Bosnia is the functional
equivalent of Czechoslovakia, and therefore failure to restore its original
status amounts to another Munich. The second proposition is the reverse
of the first: that a multiethnic state in Bosnia is necessary not so much
to punish aggression as to prevent it. If Bosnia is permitted to disintegrate,
it is alleged that other successor states of Yugoslavia -- especially Macedonia
-- will follow, tempting neighboring Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria to intervene
in another series of Balkan wars.
With respect to the analogy with Czechoslovakia, no unified
state or multiethnic government has ever existed in Bosnia. The
military challenge is not the product of the Serbs' aspiration to world
domination but of the refusal of one ethnic group to submit to another.
With extensive ethnic cleansing, only the most insignificant
remnants of other groups are left in each area. To force these now ethnically
homogeneous regions into a common entity guarantees another round of ethnic
cleansing in order to reverse the consequences of the last round. Without
the presence of NATO and American troops for an indefinite period, this
will be unachievable. And based on historical experience, it would surely
involve continuing casualties.
As for Macedonia, I doubt that what happens in Bosnia
now will set a precedent for what Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey decide with
respect to their traditional battleground. The Macedonian problem is much
more of an international than an ethnic conflict; it can be constrained
best by the parties' own assessment of the balance of power among them
and by the pressures NATO can bring on its member states, Greece and Turkey.
American willingness to maintain international order will surely be undermined
by a doctrine that all Balkan wars must be ended by U.S. military intervention.
The Clinton administration correctly regards achieving
the cease-fire in Bosnia as a major success; maintaining it by policing
the cease-fire lines for a time is compatible with our interests and values.
The present time limit is too short -- though American troops cannot be
expected to patrol these ethnic dividing lines indefinitely. To go further
is to mire ourselves in the bog of Balkan internal politics. This would
produce an endless crisis that, like Somalia and Vietnam, would in the
end erode our willingness to sustain international responsibilities.
The present electoral travesty in Bosnia therefore should
be abandoned. The only sensible electoral process
and one most compatible with America's historic commitment to self-determination
would be a plebiscite in each ethnic region on the simple choice between
a multiethnic Bosnia and some form of partition. If a majority in each
region favored a unified Bosnia, the current electoral process could be
restarted. Pending the outcome of such a plebiscite, U.S. and NATO forces
should be confined to their present mission of policing the cease-fire.
Ironically, were a unified Bosnia ever to come about,
it might well provide a platform for Serbs and Croats to partition the
Muslim part between themselves (which is how, in fact, the crisis began).
Realistically, a separate Muslim
entity may be the best achievable outcome. It would be the solution most
compatible with the principle of self-determination and most conducive
to long-term stability. The other ethnic groups should have
the same option or join their mother countries.
Since the Muslim entity will be weaker than its neighbors
and given the historic hatreds, it should be given some form of NATO guarantee
-- provided the Muslim state can be stripped of its Iranian connection.
Once ethnic dividing lines are given international status, the cease-fire
will be much easier to enforce, and some of the incentives to resume military
operations will diminish.
The desire to avoid a foreign policy debate in the middle
of an election campaign is understandable. But the penalty for continued
evasion is stark. We must not drift into participation in a civil war in
Bosnia in order to tranquilize domestic debate for a few weeks.
The writer, a former secretary of state, is president
of Kissinger Associates, an international consulting firm that has clients
with business interests in many countries abroad.
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Last revised: April 23, 1997