A back-and-forth discussion on the subject of Bosnia among readers responding (initially, anyway) to a recent post reminded me of this piece from The New York Times, which I meant to draw attention to it at the time, but got busy with other things. Unfortunately, you can’t read it online now without paying for it.
The thrust of it was that no, the situation in Bosnia isn’t perfect — far from it — but we accomplished our goal there. Our goal was modest by the standard of what we’re trying to do in Iraq: We just wanted to stop the killing (at least, that was the goal once we finally decided to do something). We accomplished that.
The author, Roger Cohen, called the Dayton accords signed in 1995 “a messy, and unedifying, end to a conflict” but went on to say that “the Dayton agreement had one conspicuous merit: it stopped the killing that had taken about 200,000 lives. The quieted guns were a tribute to what American power and diplomacy can achieve.”
Note the word, “diplomacy.” The piece stresses the importance of working in concert with powerful allies, and draws some obvious contrasts with what has happened in Iraq. That’s the first of “two lessons” he says the Bosnia experience holds for Iraq.
“The second,” he wrote, “is that a 10-year American military commitment can bear fruit.”
Now note “10-year.” Also note “commitment.” The result is that eventually, one can draw down the troop deployment — we only have 200 in Bosnia now. But note again, all you impatient sorts: “10-year.”
Anyway, the part I liked best about the piece was the headline: “Lessons From Bosnia, 10 Years On: A U.S. Commitment Can Work.” I saw that as a fitting rebuke to the isolationists and do-nothings on both the left and the right.