Big sales job lies ahead


WASHINGTON -- As President Clinton prepares to commit U.S. forces to ending the bitter war or enforcing a shaky peace in the Balkans, he faces the predicament of trying to sell to an acutely skeptical public a policy that could cost lives.

News analysis Mr. Clinton and his aides express clear recognition that this step could be an unavoidable part of the diplomatic process.

Such action would require thorough consultation with Congress and communication with the U.S. public about the policy and the rationale behind it.

Polls show that a majority of the public opposes U.S. military intervention in the Bosnian civil war, presenting Mr. Clinton with his most difficult public sales job yet. It also would have him making the case on another issue far afield from the domestic concerns that got him elected and that mean most to voters.

The sales job facing Mr. Clinton is daunting for a number of reasons -- indeed, it is probably the most difficult he has yet taken on.

Forging a consensus will be anything but easy, the polls show. A poll conducted April 26 by NBC News, for instance, showed that the number of Americans who favor military action has risen from 23 percent in February to 40 percent in April. But the share of Americans who disapprove of Mr. Clinton's handling of the Bosnian question had risen too, also from 23 percent in February to 40 percent.

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