Bringing the suffering of Bosnia closer to home


Why should I care about Bosnia?

Congress cares about it a lot.

Big deal. Congress cares a lot about getting free haircuts.

OK, look at it this way: Congress is debating our policy in Bosnia because many people are being killed there.

Many people are being killed in Cleveland and I don't see Congress debating that.

Good point. Let's just say that when too many people get killed in some foreign countries, the United States feels it must act.

We feel we must stand up to murderous dictators, no matter where they are.

Like Saddam Hussein?


So we'll send troops to fight in Bosnia like we sent troops to fight in the Persian Gulf?

Uh, no. We won't.

Why not?

The Persian Gulf has oil. Bosnia merely has misery.

And we never send troops just to end misery?

We tried that in Somalia, but it didn't work that well. We got our hair mussed and so we pulled out. And that pretty much put an end to our misery policy.

What about Haiti?

Haiti is in our own ballpark. We intervene in our own ballpark.

Cuba is in our own ballpark.

Yeah, but Cuba is a serious country with a serious army. The Haitian army was basically 50 guys with 30 rifles and 20 bullets. So our comfort level for going in was pretty high.

So let me get this straight: Bosnia has no oil.


It's not in our ballpark.


And it's misery level doesn't impress us much anymore.


So we are leaving it alone.

No. We are imposing an arms embargo that is keeping the Bosnians from defending themselves against the Serbs.

Doesn't seem fair.

No. This is all part of our new Burma Shave foreign policy.


Apparently the White House believes that our foreign policy should be simple enough so it can be read like those old Burma Shave signs. So our policy toward Bosnia is:

"Believe us when we say/That we really do care/But that doesn't mean/You can expect us to be fair/Burma Shave."

Did Bill Clinton screw this up?

George Bush screwed it up first. And Clinton severely criticized Bush's Bosnia policy during the 1992 presidential campaign. Clinton said on Aug. 6, 1992: "We cannot afford to ignore what appears to be a deliberate and systematic extermination of human beings based on their ethnic origin." And he said he would intervene to stop the slaughter.

And is that what he did as president?

No. As president, he said on June 15, 1993: "Let me tell you something about Bosnia. On Bosnia, I made a decision. The United Nations controls what happens in Bosnia."

So having criticized Bush's Bosnia policy as a candidate, Clinton adopted it as president?

Exactly. Who says politics is hard to understand?

What was the result?

A failure has matured into a disaster. Murder, mass rape, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity go forward every day, while the United States, the United Nations and our NATO allies stand uselessly by.

So you want U.S. troops to go to Bosnia?

On the contrary. I want U.S. troops to stay out of Bosnia.

Just as Haiti was an American problem, Bosnia is a European problem.

So if you don't want troops, what do you want?

I want what the U.S. Senate voted last week: Lift the arms embargo and let the Bosnians defend themselves.

Will that work?

It might. The Bosnian fighters actually outnumber the Serb fighters. The Serbs are just far better armed.

What if arming the Bosnians fails?

If it fails, the European powers could still put together a strike force as we did in Haiti. The United States could provide air cover. But we should give self-defense a chance first.

Can you put this in official foreign policy terms?


"Arm the good guys/And bomb the bad/Restore the reputation/The U.S. once had/Burma Shave."

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