best news relating to the Balkans is that there seems to be something
of a split within the Bush administration over "peacekeeping"
missions like the NATO deployment in Bosnia and other Balkan countries.
The worst news is that at this point the most vocal, mediagenic
and forceful figures in the administration seem to be on the side
of if not the status quo exactly, then of placating European
NATO countries by maintaining American troops there for years to
possible kicker in the equation is that American civilians sent
to Bosnia seem to have put together a less-than-exemplary record
in their tasks as police officers or as overseers of local police
with broad-ranging but somewhat murky lines of authority although
the Americans don’t seem to have been notably worse than police
from other countries who have seen service in Bosnia more as a main
chance than as an opportunity to establish anything resembling a
civil society and a dispassionate, disinterested rule of law. While
some American police veterans have performed with distinction, some
have gotten involved in sex and financial scandals that reflect
discredit on the entire operation.
REASSURING MR. POWELL
of State Gen. Colin Powell, in Budapest for a meeting of NATO ministers,
repeated reassurances that the United States and its putative European
allies went into the Balkans together "and we’ll come out together."
He claimed that within the Bush administration "there isn’t
a big split on the issue" and noted that it
could be years before American troops and civilian personnel come
home from the Balkans.
meeting is expected to announce modest reductions in the Bosnian
peacekeeping force from about 21,000 troops to about 18,000. The
United States currently "contributes" about 3,600 of those
troops, more than any other single country (but less as a percentage
than when the NATO troops arrived in the mid-1990s) and its detachment
is expected to fall to about 3,100.
both NATO leaders and Gen. Powell seem to agree that while further
modest reductions are possible, they are not prepared to think about
pulling NATO troops out altogether or even cutting back to a much
more modest "monitoring" force until Bosnia has an effective
police force and a functioning judicial system. We
need a functioning system of law and order" in Bosnia, the
American General, Joseph Ralston, who heads the mission, told the
New York Times. "I want those conditions as soon
as we can get them, but I don’t have a time frame for it."
when the Sahara freezes over.
Powell says there isn’t that much of a split within the administration,
but he had to address the issue because of recent comments from
Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, who said that in his view
NATO’s military job is done in Bosnia and that the military is being
drawn into essentially civil tasks that are outside its mission
and its area of competence. He and his allies within the administration
are said to want American troops to come home sooner rather than
later. Pentagon sources have said substantial cutbacks leading to
an end of the military mission should begin in 6 to 18 months.
has also questioned the deployment of some 900 U.S. troops in an
American peacekeeping force in the Sinai and the use of US troops
to train peacekeeping forces in Africa.
story Sunday in the New York Times by Michael Gordon,
"Mr. Rumsfeld’s skepticism toward peacekeeping appears to be
part of a broader shift in thinking of Defense Department civilians
that puts more emphasis on planning for major wars, and the development
of new high-technology weapons to fight them, and less emphasis
on relations with allies and the use of American forces to maintain
order in a tumultuous post-cold-war world."
MACHINE OR EMPIRE?
Americans who are sick of war and the apparently untiring efforts
of those who lead our particular state to keep the likelihood (and
desirability?) of war ever in the forefront of American thinking,
Mr. Rumsfeld’s apparent plans are hardly cause for solace. The defense
secretary may want to reduce US commitments overseas, but he also
wants (surprise, surprise!) to increase Pentagon spending. He seems
to view China as a likely military rival in the near future, and
wants the American military to be more agile, lethal, stealthy and
high-tech to meet such challenges.
fact that Mr. Rumsfeld spends so much time worrying about (and hyping)
the putative Chinese military threat, as well as threats from terrorists
suggests that he has not only an institutional but an ideological
interest in preparing the American public for some future conflict
with China. This is hardly the paradigm of war avoidance that most
Americans would prefer as American policy.
is likely, however, that whether the Rumsfeld-Powell split over
the commitment in Bosnia is really as deep as some of the media
have cracked it up to be, whatever split there is reflects a deeper
split between what we might call nationalists and imperialists.
The Rumsfeldians seem to want to concentrate on the military power
of he United States as a nation capable of acting on its own should
conflict or response to conflict be deemed advisable. The group
we might call the Powellians in this context (though Mr. Powell
himself has expressed doubts about peacekeeping missions in the
past) seem to view the United States as the senior partner in a
worldwide empire that includes NATO and other "advanced"
countries working to put out brushfires and maintain what they are
pleased to call "stability" in trouble-prone regions of
order-keeping function is more purely imperialistic than a focus
on US military might. The Roman Empire, after it had conquered another
country and declared it to be part of the empire, often stationed
military garrisons in conquered countries, with both political and
purely military functions. The main function was to keep the peace
and prevent rebellion, which often included adapting Roman ideas
about law and civil society to other countries. But the military
was also capable of being notably brutal, and expected to be able
to brutalize if the situation seemed to call for it.
imperial idea in modern America is simultaneously more modest and
more far-reaching than the old Roman model. The United States seldom
feels a need to conquer countries and incorporate them into a formal
imperial structure, though it is sometimes eager to engage in far-flung
military adventures. But especially given the existence of the UN,
NATO and other international political bodies, it hardly ever views
any country as outside the proper sphere of influence of the United
States and the "international community" of the wise and
a country doesn’t have to experience outright conquest to experience
the intense attention of ambitious US and international policy makers.
The "indispensable nation" views the entire world as its
bailiwick now. It or those within the government and the
foreign policy constituent groups that adhere to a more internationalist
view of matters has little or no compunction about deciding that
any country where trouble is brewing (or where the supply of natural
resources might be in jeopardy) is a legitimate target of US intervention,
whether papered over by some putatively multilateral international
body or undertaken unilaterally by the United States.
an essentially nationalist view of the world one that views the
role of the US as the most powerful military force but essentially
to protect and defend clear-cut US interests rather than being apostles
of our brand of civilization and bringers of enlightenment to the
benighted denizens of he rest of the world somewhat less mischievous
than the more internationalist view? Perhaps it is. But the Rumsfeldian
desire to increase military spending when the United States already
spends more on "defense" than the rest of the world combined
is hardly a vision of a country determined to live at peace in the
THE PEACEKEEPING IDEOLOGY
if the nationalist view, at least the expansive and expensive Rumsfeldian
model, is something less than Nirvana for peace-loving Americans,
almost any critique of the peacekeeping model is worth encouraging.
Indeed, it might be helpful if the Rumsfeld forces in the administration
were more forthcoming and explicit in their discussion of the shortcomings
of the tendency to want to keep garrisons of American troops in
various foreign countries for indeterminate periods of time.
almost unchallenged platitudes of Gen. Ralston about the need to
keep international forces in Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans
deserve more skepticism. The basic notion that international forces
can only be withdrawn when Bosnia, or Serbia or Kosovo or Macedonia
has a working police force, an established rule of law and a peaceful
society is deeply flawed.
a case can be made that keeping US and other international forces
in Bosnia (to take the example that seems to be somewhat in play)
actually deters the development of a stable civil society, the rule
of law and police forces that try to keep the peace rather than
act as instruments of repression. As long as police personnel from
other countries remain, the incentive to develop homegrown police
forces is reduced. Why should Bosnians develop decent police forces
while foreigners perform the functions, pay the bills and have a
veto power over what the locals try to develop anyway?
development of a civil society and decent police forces is often
a matter of trial and error rather than the imposition of a master
plan from above. Any country that tries to do so will make mistakes
and experience periods of turmoil and unrest in the process. Unless
they are free to keep trying without interference from countries
that (see Ramparts in Los Angeles and corruption in almost every
major police force in this country) are less than perfect themselves they
will never have a prayer of getting it right.
idea of waiting until the Bosnians have it down pat, then, could
lengthen the time it takes for them to get it even partially right.
And it’s a formula for a commitment with no end. No matter how well-developed
Bosnia civil society eventually becomes (and I’d argue it will take
longer with NATO troops papering over problems and subsidizing incompetence)
it will never be perfect. There will always be problems that will
justify a desire to keep the international forces in there for just
a few weeks, months or years longer, until perfect stability can
be guaranteed. In truth, perfect stability can never be guaranteed.
this would be true if the peacekeeping and police forces in Bosnia
and other countries were perfect models of integrity, competence,
accountability and dispassionate desire to reinforce the rule of
law in its most idealistic form.
that hardly seems to be the case.
piece Tuesday in the Washington Post, the U.N. police mission
in Bosnia "has faced numerous charges of misconduct, corruption
and sexual impropriety. But in virtually every case, the allegations
have been hushed up by sending officers home, often without a full
investigation, according to internal UN reports and interviews with
US and European officials."
and the UN decided to start sending police officers into Bosnia
and there are about 1,832 of them there, including 161 officers
from the United States. While many of those officers are doing the
best they can in difficult circumstances, enough are doing the opposite
to raise legitimate concerns.
Americans have been accused of statutory rape, abetting prostitution
and accepting gifts from Bosnian officials. It has apparently been
more difficult to persuade first-rate American police officers to
spend a year or two in Bosnia than it has been to persuade better
police officers from some other countries.
private company (Texas-based DynCorp) that has the $15 million annual
contract to find and deploy police officials has had to go after
reserve officers and retired officers. Some are too old or too out-of-shape
to pass a physical.
have been downright corrupt.
Smith, a former Santa Cruz officer who served as UN regional commander
in Stolac, put it in a nutshell. "They’re making $85,000 in
a place where everyone else is making $5,000 and they’re chasing
whores, they’re shacking up with young women, and they’re basically
just having a good time," Smith said. One American officer
was fired after the UN accused him of paying $2.900 to acquire "ownership"
of a prostitute he met in a Sarajevo brothel. Another allegedly
began a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. Six officers
(two American, two British and two Spanish) were dismissed after
"rescuing" 34 women from a brothel.
the international officers (with honorable exceptions) hardly provide
a model of integrity and devotion to duty for the locals to emulate.
It would be better to pull them all out and let Bosnia be Bosnia
(which would almost certainly be admittedly unpleasant for a while
for many). But while some forces in the Bush administration seem
to be skeptical, the odds of complete withdrawal any time soon are
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