Clinton advised to commit US ground troops to Bosnia: Anonymous 'senior official' offers policy guidance to President

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The Independent Online
A SURE sign of deep divisions in a US administration is when senior officials publish advice to the President anonymously. It happened yesterday in the New York Times.

An unsigned article by a 'US official', (assumed to be senior, otherwise why request anonymity?) in the Times called on Bill Clinton to re-think two of the pillars of his Bosnia thinking. He should set aside his objections to the use of US ground troops, and permit the deployment of these troops without a firm timetable for withdrawal, the author said.

One guess is that the author is one of the 'Churchillians', who favour military intervention, as opposed to the appeasing 'Chamberlains' on the US National Security Council.

The author called for a new effort to end the Bosnian war, including US participation in an enlarged UN force that would secure the safety of Muslims in 'safe havens'. Dismissed by the author was the 'minimalist' approach suggested this week by the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, in which the United States takes a back seat while the Europeans drive the Bosnia policy. 'It is not a time to step back, although the temptation to do so is strong,' the author said.

The article is one of a flood in recent days by regular US columnists calling on the President to take firm action on Bosnia to end the killing, to make himself look more 'presidential' and to stop risking US 'credibility' in Europe. Current policy, wrote Jim Hoagland yesterday in the Washington Post, risks 'American influence being wobbled away as Europeans conclude that the United States is unsure about what it wants and even less certain how to get it'.

These articles came on the eve of important meetings in Washington between Mr Christopher and the foreign ministers of Russia, Britain and France, and of meetings today of these last three at the United Nations with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Secretary-General. They will discuss the resolutions being considered in the Security Council that are likely to change the role of UN forces in Bosnia from observation, mediation and protection of aid convoys to enforcement of the UN 'safe havens'.

After months of trying to persuade all three parties to the conflict to sign the UN-sponsored peace plan, the battered UN security council is now trying to rebuild its peace-making role.

One resolution will call for an increased presence of troops in the 'safe havens', and thus put further pressure on Mr Clinton to contribute ground forces. To involve US ground forces, Mr Clinton would have to convince himself and the American people that US interests are at stake. He could use the following argument, suggests the official: 'If Nato and the United Nations, the institutions best equipped to keep international peace . . . cannot act now, the world will be even more poorly equipped when the next similar crisis erupts.'