Weighing in on the Syria crisis, former US President Bill Clinton has suggested that the dilemmas that Washington and other western powers are facing now on how to tackle it are similar to those that arose when violence engulfed the former Yugoslavia twenty years ago.
Mr Clinton is not the first to make the comparison and what he says about it twelve years after leaving office is more or less immaterial, except, of course, for two things. He was the US president who eventually forged the west’s intervention in Bosnia in 1995. And his wife, Hillary, will have a lot to do with what the world eventually does in Syria as US Secretary of State.
It may have been with her in mind that he also cautioned patience and voiced sympathy with President Barack Obama who has come under attack from Republicans for seemingly responding slowly to the conflict. “We have to respect the constraints that are now on the president and our government,” Mr Clinton said, adding: “We’re in this place in Syria where I was with Bosnia in 1993 and 1994. It took us two years.” Nor, he said, was America in position to intercede in Bosnia until the European allies had been “persuaded to support our position”.
While his comments were doubtless aimed at giving solace they may also be a reminder that just as Bosnia became an albatross for him and for George H.W. Bush before him, so Syria is threatening to upend Mr Obama’s record on foreign policy only months away from the 2012 election.