Foreign Policy Briefing No. 36

The United States and Future Bosnias

By Jonathan Clarke
August 8, 1995

Executive Summary

The confusion that has bedeviled U.S. policy toward the Bosnian conflict could prove even more dangerous in the coming years. There are numerous disputes surfacing elsewhere in Eastern Europe that threaten to duplicate the intracommunal violence that has devastated Bosnia. The distinction between right and wrong or aggressor and victim will be extraordinarily difficult to draw in such murky struggles. Moreover, America’s high-tech military, despite its many impressive capabilities, is not particularly useful in the guerrilla combat that U.S. forces will encounter if Washington attempts to intervene.

Because intracommunal conflicts in Eastern Europe do not pose a threat to America’s security, the United States can and should adopt a consistent policy of nonintervention. The notion that Western, or even European, security is indivisible and requires a U.S. response to any breach of the peace is a product of obsolete Cold War thinking. The United States should encourage the Europeans to take greater responsibility for the security of their own region.

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Jonathan G. Clarke is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.