The president says U.S. troops won’t be committed to Kosovo unless there is a well‐defined mission and a clear exit strategy. But Americans have heard that one before. In his November 1995 address making the case for sending U.S. troops to Bosnia, Clinton assured the American public that the operation he was proposing had a “clear, limited and achievable” mission and that the total deployment “should and will take about one year.” Since then, the president has twice reneged on his own exit dates and Washington now has an open‐ended troop commitment that has already cost American taxpayers $10 billion, with no end in sight.
It should also be recalled that the Clinton administration claimed that Bosnia mission would be a strictly military operation. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott declared in November 1995, “There will be no ‘mission creep’ — from purely military tasks into ‘nation‐building.’ ” But today the president says multiethnic political institutions, an independent judiciary, and a free press must be created in Bosnia before he will withdraw U.S. troops. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) says that policy “reads more like a nation‐building strategy” than a military operation; it is “a formula requiring the completion of a new integrated democratic state. That is what nation‐building is.”
Mr. Clinton is undeterred. He contends that U.S. troops should be sent to Kosovo because a war there “could spark tensions again in Bosnia and undo what we just spent two [it’s actually three] years trying to do.” But that is only half the story because NATO intervention in Kosovo could itself cause the peace in Bosnia to unravel.