Last summer, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hinted that perhaps it was time for NATO's European members to assume more of the responsibility for peacekeeping. The Sept. 11 attack and the subsequent search for European allies in the war on terrorism postponed serious debate on the question. But given a new list of priorities that now includes homeland defense, the issue undoubtedly will be raised again by those in the Pentagon who believe that the NATO-led force easily could survive the departure of the 2,500 U.S. soldiers stationed outside the city of Tuzla.
Some policy analysts in Washington think the force, as it's currently constituted, has outlived its usefulness and should be replaced with something similar to Italy's Carabinieri or Spain's Guardia Civil, national police forces under joint civilian and military control. Certainly, it no longer intimidates the rent-a-mobs that Bosnia's nationalists use to express displeasure.
Even when prepared, the stabilization force often refuses to act. In Herzegovina, 30 armored vehicles belonging to NATO's Quick Reaction Force were standing by last spring when a team of U.S. auditors raided a Bosnian bank suspected of criminal connections. But when a mob of angry skinheads appeared and the Americans radioed for rescue, the Spanish and Italian commanders in charge of the convoy refused to intervene, explaining that restrictive rules of engagement imposed by their governments superseded any order from NATO's local commander.
Bosnia may be a problem for Europe, but a strong argument can be made for continued U.S. engagement. Many of the moujahedeen invited to Bosnia a decade ago moved to Albania after the Dayton accords to help train the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Today, some of these same men continue to fight alongside Albanian rebels in Macedonia. Some Western intelligence analysts believe that a decade of conflict in Bosnia, Kosovo, southern Serbia and Macedonia may have produced a core of 10,000 Albanian Muslims with significant military experience. If they are correct, the U.S. may discover that Bosnia's recalcitrant Croats and Serbs are the least of their problems.