In November 1995, President Clinton said the United States would send troops to Bosnia-Herzegovina for 12 months. Nearly eight years later, 1,500 U.S. troops are still there, separating groups that hate each other and providing a valuable lesson in the difficulty of rebuilding a nation racked by war. The lessons of Bosnia should prepare Americans to see their forces in Iraq years from now, even if other nations change their minds and contribute substantial numbers of troops.
Clinton was gearing up for reelection when he low-balled the troop timetable, and his remarks met justified skepticism. International agreements put Bosnia-Herzegovina under international control, and today a foreign ruler who can fire officeholders and impose new laws remains in charge.
Signs of progress have been limited: Foreign troops number about 12,000, including Americans, down from around 60,000 at the peak; Serbs, Croats and Muslims rotate the presidency and an elected legislature is laboring to make the country independent again.
Dragan Covic, a Croat and the current Bosnian president, recently visited the United States to seek foreign investment, not an easy assignment for a man facing charges at home of illegal business dealings. Give him credit for "spin." He says the allegations against him result from "political pressure" and the judicial proceedings indicate no one is above the law.