Bosnia policy reflects the new style of U.S. leadership, official says

May 26, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton's decision to defer to European views on Bosnia-Herzegovina reflects a deliberate shift to a new, post-Cold War model of U.S. power: limited by economic problems, modest in style and rarely to be exercised unilaterally, according to a senior State Department official.

The Cold War brand of U.S. leadership in international crisis "is going to be the case much less than it was before," the official told reporters yesterday in an informal speech.

"We don't have the money" in the federal budget to act as freely as before, he added.

His comments, if confirmed in action, would signal a major shift from the largely unilateral U.S. leadership practiced by Cold War presidents from Harry Truman to George Bush.

"We're talking about new rules of engagement for the United States," said the official, who holds one of the top policy-making positions in the State Department. "There will have to be genuine power-sharing and responsibility-sharing."

"The approach is a very difficult one for some of our European friends to understand, and many would have preferred it the other way," he said. "It is different. But it's not different by accident; it's different by design."

Mr. Clinton has come under stinging criticism from some members of Congress and some foreign countries for his decision to back away from a campaign pledge to consider U.S. military action in Bosnia, and to support a European-designed plan that leaves Serbian forces in control of most of Bosnia.

The State Department official -- who spoke at a lunch meeting with 49 reporters, under ground rules that stipulated he would not be identified -- argued that the administration's refusal to go beyond its allies' views on Bosnia was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a pattern that is likely to recur.

However, other officials, including Secretary of State Warren Christopher, sought to soften the impact of the remarks in telephone calls to reporters last night.

"Our responsibility of leadership is undiminished in this period," Mr. Christopher said. Still, he added, "It will be, perhaps, a somewhat different leadership."

In the case of Bosnia, Mr. Clinton decided multilateral action was preferable, Mr. Christopher said.

Mr. Christopher's comments did not directly contradict the senior official's remarks, and he did not intend to deny them, an aide said. "These are shades of meaning over a philosophical issue," the aide said.

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