Hope for the Balkans Clinton success: Carrot-and-stick strategy helps forge peace accord in former Yugoslavia.

November 22, 1995

THE PEACE AGREEMENT reached in Dayton, Ohio, by the warring parties in the Balkans was a risky triumph for President Clinton's diplomacy. If the agreement holds, the traumatized people of Bosnia, the impoverished people of Serbia and the horrified, on-looking world will be thankful.

With carrots and sticks, force and tact, and the message of one heavy bombing campaign, U.S. mediators made three former Yugoslav republic presidents compromise and accept what had been unacceptable. Serbia renounces territory. Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia agree to a central Bosnian regime within which are two states, one ethnically Serb and the other a Croatian-Muslim federation. It is a difficult concept to grasp and may prove too fragile a vessel for the competing nationalisms.

War crimes investigations will proceed and those indicted by a United Nations tribunal are denied a place in Bosnian politics. This was easy for President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia to concede, since it would end the careers of two potential rivals he no longer finds useful -- Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. This turns an indictment into a sentence and gives teeth to a United Nations tribunal that feared it had none.

The carrot to Mr. Milosevic, whose steely conversian to Serbian nationalism a decade ago brought on this tragedy, is an end to U.N. sanctions. This is testimony to the gradual effectiveness of the sanctions on Serbia, whose people were carefully spared carnage yet made to suffer economically.

After four years of war and atrocity, the peace announcement was greeted with understandable skepticism in many quarters. Particularly skeptical are survivors in Bosnia, who are used to broken promises, and Republicans in Congress, who have repeatedly opposed putting U.S. servicemen in harm's way where the risks are great and U.S. interests not obvious.

President Clinton now has the difficult job of convincing the American people and Congress that as commander-in-chief he would be acting wisely in sending 20,000 American troops to join 40,000 others in a force of sufficient strength and resolve to keep the agreed peace. But as the cautious remarks of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole reflected, the momentum has shifted. They are leery of scuttling the agreement.

Meanwhile, the president, Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke can take caitious satisfaction in having accomplished what previously seemed beyond reach. Hard work, though, remains in Washington, Paris (where a deployment treaty will be signed next month) and in Bosnia, where the true test of peace rests in the hands of Serbs, Croats and Muslims who must make the ultimate commitment to put an end to a conflict that has taken more than 250,000 lives.

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