July 1, 1995
Alan W. Dowd
In case you have yet to notice, Sen. Bob Dole is trying to rebuild America's crumbling foreign policy. In the last eight months, Sen. Dole has introduced legislation that redefines the president’s authority to deploy peacekeeping forces; demanded a review of Mr. Clinton’s appeasement strategy in North Korea; and led efforts to expand NATO and thus secure Eastern Europe. But nowhere is Mr. Dole’s imprint more visible--or his criticism more stinging--than with regard to the Balkan war.
With Mr. Dole leading the way, the US Senate voted to lift the thoughtless arms embargo against the defenseless Bosnian Muslims in late July. Mr. Dole marshaled enough votes to override the president’s threatened veto, sending the Bosnian Self-Defense Act on to the House, where Newt Gingrich’s troops and several Democratic allies added their veto-proof support to the bill. The bill’s passage should have re-focused the muddled foreign policy vision of the White House, thus transforming America’s role in Bosnia. However, Mr. Clinton flouted this unprecedented repudiation and vetoed the bill on August 11. Without continued leadership from Dole and others in Congress, the Administration’s reactive pattern of timid appeasement will continue, the Bosnian nightmare will deepen, and the fissure in Central Europe will widen.
It is critical that Congress now pass legislation that will assist the Muslims in acquiring arms. Recall that Mr. Dole’s measure merely directs the president to lift the embargo; it does not appropriate funds or earmark weaponry for the Muslims. One step ahead of the Administration, Senators Dole and Lieberman have already introduced a bill that would set up an international fund to arm the Muslims. The bill offers $100 million in American aid to the Bosnians--$50 million in weaponry, $50 million to prime the fund to which other states would contribute.
The list of prospective contributors is growing. The Islamic Conference Contact Group on Bosnia and Herzegovina--comprised of Morocco, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, and Malaysia--has formally offered both men and material to the war effort. Jordan, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia have recently pledged their economic support to the fund. Turkey has gone even further. In addition to donating money to the defense fund, Ankara has signed a military cooperation pact with the Sarajevo government, signaling an open commitment to Bosnia’s right to self-defense and territorial integrity. Sen. Dole’s emerging policy gives the US an opportunity to work with Turkey and other moderate states in the Islamic Conference to salvage what is left of Bosnia.
Washington must also gain some support within Western Europe for this policy, lest the transatlantic link go the way of Srebrenica and Zepa. (Germany seems to be the most likely to join NATO partner Turkey and Mr. Dole in making a last stand for Bosnia.) Of course, this presupposes a resurrection of American leadership, which Mr. Dole has come to embody since the first hours of the Balkan war.
Once committed with weapons to bolster its words, the US should assist in the withdrawal of the UN’s 22,000-man observer force. (It is deceitful and farcical to call this body a "protection force.")
As UN forces pull out and the Bosnian Army moves in, robust airstrikes would be necessary to derail the Serb war machine, eliminate heavy-guns, cripple SAM sites, and effectively freeze the battlefield. Mr. Dole has called this the "lift and strike" solution, since it would include both a lifting of the embargo and airstrikes to augment the ground efforts of the Muslims. These airstrikes would continue as a well-armed Bosnian Army fights for its homeland.
In filling the leadership vacuum left by the Clinton Administration, Mr. Dole is doing more than steer the debate on Bosnia, far more than
just ending the charade of American neutrality. Mr. Dole is defining the parameters of a realistic post-Cold War foreign policy, something President Clinton should have completed by now.
Founded on American leadership, not international consensus, the Dole foreign policy agenda is taking shape:
By limiting the executive’s ability to send US troops on nation-building missions, Mr. Dole is reminding future presidents and future Congresses that they share responsibility for foreign deployments, and that such deployments must first serve US interests--not UN interests.
By pushing for near-term expansion of the Western defense community NATO, Mr. Dole is boldly asserting that American engagement is the first step to regional security and global cooperation. Without US leadership, small, local crises like the Balkan war of 1991 become unmanageable, regional flash-points like the Balkan war of today.
By condemning those who would appease the bullies in North Korea and the former Yugoslavia, Mr. Dole recalls the forgotten lessons of the 1930s (when Western timidity gave rise to global aggression) and the 1940s (when American timidity enabled Moscow to enslave Eastern Europe).
Shared responsibility and national interests, engagement and leadership, and hard-headed resolve. These three principles, perhaps in conjunction with a new system of friendships and alliances, constitute the Dole Doctrine. It may change more than the course of the Balkan war; it may finally renew America’s foreign policy.