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 »  Home  »  Politics  »  (E) Winning the Peace in Bosnia - by Paddy Ashdown
(E) Winning the Peace in Bosnia - by Paddy Ashdown
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  05/7/2002 | Politics | Unrated
(E) Winning the Peace in Bosnia - by Paddy Ashdown
 
COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Winning the peace in Bosnia: The 
US must maintain its military presence in the region to keep criminals and 
terrorists at bay, says Paddy Ashdown: 
 
Financial Times; May 3, 2002 
By PADDY ASHDOWN 
 
September 11 streng-thens the case for US engagement 
in the Balkans. This will be my message when I meet 
administration officials in Washington today in 
preparation for taking on the job of high representative in Bosnia next month. 
"To tell you the truth, Bosnia didn't mean anything to me. Here it's 
different. It's about New York and my country being 
attacked." Those were the words of a young infantryman, on active service in 
Afghanistan, quoted recently in a US newspaper. And I have met soldiers, 
young Americans serving in Bosnia, who wish they too were in Afghanistan, 
doing a soldier's ultimate duty: defending his country. 
As a former Royal Marine, I know how they feel. My reply to them is this: 
dealing with terrorism in Afghanistan is vital for all of us. But, in a 
different way, so is dealing with instability in Bosnia. We cannot afford to 
let today's weak states become tomorrow's havens for organised crime and 
terrorism; to let today's Bosnias become tomorrow's Afghanistans. 
I am confident that this will not happen in Bosnia - but only because I remain confident that the inter-national community is determined not to let it happen. Otherwise I would not have accepted the job. When the Soviet forces at last pulled out of 
Afghanistan in 1989, all of us around the world heaved a sigh of relief. We thought that country now had achance to prosper as a free and democratic state on 
its own. We were wrong. The west disengaged too early, leaving Afghanistan on 
its knees, run by warlords, funded by organised crime and drugs. Far 
from the rule of law, it was the perfect base for terrorist organisations such 
as al-Qaeda. Bosnia, too, has not had time to stabilise fully after 
a savage conflict, the like of which had not been seen in Europe since 
the second world war. But the country has come a long way. Bosnia today is 
at peace. People are returning to the homes they were driven from in the 
early 1990s and are rebuilding their lives. The governing parties are led 
by moderates. The war criminals are being rounded up and the mujahideen have 
gone. Nevertheless, Bosnia is by no means a normal state. It is far from 
being a functioning democracy or a free market economy. After 50 years of communism and five years of brutal conflict, how could it be? Bosnia is passing through a double transition: from communism to the free market and from conflict to peace. People are having not only to learn to live together again but also to learn about democracy 
and the market: to take on board a whole new political and economic 
culture. Today Bosnia has made huge, even miraculous, progress. 
But it remains a weak, fractured state, prey to organised crime. It 
still needs our help. Many ask: but why should we give it? There are other 
priorities, other mdangers. We have limited resources. We cannot stay in 
Bosnia for ever. I accept that. But as Bosnia has changed, so, too, has 
the nature of our engagement. In 1995, the US had more than 20,000 soldiers in 
Bosnia. Today, it has fewer than 3,000 - less than 1 per cent of the US Army. The 
Nato force is still capable of dealing with any of the potential threats 
it faces. But it is now mainly a European force. The US contribution is less 
than 15 per cent. US and Nato troops will continue to be withdrawn as the 
threat declines. And as Nato's role has scaled back, so the European Union's 
role has grown. But US troops and US engagement will be necessary for some 
time yet to smooth this transition. Without the credibility that American 
leadership brings, there is still a real risk that Bosnia's fragile stability 
will disintegrate once more into conflict and criminality. 
It is true that Bosnia matters more to Europe. It is on our continent and is 
our responsibility. It remains one of the key routes for organised crime 
into western Europe. But Bosnia also matters to America - and for these 
reasons. First, if we leave Bosnia with the job half done, the 
crime gangs, warlords and terrorists will come in by the back door just as 
our last troops are leaving at the front. Then we would have to come back 
in force, sooner rather than later. Second, the Balkans are forcing the Europeans to 
develop the tools to promote peace and prosperity beyond their borders. 
There is little doubt that German forces would not today be serving in 
Afghanistan without the Balkan precedent. By staying engaged, the US can help 
shape this process. Third, by staying to help get the Balkans right, 
America will hasten the day when those countries can join the EU and the US can 
hand over once and for all to Europeans the responsibility for keeping the 
peace there. Europe needs America, not least for the leadership of 
which only it is capable. But in an uncertain world and an uncertain 
century, America also needs Europe. A new post-cold-war partnership has been 
and is being forged in the Balkans. Its utility will endure far beyond 
Afghanistan. The writer takes over as high representative to Bosnia 
and Hercegovina on May 27 
 
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 1995-2002 
 
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