A rare success in peacemaking
WASHINGTON — Before it gets lost in the tumultuous pages of history, let me hail one of the all-too-rare military peacemaking efforts that actually made some peace.
Not much notice was given to the ceremony the other day in Sarajevo when the flag of NATO was lowered, marking the end of a nine-year multilateral deployment that had brought enough stability to Bosnia for a handover of responsibility to troops of the European Union.
A lot had happened since 1995, when an agreement was signed in Dayton, Ohio, to end the fighting among Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim forces in Bosnia. In those nine years, 60,000 NATO troops, including a large contingent of Americans, succeeded, for the most part, in ending the fighting.
More than a million refugees from the area felt it safe to return to their homes. From the shambles of civil war, an economy was rebuilt.
In time, patrolling NATO tanks were replaced by SUVs. Soldiers walked the streets with only side arms. A soldier could pick up a small boy while his father looked on approvingly. The Americans in Kosovo numbered 1,800, reservists and National Guardsmen from Ohio, Kentucky, and South Carolina. They were recently reduced to 900, and now those last 900 are headed for home as well.
"We brought stability to the region," Brig. Gen. Stephen Schook told The New York Times. "That is a resounding success. It shows we had the determination to do this and stick it out."
Only 250 American troops remain in Bosnia, working with a NATO headquarters hunting for war criminals. We journalists are often blamed for concentrating on bad news like Iraq. I thought I would take the opportunity to highlight some good news, for a change.
• Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.