Dayton Accord's Dangerous Dueling Missions

NATO advance teams head into Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States Congress anguishes over its reluctant votes of support for the NATO mission. The peoples who have suffered the excesses of the Bosnian war begin to look to the current peace plan for an end to bloody conflict.

But the plan's architects must go back to the drawing board. If not shored up by all the parties involved, the Balkan peace plan will collapse at its weakest points.

This Balkan accord presents a plan for the peaceful reconstruction of Bosnia that can work. To the credit of its negotiators, what it sets out to do comprehends the enormous scope of what must be done. Unfortunately, the Dayton plan is also impaired by dueling missions. It squeezes two plans into one document: one modest, the other ambitious. Worse, these component parts may clash. The plan's flaws are fixable, but, as with all such things, better sooner than later.

The Dayton agreement's two distinct plans for peace ironically mirror its formula for "one Bosnia-Herzegovina, two 'entities.' " (The "entities" are the Muslim-Croat federation and the Bosnian Serb republic.) The Clinton administration has been lobbying Congress and the American public on behalf of the first plan: essentially, a combination of military assistance and traditional peacekeeping. The US-led multilateral forces will serve as a buffer to help Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims stay put on their respective sides of a "zone of separation." At the same time, the force will stabilize the balance of military power on the ground - building up the Bosnians and building down the Serbs - so that US troops can leave in one year with the expectation that each party has defensible and sustainable borders.

When the president and his advisers repeat their arguments that US forces will be "overwhelming," have "clear and limited" goals, and a "definite" time of exit, they are speaking about this first plan.

Dayton, Part II

The problem is that there is another peace plan in the 130 pages of the Dayton agreement. This second plan is one of peace-building (another term for "nation building") - arguably the most ambitious multidimensional peace operation ever undertaken. It is comprehensive, addressing issues ranging from a new Bosnian constitution and resettlement of refugees to human rights abuses, civilian policing, negotiation of property claims, preservation of national monuments, and reconstruction of highways and civilian infrastructure. In its details, it demonstrates how much has been learned from both the successes and mistakes of past peace operations in Cambodia, El Salvador, Haiti, and Somalia. This second, civilian plan recognizes that sustainable peace depends on rebuilding "civil society." It also affords room for nongovernmental actors to play a crucial role in that task.

The trouble resides in the gap between the administration's focus on selling the first, narrowly military plan, and the need to build political support for the second, ambitiously political plan, which is arguably the only plan that matters if peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina is to be genuine. In the president's words, the components of this latter plan are "absolutely essential to making the peace endure."

Our concern is that the two plans may collide, either in their selling or their implementation. The debate sounds as though the second plan were inconsequential, nonexistent, or not detailed in more than 65 pages of fine print. The military plan may be the true plan, with civilian peace-building added to sweeten the dissection of Bosnia.

But ideally, the first plan is intended to create the necessary conditions for the success of the second: establishing the secure context in which the residents of the former Yugoslavia, with aid from various nonmilitary agencies, can build their own peace. If the administration fails to present the Dayton agreement straightforwardly, however, with full candor about its implications and requirements for success, it will quickly see the evaporation of any political support it now mobilizes under ambiguous pretenses.

Even in its strictly military terms, the NATO mission cannot ignore pockets of Serbs in the Muslim-Croat federation and Muslims in the Bosnia Serb republic that must be reconciled if the two sides are to be strategically stable. One hopes that NATO planners also have more than wishful thinking up their sleeves to help ensure that the ethnically mixed Muslim-Croat federation itself becomes viable. For each Balkan "entity," successful peace-building is a prerequisite, not a supplement, to establishing a stable balance of power.

Who's in charge?

Equally troubling is administrative collision. Strikingly, the current proposals make almost no provision for linking command and control between military and civilian authorities. In its strictly military provisions, the details of command and control are impeccably clear. The proposed Implementation Force (IFOR) will operate under the authority and direction of the North Atlantic Council and according to a well-defined NATO chain of command. Yet substantial operations by new and existing civilian agencies are authorized under the Dayton accord.

These activities will have to be protected. All of these will spill over into arenas of military activity, but none of them are clearly integrated with military command and control. The surprise is that this bugbear of American political debate is not addressed in a document that is substantially a Washington creation.

A simple list makes the point. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will manage the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. A special commission under the supervision of the European Court of Human Rights will adjudicate property disputes. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will set up a provisional election commission to oversee elections. The UN will set up and direct an international police task force to train and supervise local police. The Council of Europe and the OSCE together will handle human rights. UNESCO will develop a commission to deal with the preservation of "national monuments." And all civilian implementation will be supervised by a "high representative," to which post former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt was recently appointed. It is not clear to whom he reports.

Already, the signatories are squabbling over who will foot the multibillion-dollar bill for all these activities.

The full extent of Dayton's treatment of military-civilian command and control? That the high representative must "exchange information and maintain liaison" with IFOR. The trouble here is that IFOR is expected to protect all of the activities that together encompass the meat of the agreement. It is asking the impossible - or requiring extreme good luck - to expect IFOR to adequately protect activities over which it has no formal control. Uncertain chains of command have bedeviled far less ambitious operations than the one proposed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and there is no excuse not to learn their lessons.

Coordination crucial

Coordinating military and civilian efforts proved crucial to peace missions in the past. In Cambodia, polling sites had to be closed where the UN force could not offer adequate protection from Khmer Rouge violence. In El Salvador, the schedule of the entire mission had to be adjusted to accommodate the differing rates of progress of the various aspects of the peace accord. Who will make those decisions for Bosnia?

Ultimately, each of these issues emerges from the tension at the heart of the Balkan peace agreement. Part of the Dayton plan is clear, limited, and definable: creating a territorially stable balance of military power among the republics of the former Yugoslavia. For this part to succeed, however, the other part of Dayton - which so far is unclear and far less limited - must come into play. Sundered relationships must be rebuilt, violated trust must be restored, and damaged civil and political institutions must be reconstructed.

Bosnia needs only one settlement, one that is clearly and comprehensively articulated and whose political support will not wither when the tasks ahead take more than one year or confront military and civilian peacemakers with complexity. The Dayton peace accord aims to help the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina build peace. It can be built, creating a viable accommodation in the region. A sustained, clearly articulated engagement of American and NATO military and civilian personnel must assist its construction.

Without a clear view of the road ahead, however, we who want to see Bosnia recover will sell its efforts short. And the signatories to the plan now on offer will have accomplished, at most, a one-year hiatus in a war to be continued.

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