Jeane J Kirkpatrick

On the Deployment of U.S. Troops - Nov. 15, 1995

Jeane J Kirkpatrick
November 15, 1995— Washington, D.C.
Testimony before the National Security Committee
Print friendly


I thank the Committee on National Security for inviting me to testify today on this important subject. I will try to restrict my remarks to subjects directly relevant to the Committee's concerns.

I welcome the Committee's hearings on U.S. troop deployment. Obviously it is difficult no, impossible for the Committee or its witnesses to decide whether it will be necessary or desirable to support and to implement an agreement which does not exist, whose terms are unknown, and about which there remain large differences among the parties.

We do not know whether defensible borders will be drawn for Bosnia Herzegovina, whether the arms embargo will be lifted and a Bosnian army trained to defend its country from well-armed neighbors. We do not know who else will be participating in a multinational peace force, nor how they will be integrated and commanded, nor under what rules of engagement they will operate, nor what kind of exit strategy is planned.

It is impossible, therefore to decide now that the United States should or should not participate in a hypothetical force to defend a hypothetical agreement, but it is possible to address questions relevant to the deployment.

II. United States National Interests in Bosnia

The Committee asks: Are there important national interests at stake in Bosnia? My answer to this question is yes, Americans have many important interests in this conflict.

I have believed from the onset of the war in former Yugoslavia that important moral, political and strategic interests are at stake in the Balkans. Recall that two world wars have spread from the Balkan tinder box wars which engulfed the European continent and eventually involved the United States as well. Because we are a part of the Western world, we cannot be indifferent to brutal aggression and mass murder in the heart of Europe.

More than two and one half million Bosnians have been displaced from their homes in this war, more than 200,000 killed. Concentration camps, torture, mass rape and mass murder have become familiar again in the region. The methods used against the people of Bosnia slaughter, starvation, forced population transfers and other instruments of "ethnic cleansing" dehumanize the victims. Indifference to these dehumanizes us.

The Committee requests a description of the "precise connection" between stability in Bosnia, the Balkan peninsula and the balance of power in Europe. But "precise connections" are known only after events have developed. Often they come as a surprise.

But we know violence is contagious. And that conquest is contagious as well. Former Yugoslavia is centrally, strategically located. Location is not everything in international affairs, but the centrality and ethnic-diversification of former Yugoslavia give developments there greater geostrategic significance than if those countries were more isolated or remote. Moreover, the countries of Central Europe recently released from the Soviet Empire have new regimes and new borders which leave them more susceptible to destabilization than established regimes.

In the current conflict, violence sponsored by the Serbian government has already spread from Kosovo to Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina. It has already extended across Macedonia's borders. We cannot know where it might end if permitted to continue. Russia, too, has a stake in the region, and Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Italy.

We should not forget that Benito Mussolini and his Black Shirts inspired Adolf Hitler and others, nor that Mussolini's aggression against Ethiopia presented the League of Nations and its members a challenge they could not meet and the League collapsed, that Hitler was encouraged by the Italian's success to consolidate his own powers, and that Hitler's success in occupying the Rhineland encouraged him to move again into Austria, Czechoslovakia and beyond, to the ovens of Auschwitz and the graveyards of Normandy.

Through it all, our European Allies watched, never dreaming that Hitler's appetite would extend so far or with such consequences. They had vital interests and no prescience. Much the same combination has guided the European response to Serb expansion.

The harm done by violent tyrants in this century always comes as a surprise.

The United States and the whole of democratic Europe have a large stake in ensuring that extreme nationalism, instability, xenophobia and Serb conquests do not whet the savage appetites of would-be tyrants and conquerors in the Balkans and among their neighbors.

III. The Proposed Deployment: Is it Necessary?

To say the United States has an interest in ending violence and conquest in Bosnia and an interest in promoting and preserving stability and democracy in the region is not to say we must send 25,000 U.S. troops to take part in a 60,000 man peace operation much less that such an operation would succeed.

No new style peacekeeping operation undertaken by the United Nations and the Clinton Administration in an area of conflict has secured peace. U.N. peace operations conducted in Somalia and Bosnia over the last three years have achieved virtually none of their goals although Phase I of the Somalia operation, undertaken by President George Bush, succeeded in delivering large quantities of food to prevent mass starvation in Somalia.

These "peace operations" have suffered from disorganization and disagreement among participants, lack of coordination and political will, military incompetence and ineffectiveness. Some of their shortcomings were a consequence of the United Nation's lack of skill and experience. Some were a consequence of the diverse interests, priorities, goals and perspectives of participants which are common to multilateral operations.

But it is not clear that a multinational operation involving many governments, languages and organizational habits can succeed in coping with difficult military problems. Clearly, however, an operation under NATO command has a better chance of success than one under U.N. command. That is what is now proposed.

A) Does American credibility requires 25,000 U.S. troops on the ground?

U.S. credibility is at stake only if the Clinton Administration made commitments to supply such a force without consultation or consent of the Congress. But America's allies understand that the Congress plays an important constitutional role in U.S. foreign policy. Failure to provide ground troops might do superficial damage to America's credibility, but committing troops and failing to achieve our goal would constitute a devastating blow to the credibility of the U.S. government at home and abroad. The worst outcome would be an effort that first committed U.S. forces to the task and then failed as in Vietnam and Somalia.

Moreover, it is not clear that the Clinton Administration understands how to use force and the threat of force to establish and maintain credibility, and achieve goals.

B) Is deployment of U.S. troops necessary to preserve NATO? We do not know what kind of commitment was made by the Administration to NATO. Neither do we know how many NATO countries have committed to participate, nor on what terms.

Several NATO countries Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey, the United States and France (the French are still not members of NATO) have had troops in and around former Yugoslavia for two or three years operating as part of a United Nations force, under U.N. command and as part of a NATO force as well. Much effort and billions of dollars have achieved almost nothing.

U.S. forces have participated in the conflict in Bosnia through air and sea missions conducted under the auspices of NATO. U.S. ships have monitored enforcement of economic and arms embargoes. U.S. planes and pilots have relieved pressure on UNPROFOR forces under attack, carried out air drops of food and medicine to populations under siege, monitored the "no fly" zones established in U.N. Security Council Resolution 781, monitored the installation by Serb forces of air defenses, rescued Capt. Scott O'Grady, conducted the first non-lethal air strikes ever, and provided high altitude surveillance of Serb activities including confirmation of the movement of Serb tanks across the border to participate in the assault on Srebrenica and of mass murder of Bosnian males following the fall of Srebrenica last July.

Until now NATO's participation in former Yugoslavia has been carried out under a "double key" command system which requires United Nations' authorization for each operation authorization that was granted slowly and with reluctance.

NATO air power has not been used effectively and has not been successful. More serious is the fact that these arrangements have reflected the preferences of the United States' NATO allies.

Our NATO allies the British, Dutch, Belgians and French (the French are still not members of NATO) preferred peacekeeping under U.N command. The United States, stung from the Somalia experience, did not place U.S. forces directly under U.N. command in former Yugoslavia, but closely coordinated U.S. and NATO operations with and recognized the authority of the U.N. Secretary General and his Representative over NATO operations. The result was to undermine NATO's credibility and effectiveness.

So, is it true that U.S. refusal to participate with ground troops in a new phase of peacekeeping in Bosnia would weaken NATO? I find it unpersuasive that U.S. refusal to send 25,000 ground troops for peacekeeping duties on the ground would further weaken an already weakened NATO.

Deployment of 60,000 troops may simply bring inside NATO disagreements among allies on tactics that have so far taken place outside the NATO framework.

IV. Taking into account these factors, should the United States deploy 25,000 troops in former Yugoslavia?

Not unless President Clinton makes a persuasive case for this deployment.

Not if there are alternative strategies that could contain aggression.

So far the alternatives have not been authoritatively tried or even considered at least publicly. They should be. Bill Clinton should make his case to the people and take his case to the Congress.

Not unless there is clear understanding and agreement among NATO members concerning command it should be an American and rules of engagement they should authorize the use of overwhelming force in response to attacks on people.

Not unless there is a realistic prospect that the peace in the region can be maintained after the departure of U.S. troops.

That requires 1) defensible borders for Bosnia Herzegovina, and 2) lifting the arms embargo against Bosnia Herzegovina and helping equip and train Bosnian armed forces so that they can defend themselves as Croatia can now defend itself.

I continue to believe that there is promise in a "lift and strike" policy in which the United States (and NATO if so inclined) accepts responsibility for the arming and training of Bosnian military forces. I think such a policy could prevent recurrence of aggression and the spread of war if it were reinforced by an active American diplomacy and a substantial U.S. presence in the area.

I do not know why the Clinton Administration has not tried a "lift and strike" strategy to create a peace which could last. I suspect it is because of the reluctance of our allies to "take sides." But only a policy which faces facts, takes sides, punishes aggressors, and leaves defensible borders can meet American standards and American goals.

I fear the same reluctance of the same Allies may encourage the Administration to design a strategy that does not provide a solution, but requires 25,000 U.S. ground troops. That would be a great mistake.

We need realistic plans, realistic means, and goals consistent with our ideals.

Speech from