The U.S. intervened successfully in the Balkans twice, not once

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Friday, March 18, 2011; 7:00 PM

In their March 12 news story on possible military support for Libyan rebels ["Obama joins E.U. in cautious support for Libyan rebels"], Scott Wilson and Edward Cody made the remarkable statement that President Bill Clinton was criticized for waiting "too long to intervene in the Balkans, doing so only during the late-chapter conflict in Kosovo."

What about the U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina in August and September 1995, which turned the tide of battle against the Bosnian Serbs and brought them to the negotiating table at Dayton, ultimately ending a bloody 31/2-year war? Earlier, Clinton had wisely refused to commit U.S. forces to the ill-conceived U.N. peacekeeping force, whose highly restrictive rules of engagement and ponderous U.N.-run chain of command guaranteed mission failure and resulted in the frequent taking of blue-helmeted peacekeepers as hostages.

The two U.S. interventions in the Balkans in the 1990s, both in execution and results, stand as success stories, especially if contrasted with the record to date in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mike Haltzel, Alexandria

The writer was Democratic staff director for European affairs on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1994 to 2005.


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