Last summer, during the early stages of the debate on troop withdrawal, I returned to Bosnia for the first time in more than two years. Clinton administration officials were crafting talking papers describing the many achievements under the November 1995 Dayton Accord, while critics were busy marshaling evidence that an integrated, multiethnic Bosnian state was as far away as ever. Supporters of the administration's policy, with an eye on the congressionally imposed June 1998 cutoff date for funding of U.S. troops, were claiming that progress, though substantial, was still fragile and could be maintained only with the continued presence of U.S. forces. Some skeptics with a deep understanding of historical ethnic animosities in the Balkans were sharpening the case for partition. The problem, centuries in the making, was not about to be fixed in a length of time Americans would be willing to stay. For them, the smell of quagmire was in the air.
During late August and September, I reimmersed myself in the Bosnia affair. Inside the new Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina-whose constituent parts are the Federation, a Muslim-Croat entity that is really two entities, and the Republika Srpska, or Serb Republic-I interviewed a large number of Muslims, Croats, and Serbs, from presidents to taxi drivers and many in between. I met with senior military and diplomatic officials from the major countries of the coalition responsible for the implementation of Dayton and a wide range of key players from the international community engaged in various aspects of the implementation process. My goal was to take a fresh look at a landscape so polarized and fractured by internal hatreds and external manipulation as to be a virtual kaleidoscope of contradictory representations. Everyone has an agenda, and navigating through them all in an effort to make some sense of the whole was a formidable challenge.
WHAT DAYTON WROUGHT
It is often stated, incorrectly, that the Dayton Accord stopped the fighting in Bosnia. What it did, with the aid of 60,000 U.S.