President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, President Alija Izetbegovic of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and President Franjo Tudjman of the Republic of Croatia initial the Dayton Peace Accords, Elysee Palace in Paris, 1995.

The Triage of Dayton


On November 16, 1995, Lieutenant General Wesley Clark sat in Dayton, Ohio, in a PowerScene virtual reality imaging system, using a joystick to fly back and forth through simulated three-dimensional scenes of the hills of Bosnia east of Sarajevo. At around 11 p.m., Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic joined him, as well as some other U.S. officials. Lubricated by Scotch, Milosevic and the Americans zoomed back and forth on the computer simulation to try to carve out a path from the besieged Bosnian capital to Gorazde, a U.N. "safe area" surrounded by Bosnian Serbs. In the wee hours of the morning, Clark used crayons to draw a corridor from Sarajevo to Goraz de that was not hopelessly indefensible. Milosevic shook hands with Clark, who is now the supreme allied commander in Europe, and Richard C. Holbrooke, the main American peace negotiator, and what is variously known as the Clark Corridor or the Scotch Road was born.

Somehow, the United States had shifted from a determination not to be dragged into the Balkans to using U.S. officials and computers to draw Bosnia's new frontiers. Winston Churchill used to brag about having drawn Jordan's borders on a map one afternoon; the American general could say much the same thing about Bosnia. But America's entry lacked swagger. Rather, U.S. policymakers came to sketch the Scotch Road with a profound sense of ambivalence. Documents relating to this diplomacy -- including Holbrooke's memoir To End a War and the State Department's 1996 official study of the process leading to the Dayton Accords of November 1995 -- show that American officials were painfully aware of the shortcomings of U.S. Bosnia policy and the distance it had shifted from the goals that Bill Clinton had espoused in 1992. If the devil is in the new details, they both afford a richer understanding of the evolution of U.S. policy and reinforce the enormity of the shortfall of American statecraft in the Bosnian crucible.

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