Seeking to build support for sending U.S. troops to the Balkans, President Clinton said Saturday that “our values, our interests and our leadership are at stake” in the effort to safeguard the Bosnian peace agreement reached last week.
Devoting most of his weekly radio speech to Bosnia, Clinton foreshadowed the argument he is expected to make in a televised address from the Oval Office on Monday night. He appealed repeatedly to national pride in America’s values and leadership, and he said that U.S. troops will have the authority to meet any threat to their safety “with immediate and decisive force.”
“The Bosnian people have suffered unspeakable atrocities - mass executions, ethnic cleansing, campaigns of rape and terror,” Clinton said. He recounted the grim statistics of the three-and-a-half-year-old Bosnian war: 250,000 dead, more than 2 million people driven from their homes, most of them still refugees.
“The violence done to those innocent civilians does violence to the principles on which America stands,” Clinton said. “The only way to secure a commitment for good is to secure a commitment to peace. Now our conscience demands that we act.”
Clinton won a diplomatic triumph this week when the presidents of Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia agreed to end to Europe’s worst conflict since World War II. The accord was reached after intense peace talks.
But now the president faces a critical test as he attempts to convince a skeptical public and hostile Congress of the need to send 20,000 U.S. troops to join the 40,000 other NATO soldiers that will enforce the peace.