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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

21 November 2005

Dayton & Iraq

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the Dayton Accords whose aim was to put an end to the war in Bosnia. There are various commentaries about the applicability of the Dayton lesson to Iraq. I have chosen two samples to offer a general impression of what is being written:

From the Financial Times: “Perhaps Bosnia’s most fundamental lesson is the importance of American patience and persistence. In 1995, the US military went into Bosnia with a deadline. Fearing casualties and doubting the American people’s resolve, the Clinton administration promised that the US would get out within a year. Yet it stayed for almost 10, leaving only last year after turning the mission over to the Europeans” (1).

From the Washington Post: “They [Bosnian delegation] will arrive in a Washington where, one month after the ratification of a similarly imperfect constitution in Iraq, Democrats are calling for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops, and where even the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, is hinting that Iraqis have 180 days to pull their country together. They will lunch at a State Department that has delegated the daunting work of forging an Iraqi compromise to its ambassador in Baghdad, with next to no help from the president or U.S. allies and no power to sequester anyone on a military base [where Dayton was signed]. The Bosnians will have a chance to hear both Democrats and Republicans talk, not about how to succeed in the latest American intervention but about how the other party is lying about it” (2)

I see a different message: it took three years for America to get things right in Bosnia, following a period of inertia, inaction and diplomatic second-guessing. Maybe wars are tough to manage and there needs to be a period of chaos before things improve. The real question is whether the chaos is irreparable—but the answer to that question is in Iraq, not Dayton.

References:
(1) Derek Chollet, “Why Iraq’s neighbours must have a stake in its future,” Financial Times, 21 Nov 05
(2) Jackson Diehl, “The Bosnian Example for Iraq,” Washington Post, 21 Nov 05, (link)

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