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Syria Is Not Bosnia (II)

Jackson Diehl’s paean to the Senate’s leading warmongers repeats a familiar falsehood:

When the United States and NATO finally bombed Serbian forces in the summer of 1995, the bloodshed ended in two weeks.

This is exceptionally misleading. Daniel Trombly dismantled arguments invoking Bosnia as a model for Syrian intervention last week:

But Bosnia is instructive because we do know what it actually took to render the country safe – full-scale ground offensives by forces with relative parity to the Serbian troops. Take the end of the Siege of Bihac, which lasted three years. At first, Operation Storm seems to offer promising parallels. The Croatian army was composed mainly of veterans and defectors from the former Yugoslavian military. They received training and operational planning support from MPRI, a U.S. military contractor nominally teaching the Croatian army lessons about civil-military relations in a democracy, so as to skirt around UN resolutions attempting to prevent a proxy war. There the helpful parallels end. If we do as Exum enjoins us and look at the order of battle, the difference between Syria and Bosnia is stark.

When Michael Desch was making his case for “limited liability intervention” in Libya last year, he was still able to acknowledge what ended the Bosnian war:

Remember that a small group of former U.S. Army officers worked hand-in-glove with the Croat forces to plan the 1995 Operation Krajina Storm that broke the back of the Serbian forces and their local allies in Bosnia and set the stage for an imperfect, but real peace there.

This description of what Operation Storm involved and its consequences is incomplete, not least in that it ignores the ethnic cleansing it involved, but at least Desch understood that it wasn’t simply Western bombs that created the conditions for ending the war in Bosnia. The reason that this goes unmentioned in Diehl’s cheerleading for a new war in Syria is that the conditions that existed in Bosnia in 1995 are extremely different from conditions in and around Syria today. Invoking Bosnia as a success is one thing, but it’s absurd to pretend that this has anything to do with McCain’s recommendations for Syria.

What Diehl has done is catalogue that in every single instance for at least the last seventeen years McCain and his friends have argued for U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, and then after the intervention begins they have consistently argued for the escalation of those conflicts. What distinguishes McCain, Graham, and Lieberman from many other hawks is that they make the same recommendations regardless of conditions. They consistently support bad militaristic policies. Sometimes they get lucky, as they did in Libya, but for them the answer is always some form of military intervention, which has led them to support some of the worst foreign policy decisions of the last generation. McCain actually has the gall to say, “We have a record of being right,” but the record shows exactly the opposite.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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