From ......... Daily News Miner

November 23, 1996


DAYTON, Ohio—There is a new assertiveness in America's foreign policy, a greater willingness to lead in the post-cold-war world. The change traces back to President Clinton's decisions last year on Bosnia. Now it faces a defining test in Bosnia.

Those were some of the themes of a remarkable three days of meetings this week in Dayton. Here a year ago American diplomats led the way to the Dayton agreement that stopped the brutal war in Bosnia. Former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and others returned to reflect on the meaning, and the challenge, of Dayton.

Strobe Talbott, the deputy secretary of state, said the achievement of Dayton rested on one thing above all: "American willingness to back diplomacy with force." When President Clinton persuaded our NATO allies in August 1995 to launch a serious bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs, they came to the negotiating table.

Holbrooke said difficult decisions by President Clinton, including the bombing, had opened "the possibility of peace" in Bosnia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia. The most difficult —"the most difficult of his presidency," Holbrooke suggested — was the decision to send American soldiers to Bosnia when most Americans opposed the idea.

Holbrooke's successor as assistant secretary, John Kornblum, said Dayton represented the realization by the American government that the United States had to act if the world was going to respond to a situation like Bosnia. It might also have been, he said, the beginning of a new "policy of engagement" in the post-cold-war era.

Frowick, a former U.S. ambassador, heads the mission in Bosnia of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

James D. Bevan, first secretary of the British Embassy in Washington, said officers of the Implementation Force in Bosnia should weigh the risk of arrests. But he said

"Bosnia won't be a normal country until war criminals are brought to justice. "

Commanders of IFOR have so far been wary of seeking out the indicted men. Holbrooke said Dayton gave them the mandate to do so. But in the end that has to be a political decision, one that can only be made by President Clinton.

The question of the war criminals is, therefore, one that may influence the whole direction of international relations after the cold war. Bosnia taught us that without American leadership the international community tends to be rudderless. And Bosnia will still show how strong the Clinton administration will be in that leadership.

Strobe Talbott made a striking appeal for the funds needed for American leadership. Since 1985, he said, the U.S. foreign affairs budget has dropped by 50 percent in real terms, and it is "woefully underfunded."

Dayton was a moving setting for the themes of American leadership. Its Council on World affairs, the University of Dayton, the Air Force Association at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and others joined as sponsors. As happened a year ago, citizens stood with candles lit for peace. If Dayton decided, America would have the budget and the will to lead.

Anthony Lewis - [picture caption]

"Whether the Dayton formula will work is still in the balance. The crux now is whether those charged with war crimes, especially the Bosnia Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, will be arrested." - [in sidebox]

Anthony Lewis is a New York Times columnist [ & pro RC war-monger ... JP ]