Book Review: Getting to Dayton: The Making of America’s Bosnia Policy


by Ivo H. Daadler

Washington: Brookings Institution, 2000. . . . ISBN:0815716915

A surprisingly even-handed treatment of the development the U.S.’s role in Bosnian War, getting to Dayton focuses on how circumstances converged so that a policy which for a time seemed to be “lurching like a punch drunk boxer,” “shifted suddenly, and dramatically, and ultimately achieved what none who had valiantly tried had been able to accomplish before.” In the process Daadler makes a number of important points about the problems of policy making and peacekeeping. For example, he notes that the need for consensus in most international bodies often hampers prompt and effective international action, and how it is necessary in peacekeeping operations to employ judiciously both diplomacy and troops.

One very valuable point he makes is to ask whether in peacekeeping operations is it our intention to “end a war or build peace?” This is a critical issue that seems not to be very well-addressed in policy-making circles, particularly when there are public outcries to “do something,” leading to disasters such as Somalia.

With regard to the actual operations, Daadler suggests that putting time limits on interventions is not particularly productive, and urges the necessity for open-ended commitments. He also seems to suggest that larger forces are better than smaller ones, and is implicitly critical of restrictive rules of engagement. These are all sound recommendations. Among the factors influencing American policy treated in the book are our relations with Russia on the development of American policy and the tension between an interventionist Department of State and a cautious Department of Defense, as well as how indecision by our NATO partners led to an indecisive American policy.

In passing, Daadler touches upon – but overlooks – a two points of American policy that were inherently contradictory, a commitment to preserve the territorial integrity of Bosnia with an implied promise to support Bosnian Serb independence.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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