5:42 p.m. Friday 9/13/96
These remarks are being written Sept. 13, a day before the national elections in Bosnia. By the time most of you read this and the panelists have begun their discussion the elections will have been held and we can begin to consider their implications.
Last November an international agreement, called the Dayton Accord, provided for the election to be held at this time as part of a process that would end years of violent conflict among Bosnian Serbs, Croatians and Muslims. It was hoped that the process would lead to a unified country in which all Bosnians could move and live anywhere in peace. Pursuant to the accord, a NATO military force, including about 20,000 American soldiers, was stationed in Bosnia to hold down violence. The country was divided into a Muslim-Croat sector and a Serbian sector, each of which was to have substantial autonomy.
But both were to be part of a Bosnia governed by the officials chosen in the Sept. 14 election.
A critical question is whether the election will reveal a strong desire for a peaceful, unified Bosnia and bring into office people who represent that desire and are capable of implementing it. There have been many observers who believed that would not be the outcome, and that the election was being rigged to elevate the forces of continued violence and separation. The conduct and outcome of the election will give clues to the future of Bosnia. One immediate question will relate to the future of the American troops. The U.S. government has declared its intention to begin withdrawal of the troops in December of this year. What will the election say about the possibility of doing that without the return to a violent power struggle in Bosnia? What will it tell us about the possibility of achieving a peaceful, unified Bosnia without outside policing at any time in the foreseeable future?