The Left has long held up the Balkans intervention as a model for American intervention — low footprint, low investment, and practically ignored, although like the Iraq War, also unsanctioned by the UN and actively opposed by Russia and China. They claim that the use of overwhelming force in Iraq has created a “training ground for terrorists” and that American troops only add to the recruitment of more terrorists. I expect, then, an explanation of how this differs from the recruitment and training of mujaheddin in Bosnia, where Islamists have built cells specifically to infiltrate heavily Caucasian nations for terrorist activities:
In particular, Islamic radicals are looking to create cells of so-called white al Qaeda, non-Arab members who can evade racial profiling used by police forces to watch for potential terrorists. “They want to look European to carry out operations in Europe,” said a Western intelligence agent in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Montenegro, adjacent to Bosnia. “It’s yet another evolution in the tools used by terrorists.”
Parts of the Balkans, stuck in lawless limbo after years of war in the 1990s, are ripe recruitment territory for Middle East radicals, intelligence officials say. Bosnia is still divided among Muslim, Croat and Serb population areas, even if nominally united under the 10-year-old Dayton peace agreement that ended ethnic warfare.
Muslim enclaves in Serbia are restive, and Muslim-majority Kosovo remains an estranged province campaigning for independence six years after NATO bombing forced out Serb-dominated Yugoslav troops. The Balkans have long been a freeway for smugglers of cigarettes, drugs, weapons and prostitutes. “All the conditions are present. Embittered Muslims, arms, corruption — everything underground operators need to get established,” said the Western intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The real quagmires have come from inaction, from an inability or an unwillingness to face unpleasant tasks in resolving international disputes. The Balkans have been left to sit for over a decade now with no permanent resolution of the political disputes which led to their civil wars — over 600 years of them — and only by the intervention of a bombing campaign did the combatants get pushed into their corners. The lack of direction over the remaining period of time has allowed the depleted Islamists in the area to rebuild and redirect their efforts not so much against their local enemies, but against the West in general.
The same held true in Iraq for a dozen years. We allowed Saddam to remain and for the status quo to exist in a fugue state, through sixteen ultimately meaningless UN Security Council resolutions demanding Saddam’s compliance on disarmament and recognition of human rights. During that time, Saddam simply allowed the infrastructure of Iraq to rot, keeping as much money as possible for himself in order to finance his own security and well-being at the expense of the people, especially the Shi’a. (He couldn’t reach the Kurds after the end of the Gulf War, thanks to Anglo-American protection.) He hosted Islamist conferences openly attended by al-Qaeda leadership and welcomed terrorists such as Abu Nidal and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Baghdad to live openly, for a time without fear of capture or deportation. Saddam openly paid the families of suicide bombers for their craven acts of murder, and we failed to respond until March 2003, after twelve years of dithering over what to do with Iraq.
Waiting around for difficult choices to magically get swept away clearly doesn’t work. The creation of Iraq as a terrorist recruitment ground happened because we lacked the political will to finish Saddam and his sociopathic sons in 1991. Bosnia and Kosovo have turned into Islamist training grounds for Caucasian terrorists because we intervened in a fight without a clue as to the terms of the civil war, which side fought for which principles, and what to do with them after the shooting stopped. In Iraq, we had a plan, which we have followed relentelessly: create democratic structures, get the people to start voting for their own native government, and create a native security force that will eventually become strong enough to defend it — and only then do we leave. In Kosovo, no one can even say whether the province should be independent, let alone what kind of government and security force should develop there. No wonder the natives are restless! After six or ten years of limbo, who wouldn’t be?
The Iraq model shows what happens when the Americans manage the post-war process. We may experience some hiccups, but we push for progress and execute a plan for long-term success. When we leave it to the UN to manage, as happened in the Balkans, the committee approach only defends the status quo and never makes a decision to move forward towards a resolution. That approach leads to disaster, as the terrorist infiltration of the Balkans clearly shows.