U.S. Participation in IFOR: A Marathon, not a Sprint

  • June 01, 1996
  • Dr William T Johnsen

The U.S. decision to join the Implementation Force (IFOR) for the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Hercegovina (familiarly known as the Dayton Accords) marked a crucial milestone toward achieving the U.S. national objective of a lasting political settlement to the conflict in Bosnia. Equally critical will be determining whether the United States will continue participating in IFOR beyond the currently established 12-month deadline. Decisions of great import rarely entail simple cause and effect judgments. Thinking through the likely second and third order consequences of contemplated actions often defines success or failure as much as dealing with the issue of the moment. Such is the case for U.S. policy in Bosnia. In examining what form U.S. involvement in IFOR beyond the current deadline will take, we should recall that, while events inside Bosnia influenced the introduction of U.S. ground troops, wider U.S. interests in the Balkans, in Europe, and throughout the world proved more pivotal in the decision-making calculus. Likewise, a decision on whether to withdraw from or to extend IFOR also must encompass a similarly broad geo-strategic context. To that end, Dr. William Johnsen examines in this monograph the potential for creating suitable conditions for a lasting political settlement in Bosnia by December 1996, identifies possible outcomes of a U.S. withdrawal from IFOR, and assesses potential consequences for U.S. national objectives and interests within the Balkans, and beyond. Dr. Johnsen's conclusions will not sit well with most in the United States and abroad who are weary of the Bosnian "problem" and would like to see it "wrapped up" by December. That it appears intractable on the civil side despite IFOR's quieting of the guns heightens the frustration.