A SALON Roundtable on Bosnia

Published December 16, 1995 7:35PM (EST)

At a solemn ceremony in Paris on Thursday, Dec. 14, the combatants in the savage Bosnian war formally signed the peace agreement that was first initialled on Nov. 21 in Dayton, Ohio. The agreement bounds Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and what is left of Yugoslavia to recognize each other, respect human rights, protect the displaced, and assist in the prosecution of war crimes. Twenty thousand American troops have begun moving into Bosnia in force, as part of a 60,000-strong allied peacekeeping -- or, rather, peace-implementing -- army. (Britain and France provide most of the remaining troops.)

For all the agreement's shortcomings, it's widely agreed that the only alternative -- more war -- is no longer acceptable.
Furthermore, many experts believe that risk to U.S. troops has been reduced, thanks to careful planning and a mandate that allows allied troops to hit back hard and fast should they come under attack.

Nevertheless, opposition to U.S. military involvement remains strong on Capitol Hill. Doubters point to Haiti, where, after 15 months of U.S. occupation, violence is on the increase, and the political and economic future of that desperate country appears, to some, as grim as ever.

Whether the Bosnian intervention will succeed in creating a lasting peace is anybody's guess. We asked four journalists who have reported extensively on the region and its wars to assess the agreement, point to what they see as its major flaws, and evaluate its overall chances.

THE PANEL (click on any name to go to discussion):

David Rieff is the author of "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West" (Simon & Schuster, 1995), based on reporting trips to Bosnia war zones from 1992 to 1994. His earlier books include "The Exile: Cuba in the Heart of Miami." He is currently working on a book about humanitarian aid.

Laura Silber is the Balkans correspondent for The Financial Times. Based in the region for the past eight years, she is co-author, with Alan Little, of "Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation," to be published in the U.S. this month by TV Books and distributed by Penguin USA. A television documentary scheduled for broadcast Dec. 26 on the Discovery Channel is based on the book.

Robert D. Kaplan is the author of "Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History" (Vintage paperback, 1994). He is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic and The New Republic and other magazines. His latest book is "The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite."

Tom Gjelten is a reporter for National Public Radio. He filed breaking stories, analyses and features from Bosnia for NPR throughout 1994. He is the author of "Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege" (HarperCollins, 1995), to be published in paperback by HarperPerennial in January.

Readings and web sites on Bosnia

By Salon Staff

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