It was a lost decade. A journalist friend of mine traveled with Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Europe in 1993 for one of his fruitless Balkan negotiations. When the official delegation stopped at Shannon Airport for refueling on the way home, Christopher, not generally sociable, surprised my friend by pulling up beside him at the bar. "What can I get you?" the burly bartender asked the secretary. Christopher responded, "I'd like an Irish coffee, please ... but hold the whiskey and make it decaf." When I think of the '90s, I think of Christopher's Irish coffee.
As Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic waited limply in the dock last month, Claude Jorda, the French judge who serves as president of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal, lingered over his judgment before a crammed courtroom gallery. He described village upon Muslim village that Blaskic's Croat forces had ravaged. He conceded that Muslim forces had also committed abuses but rejected the argument--so often made by defendants in these courtrooms and by belligerents on the ground--that one group's crimes excused another's.
The price of the September 14 elections in Bosnia was not simply that ethnic cleansers were legitimized; it was, more mundanely, that ethnic cleansers were elected. Though Radovan Karadzic was not voted into office (indicted war criminals were not permitted to run), his ideas were. All three ruling parties--Serb, Croat and Muslim--spent the election "campaign" cracking down on opposition candidates, obstructing the media, stomping out free expression and blocking refugee repatriation. As a result, the vote proved empowering only to those who already held power.