Votes Not There For Bosnian Action, Lawmakers Say
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senior lawmakers said Sunday that President Clinton has not adequately articulated his Bosnia policy and lacks the votes in Congress for approval of military action against Bosnian Serbs.
″Ordinary members of Congress are really frustrated,″ said Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. ″They are crying out for more information. They want to hear the goals, the objectives, and the costs articulated.″
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., joining Hamilton on NBC’s ″Meet the Press,″ agreed that the discussion on military options in Bosnia ″is extremely vague, most members of Congress (are) very uneasy, perhaps the allies (are) too.″
The American people, Lugar said, ″need to hear from the President of the United States why this is in our national interest, what the plan is, the fact that others are going to cooperate with us.″
Clinton’s drive to solidify a policy backed by European allies has been complicated by events on the ground in Bosnia. On Sunday, a new cease-fire began throughout the country and the warring factions agreed to the demilitarization of two besieged Muslim towns, Zepa and Srebrenica.
Asked if the votes were there in Congress to back military action, Hamilton said: ″I suspect they are not as of today. But I also expect if the president asserts leadership and he puts this in a national security context that he would carry the day.″
Speaker of the House Tom Foley, D-Wash., said on CBS’ ″Face the Nation″ that once the president finalizes a plan with allied and U.N. cooperation, Congress would go along.
″There’s been no case in modern history where a president has gone to the Congress and asked for this authority, stating that the national interest was involved, where it’s not been given,″ Foley said.
Under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, Congress must approve any decision by the president to involve American troops in hostile situations abroad. Those troops must be withdrawn after 60 days if Congress does not give its approval.
Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., speaking on CNN’s ″Newsmaker Sunday,″ said he did not think Clinton would move without the approval of Congress. ″We haven’t prepared the American people. We have to go to Congress and tell the American people what the end game is,″ Dole said, stressing that any action must be multinational in nature.
The president, who attended church and toured the National Gallery of Art with his family Sunday, ignored questions about Bosnia that were shouted at him. He had planned a meeting Sunday evening with congressional leaders on the topic, but it was postponed until Tuesday.
Clinton has been frustrated by the reluctance of European allies to back either an end to the arms embargo on Bosnian Muslims or Western air strikes against Serbian military positions.
On Saturday, Clinton directed Secretary of State Warren Christopher, just back from a trip to Europe where his efforts to organize a unified position on Bosnia met resistance, to telephone allied foreign ministers to discuss how they could ensure that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic fulfills his promises.
Milosevic has pledged to seal his country’s borders and cut off supplies to Serbian allies in neighboring Bosnia.
″This is a chance to test Mr. Milosevic’s sincerity in this regard,″ White House spokesman George Stephanopoulos said. ″Clearly, this is something we want to pursue and want to test and want to make work.″
European Community envoy Lord Owen, who with former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance has crafted a peace plan for Bosnia, said actions by Milosevic and other signs of a shift in Bosnian Serb positions were ″dramatic″ and ″to go rushing into military action tomorrow or the next day would be, in my view, extremely foolish.″
On European reluctance to take military action in Bosnia, Owen said: ″I think we’ve got to be very careful against having Europeans thinking of the Americans as cowboys and Americans thinking of Europeans as wimps.″
Speaking on NBC, Owen urged the United States to put 2,000 American troops into the U.N. force on the ground in Bosnia.
″This is primarily a civil war and the belief that you can deal with a civil war from the air is a delusion,″ Owen said. ″You will not solve the problem at 10,000 feet.″