Simply stated, another great book from the late David Halberstam. “War In A Time Of Peace,” deals primarily with the Clinton Administration’s response to the wars in the Balkans (the old Yugoslavia) and the genocide committed by the Serb and the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic against the Muslim population in Bosnia and then the Albanian Muslim population in Kosovo.
Candidate Clinton ran his campaign against President Bush in 1992 on the premise that the President was more interested in foreign affairs than domestic, and it worked and he won the election and the phase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” was made famous.
Once President Clinton took office, he was literally obsessed with domestic policies, and his Intelligence and military advisors were lucky to get in to see him. The polls told him that the American people were interested in domestic affairs, and not fighting foreign wars. But, as many politicians and historians would tell him, eventually foreign affairs will intrude and take up sixty percent of your time.
After nearly three years into his first term, and millions of Muslims killed in Bosnia his disinterest in foreign affairs came back to haunt him, as reporters started telling the stories, with horrifying pictures and videos of the slaughter. With American military power and the advanced technological accuracy of our airforce we brought the Serbs to the bargaining table and the Dayton Accords were signed and to some extent ended the genocide in Bosnia.
But Milosevic was not finished, and after a couple of more years passed, he went after the prize he always wanted and that was Kosova, and just like that nearly a million Albanians were displaced and hundreds of thousands killed. Once again, The Clinton Administration was caught off guard and once again didn’t want to get involved in this new blood bath. After much back and forth between NATO and the US, the Americans finally put together a bombing campaign with unbelievable accuracy that brought the Serbs, once again, to their knees.
This book is so much more than just about the Balkans. It shows that nearly thirty years after Vietnam the Joint Chiefs and the president, and much of his staff, feared getting involved in this humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe because of the fear of another Vietnam. Mr. Halberstam, as brilliant as any historian I have ever read, is able to go back and forth in such situations and analyze both the military and political side of military operations. He is truly a gem. I highly, highly recommend.