Libya Is Not Obama’s Iraq Moment – It’s His Bosnia Moment

Everyone keeps comparing Obama’s military adventure to Iraq and while it is fun it is not the true comparison everyone should be looking at: Clinton’s bombing of the Serbs in 1995 is.

The 1995 NATO bombing in Bosnia and Herzegovina (code-named by NATO Operation Deliberate Force) was a sustained air campaign conducted by the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization to undermine the military capability of the Army of the Republika Srpska which threatened and attacked UN-designated “safe areas” in Bosnia. The operation was carried out between 30 August and 20 September 1995, involving 400 aircraft and 5000 personnel from 15 nations. The operation was commanded by admiral Leighton W. Smith.[2]


The air campaign was key to pressure on Milošević’s Yugoslavia to take part in negotiations that resulted in the Dayton Peace Agreement reached in November 1995.[10

He’s hoping for the same success that Clinton got  just prior and during the 1995 Government Shutdowns:

When the previous fiscal year ended September 30, the president and the Republican-controlled Congress hadn’t passed a budget. A majority of Congress members wanted additional cuts in education, environmental controls, and the EITC, as well as limiting the growth of Medicare. Their differences resulted from differing estimates of economic growth, medical inflation, and anticipated revenues.[1]

To keep the government running in times of deficit, it is necessary to periodically increase the limit of debt that the Treasury Department is authorized to accrue. In response to Clinton’s unwillingness to make the budget cuts that the Republicans wanted, Newt Gingrich threatened to refuse to raise the debt limit, putting the country in default. Since Gingrich expected Clinton to fold, the result was a game of chicken between the two. Economically, the result would be a shaking of investor confidence and higher interest rates, which would increase the cost of borrowing money.[1]

Since a new budget had not been approved, October 1 started with the entire federal government running on continuing resolution to authorize funding for departments until new budgets are approved. The existing continuing resolution was set to expire on November 13 at midnight, at which point non-essential government services would be forced to be shut down in order to prevent the country from defaulting on its debt. Congress made many attempts to pass cuts, which Clinton denounced as “backdoor efforts”.[1]

On November 14 the Government shut down. Now while that was going on we also had the Dayton Accords from Nov 1st thru the 21st:

The conference took place from November 1 to November 21, 1995

However remember that there wasn’t just one Government shutdown in 1995 but two:

Major events

As shown above a second shutdown started on December 16th but what else occurred just before that date?

After having been initiated in Dayton, Ohio on November 21, 1995 the full and formal agreement was signed in Paris, France, on December 14, 1995

That’s right two days before the second shutdown President Clinton successfully ended the “Bosnian War”. He used that foreign policy victory to help against  his domestic problems, which is an old trick of governance which has a long and established history.

The parallels here between President Clinton and Obama is striking:

Both took a “shellacking” in their midterm elections.

Both faced a House GOP that wanted to make cuts to the budget.

Both faced a lifting of the debt ceiling during budget negotiations.

Now both have started bombing a foreign country to “protect civilians” but are not for using ground forces.

President Obama is hoping to reprise the Clinton era foreign policy victory of Operation Deliberate Force and the Dayton Accords to offset domestic budget problems.

Remember the government is operating only under a three week continuing resolution that faced stiff opposition from freshmen Republicans due to not getting a budget with the cuts they advocated. After this three weeks is up the House GOP leadership is going to be under intense pressure from the conservative base to not pass another one and shut the government down. Obama is hoping to do what Clinton did: each time the Government shutdown due to him not wanting to make cuts he got a foreign policy victory that boosted his poll numbers and was able to paint the GOP as playing domestic politics. That is why Obama sided with Hillary over his Sec Def who did not want the US military involved in Libya.

So the correct comparison is not Iraq but Bosnia.


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