[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[June 3, 1995]
[Pages 804-805]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]



The President's Radio Address
June 3, 1995

    Good morning. I want to talk with you today about the conflict in 
Bosnia and the United States policy with regard to it for the last 2\1/
2\ years since I've been President.
    Let me begin by saying that I know all Americans join with me in 
sending their prayers to the family and loved ones of an American pilot 
who was shot down yesterday while doing his duty flying over Bosnia.
    When I became President, we found a war going on in Bosnia that was 
fueled by ancient, bloody divisions between Bosnian Serbs, Muslims, and 
Croats. The United Nations had a mission there whose purpose was not to 
fight the war but to help prevent the slaughter of civilians, to deliver 
humanitarian assistance, and to try to limit that conflict as much as 
possible while the peace process moved forward to end the conflict 
diplomatically and to preserve the Bosnian state.
    I determined that the role of the United States should be to 
vigorously support the diplomatic search for peace and that our vital 
interests were clear in limiting the spread of the conflict. 
Furthermore, our interests were in doing what we could, short of putting 
in ground forces, to help prevent the multiethnic Bosnian state from 
being destroyed and to minimize the loss of life and the ethnic 
cleansing.
    I determined that we certainly should not have ground forces there, 
not as a part of the military conflict nor as a part of the United 
Nations peacekeeping mission, but that instead we should do everything 
we could to limit the conflict to its present parameters and to support 
our other objectives.
    In our efforts to limit the conflict, we have stationed some troops 
in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to make sure that we don't 
have a Balkan-wide conflict. We must remember that the Balkans are a 
troubling area and that it was trouble in the Balkans that sparked World 
War I.
    Secondly, we have used our air power in three ways in Bosnia. First, 
we have conducted the longest lasting humanitarian airlift in all 
history, and we've saved a lot of lives doing it. Second, we have 
enforced the no-fly zone in order to stop the bombing campaign and at 
least take the war out of the air. That has saved a lot of lives, too, 
and that is what our brave young pilot was doing yesterday when his 
plane was shot down. And thirdly, with our NATO allies, we have made our 
air power available to maintain a fire-free zone around Sarajevo and 
other populated areas and to support the collection of heavy artillery. 
This, too, has largely been a successful effort, which has minimized the 
fighting and the killing and the dying.
    This policy has not only worked to minimize the loss of life but 
also to maximize the chances for peace in a very troubling area. I know 
it's frustrating to everyone, as it is to me, that we can't completely 
solve all the world's problems and that more progress toward peace 
hasn't been made in Bosnia. Sometimes we have to do what is appropriate 
to minimize disasters that we confront, while we work over the long run 
on resolving them through diplomacy.
    But let's look at what has been done. In 1992, the year before I 
became President, some 130,000 people were killed in the Bosnian 
conflict. In 1994, because of the policies that our allies and the 
United States have pursued together, including the presence of the 
United Nations troops in Bosnia, the casualties have dropped from 
130,000 in 1992 to about 2,500 in 1994, still tragic but dramatically 
reduced. And all of this has been accomplished without any involvement 
of American ground forces in combat or peacekeeping missions. The 
British,

[[Page 805]]

the French, the Dutch, the Canadians, and others have carried that 
burden.
    This has not been a perfect peace. Recently, after the peace in 
Sarajevo broke down and 1,000 or more shells were dropped on the city, 
the United Nations asked for air support, as they have in the past, with 
success. We gave it, and unfortunately, the Serbs captured U.N. 
personnel. I have made it very clear to the American people all along 
that actions like this could occur because of the vulnerability of the 
U.N. peacekeepers who are spread out in small numbers all across the 
country. Now we are doing everything we can to secure the release of the 
U.N. personnel.
    But let's not forget this policy has saved a lot of lives. And in 
the end, the conflict will only be resolved by diplomacy. Now, the 
United Nations faces a choice: It can either get out, or it can 
strengthen its forces in order to fully support the mission.
    If our allies decide to stay, we want to support them, but within 
the very careful limits I have outlined. I want to make it clear again 
what I have said about our ground forces. We will use them only if, 
first, if there is a genuine peace with no shooting and no fighting and 
the United States is part of policing that peace. That's exactly what 
we've been doing in the Middle East since the late 1970's without 
incident. It's worked so well that I imagine most Americans don't even 
recall that we still have forces there.
    Second, if our allies decide they can no longer continue the U.N. 
mission and decide to withdraw, but they cannot withdraw in safety, we 
should help them to get out with our unique capacities. They have borne 
the risk for the world community of working for peace and minimizing the 
loss of life. And I think that's an appropriate thing for us to do.
    The third issue is the remote, indeed highly unlikely event that 
Britain, France, and other countries, with their considerable military 
strength and expertise, become stranded and could not get out of a 
particular place in Bosnia. The question has been raised about whether 
we would help them to withdraw as a last resort. I have decided that if 
a U.N. unit needs an emergency extraction, we would assist after 
consulting with Congress. This would be a limited, temporary operation, 
and we have not been asked to do this. I think it is highly unlikely 
that we would be asked to do it. But I do believe that these people who 
have put themselves at risk are entitled to know that the U.S. will 
stand with them if they need help to move to safety.
    Now, as this conflict continues and as the diplomatic efforts go on, 
we must remember that our policy in Bosnia has reduced the level of 
violence, has reduced the loss of life. In the last several days, our 
allies, in the face of their hostages being taken, have said that they 
expect those people to be released but that they do not want to give up 
their efforts to bring peace to Bosnia. They do not want us, they do not 
expect us to put American ground troops into Bosnia. But we do have an 
interest in doing what we can short of that to contain the conflict and 
minimize and eventually end the human suffering. I believe this is the 
appropriate, acceptable, proper policy for the United States.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Oval Office at the 
White House. In his remarks, he referred to Capt. Scott F. O'Grady, 
USAF.