- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

One of the Balkans' worst war criminals Bosnian Serb Gen. Radislac Krstic, who commanded the ethnic cleansing of Muslims was sentenced Thursday to 46 years in prison for his role in the killing of 7,000 men and boys in 1995. His genocide conviction, which is a first, the handover of the architect of the war, Slobodan Milosevic and the fact that the senior Bosnian Kuslim officers surrendered carry a siginificant message: The people of the Balkans are beginning to take responsibility for implementing justice.

Of course, this does not mean an immediate evacuation of U.S. or European forces there, which help to keep the peace. What it does mean is that there must be a concerted international effort in the mean time to empower civilians to set up grass-roots institutions that are self-sufficient long after the last G.I. has left.

"None of us should be forever using military forces to do what civilian institutions should be doing," U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in a meeting Thursday with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "So the president pushed very hard while he was in Kosovo in his conversation with the civilian folks who were supposed to be doing the civilian institution building." She praised the Kosovo policing academy as one institution which was making significant progress.

How long the United States stays is a matter of how long it takes to get those institutions in place. Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who also serves as the chairman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in a luncheon meeting at The Times that the first step was to fight the corruption that has become so inherent in the state. He also saw Europeans and the United States playing different, interlocking roles in this process, with the European Union states taking the lead in peace talks and in policing, and the United States focusing on peacekeeping. "The U.S. military is not trained and it's not supposed to do police-type operations," Mr. Geoana said. "So that's why countries like Romania, Italy or France can come in with … gendarmes or police-type operations. I want to say it's a matter of division or labor, who's best equipped at doing what, rather than duplicating everything across the board. So I think this is something that is giving the European Union a prominent role in international affairs."

The roles of peacekeeper and policeman will have to be more carefully defined as NATO settles in for what the Bush administration has said will be a stay of years, not months. During this time, the burden on international monitors will be lighter if those the troops are there to protect begin implementing a justice and legal system born of their own desire for freedom from policies of nationalism and violence. The sentencing of Krstic and the handover of Mr. Milosevic are, in that sense, the best of democratic beginnings.

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