Saturday, January 23, 2021

Thoughts on the Second Impeachment

 There's lots of discussion (mostly one-way venting) about Trump's second impeachment. Do it now, do it in two weeks, don't do it, and everything in between. I'm in the "do it much later" camp. I'm basing that on my own experience.

Back in the spring of 1996, I was working on the staff of the Commander of the Peace Implementation Forces (IFOR) in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. We (the US and NATO) had pretty much forced all sides to stop fighting and start talking. They'd been through several years of brutal warfare and all sides still wanted revenge on the others. I accidentally crashed a lunch meeting one time with Bosniacs, Serbs, and NATO, and you could cut the tension with a knife. But at least they were talking.

Two of the Serbians that everybody in the world wanted arrested were Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic (we called them "K&M"). They were wanted for genocide and murdering thousands of Bosniaks. There was a constant drumbeat from the US, Europe, Asia, the UN, everywhere, that NATO should arrest K&M and bring them to justice. "No justice, no peace" - sound familiar? But to the Serbians, both men were heroes.

Admiral Smith refused to go after K&M. His mantra to all of us on the staff was "We're here to establish the peace and stop the killing. We're going to do that. We can bring K&M to justice later."

One day a minor Serbian general took a wrong turn and drove into a NATO checkpoint. They arrested him, which was what our Rules of Engagement required. You would not believe the uproar. The whole peace process came within a hair of falling apart - and this was over a minor "general" who was really more like a glorified militia leader. It took all the negotiating expertise of Admiral Smith, NATO, and the UN, to convince the Serbs to continue the ceasefire and continue the talks. And all this over a minor general who wasn't even well known among the Serbs, much less a hero. Imagine what would have happened if we had snatched K&M at that time. The peace process would have been over, war would have immediately resumed, and thousands more would have died.

Karadzic was arrested twelve years later and the Serbs had no problem sending him to the Hague for war crimes. Mladic was arrested by the Serbs themselves three years later and also sent off to the Hague. Both were convicted and are serving life sentences.

As for Bosnia, it is still taking a lot of work, and there is still a lot of distrust between the factions, but they're working together and haven't resumed fighting. Admiral Smith was right: peace first, justice later.

So I think the situation with Trump is somewhat similar: a dangerous instigator with a rabid fan base, but he's no longer in power. Biden stressed "unity". Let's build unity, get the government functional again, and take care of the country first. Trump's justice can wait. For once, it's not all about him.

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