George Will

William Hague, shadow foreign secretary for Britain's Conservative Party, which probably will be in power a year from now, in July endorsed the view that "Bosnia is on the edge again." McMahon and Western warn: "Unless checked, the current trends toward fragmentation will almost certainly lead to a resumption of violence." And history suggests that what happens is Bosnia does not stay in Bosnia.

"With factions from all three ethnic groups now challenging the Dayton structure," McMahon and Western are emphatic: "First, a strong U.S. commitment is necessary." But this is not a propitious moment to propose that, with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq -- and North Korea, etc. -- on Washington's mind. So this question is apposite: If Bosnia -- situated in placid and prosperous Europe; recipient of abundant aid and attention from the United States, the European Union, NATO and the U.N. -- is so resistant to nation-building, what are sensible expectations for a similar project in remote, mountainous, tribal Afghanistan?

"It is human to hate," the late Samuel Huntington wrote. Communities, like individuals, crave clear identities, which sometimes are built on foundations of shared dislikes. This is true of the communities within Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

In 1915, the young Walter Lippmann said: Considering that the East Side of Manhattan is a mystery to the West Side, "the business of arranging the world to the satisfaction of the people in it may be seen in something like its true proportions." Lippmann later joined Woodrow Wilson's post-World War I attempt to rearrange the world, which suddenly included Yugoslavia, of which Bosnia was a piece.

"I don't want any of this onward-and-upward stuff," said the aged Oliver Wendell Holmes to the young Lippmann. "You young men seem to think that if you sit on the world long enough you will hatch something out. But you're wrong." Holmes, who had been wounded at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, still the bloodiest day in American history, knew from experience that force can accomplish large things, such as the defeat of secession. But Holmes also knew there are limits.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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