A group of House Republicans, including local Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, on Tuesday threatened a huge political fight if President Clinton orders ground troops to Bosnia without a congressional blessing and said that such a mission is doomed to fail.
"If President Clinton sends our troops over there without first getting approval from here on Capitol Hill, he's going to have more problems than he counted on," said Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach).
Rohrabacher spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference with Republican Reps. Robert Ehrlich Jr. of Maryland, Donald Manzullo of Illinois and George P. Radanovich of North Fork, Calif. The comments came on the same day the Clinton Administration sought to convince Congress that sending troops to the region is the only way to ensure peace.
"It's a bad idea, and it probably won't work. The chances of success are one in 10, and the chances of failure are one in two," said Rohrabacher, a member of the House International Relations Committee.
"It reminds me of a Lebanon-type situation which will likely cost lives and American prestige with little chance of achieving its goals, whatever they are," Rohrabacher said, referring to the 1983 suicide bomber's attack on U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 soldiers.
Rohrabacher was a Reagan White House speech writer at the time of the Lebanon attack. He remembered his skepticism when the Administration argued that "if there was any chance for peace, we were going to have to send our Marines into Lebanon. And instead, it turned into a catastrophe."
Meanwhile, Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), who chairs the House GOP Policy Committee, is drafting a policy statement that is expected to be equally critical of Clinton's strategy.
Cox said it is ironic that the Clinton Administration previously argued against setting a deadline when troops were sent to Haiti but now offers to bring the troops home by "a date that's just before [Clinton's] reelection," a move that Cox calls "transparently political."
On the Senate side of the Capitol, the Administration hinted that it would welcome congressional support for sending troops to Bosnia but did not say whether it would actually seek a formal resolution.
While Clinton can send U.S. forces to Bosnia, Congress controls the funding for the military operation.
"The fact that we are on the verge of sending Americans to the Balkans heralds the failure of the policy of both President Bush and President Clinton," Rohrabacher said, adding that foreign-policy strategists were "wrong, dead wrong" when they imposed an arms embargo "against victim and aggressor . . . when the aggressor had all the hardware."
Two other Orange County congressmen who also sit on the International Relations Committee, Rep. Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), have yet to decide their positions on U.S. troop involvement in the Balkans.
C. Bruce Allen, a spokesman for Kim, said that "at this point, he is opposed to the use of ground troops being put in harm's way in Bosnia." However, Allen said, "there's a remote possibility [Kim] could be swayed" once he hears from Secretary of State Warren Christopher and other officials scheduled to testify today before the House foreign relations panel.
Royce was not available for comment.
While opposing ground troop involvement, Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), a member of the House National Security Committee, said that he would consider backing U.S. airlift, sealift, medical and intelligence support for European forces.
"The U.S. military is for the protection of U.S. national security interests, not ending internal civil wars or solving impossible U.N. peacemaking/peacekeeping problems," Dornan said in a statement.
Rep. Ron Packard (R-Oceanside) issued a statement saying that he is "concerned that our troops, especially a force of 25,000 or more, would fall victim to radicals who would target them in order to reignite the conflict. Such an escalation would serve only to intensify our involvement in the region."