This is not a time for isolationism

There are moments when world leaders show the true characteristics of leadership. For Bill Clinton, now is such a time.

Clinton has stepped into a valley where, for four years, Croats, Muslims and Serbs have determinedly waged one of the most horrific of wars. His administration has helped broker a peace treaty ending the Bosnian civil war — a deal requiring the protection of some 20,000 U.S. military personnel.

Now, Congress and the public must rally behind this cause.

Clinton often has been accused of lacking decisiveness, of trying to please everyone. He has much to lose politically by risking the lives of American troops, but the president has chosen a course born of moral necessity.

At the dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., last year, Elie Wiesel appealed for such morality in urging world leaders to save Bosnia. To allow the carnage to continue was to echo the world's silence to the Nazi death camps, the writer said.

Opponents of sending U.S. troops now say this country has no business in Bosnia, and may become trapped in another ill-defined, Vietnam-like jungle. Others like Newt Gingrich and Ross Perot seem bent on winning their own political ground with criticism of Clinton.

But as Clinton says, this mission is clear: To help the Bosnian people keep a peace they badly need.

America cannot be the world's policeman, the president agrees. "We cannot stop all war for all time, but we can stop some wars. We cannot do everything but we must do what we can."

Indeed, this is the last, best chance to stem the flow of blood in Bosnia Herzegovina. The warring parties, even the Bosnian Serbs, finally have agreed to abide by the terms of the peace pact. And Clinton pledges that those who violate the terms, and risk U.S. lives, will bear the brunt of an in-kind response.

In the days before the Bosnian peace pact was signed in Ohio, the world lost a true leader. Yitzhak Rabin had seized his own moment and made peace with a terrorist, giving Israel's young people real hope for a life without bloodshed for the first time.

For his efforts, Rabin paid with his life. Let his courage remind those who prefer to play politics or hide their heads that America must act, now, for peace.