March 29th, 2011
08:02 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama dropped by the United Nations Tuesday, to dedicate the U.S. Mission to the UN Building in honor of Ron Brown, who was killed in a plane crash while serving as Bill Clinton’s Commerce Secretary.
Obama noted that while Brown was not an ambassador, he did die on a mission to the Balkans, “because, [Brown] said, just as America ‘took the lead in the peace process, we need to show the way in rebuilding from the ruins of war.”
It was not Obama’s only reference to the 1990s war torn Balkans.
“There are times - as when President Clinton showed extraordinary leadership in the Balkans, and moments such as now in the situation in Libya - where our conscience and our common interests compel us to act,” he said, referring to the the 1990s NATO mission to oust Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of atrocities against Kosovar Albanians.
But with an audience that included former President Bill Clinton, Obama did not say (as he did last night) that international reaction to Libya was considerably swifter than it was during the 1990s Balkans situation.
“To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together,” Obama said in his speech Monday evening, “when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.”
Instead, Obama praised the UN and the “broad and growing coalition” committed to stopping Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi.
“That’s how the international community should work - more nations; the United States right there at the center of it, but not alone - everybody stepping up, bearing their responsibilities, carrying the costs of upholding peace and security. That’s what it means to be united nations. That was the vision imagined by the founders of this institution,” he said.
The NATO mission in the Balkans lasted 78 days.