LITTLE ROCK — Presidents should not base their foreign policy decisions on polls, former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday during a symposium on the Bosnian War.

LITTLE ROCK — Presidents should not base their foreign policy decisions on polls, former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday during a symposium on the Bosnian War.

Speaking to an audience of invited guests at his presidential library, which was closed to regular visitors because of the government shutdown, Clinton said about 60 percent of Americans opposed American involvement in the war.

Such polls are not so much a warning not to proceed as they are a "yellow light" urging caution, he said.

"The citizens understand that there’s no way they can know about something as much as you do," he said. "They’ve got their own lives to live and their own problems. But when they tell you not to do something, what they’re really telling you is: Be careful, please. Tell us as much as you can about what you’re going to do, don’t do a lick more than you have to, don’t spend a dollar more than you have to — and you’d better be right."

The symposium, titled "Bosnia, Intelligence and the Clinton Presidency," was held in conjunction with the release of more than 300 newly declassified CIA documents about the war. Several other key players in the Bosnia campaign also spoke during the program, including former Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright, former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Wesley Clark and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.

Several speakers commented on the difficulties that Clinton faced in selling the war to the American public, some drawing comparisons between the public’s resistance to that conflict and current resistance to military action in Syria.

Clinton said the timing of the symposium was appropriate because "we finished the Bosnian peace accord in November of 1995 in the middle of the two government shutdowns — after one, and before the next one."

The 1995 and 1996 government shutdowns were the last until the shutdown that began Tuesday.

Clinton said the 1992-95 Bosnian War could be seen as a metaphor for the struggles of the 21st century.

"It was the first conflict which reminded us that the end of the Cold War basically took the veil off this image we were privileged to have, even when it didn’t fully comport with reality, that there was a bipolar world, and as dangerous as it was with all these nuclear weapons hanging around, at least it was organized," he said.

"Bosnia was the beginning of showing us how incredibly dispersed power was going to get in the 21st century — weapons everywhere" he said.

The peace agreement was signed in Paris on Dec. 14, 1995. Clinton said that was the one and only time he sat down with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, whom he described as "cold" and "paranoid."

"I have never looked into darker eyes in my life," Clinton said.

He said Milosevic told him during the meeting that he believed President Kennedy had been killed by American intelligence agents.

"Everybody was always out to get somebody in Milosevic’s mind, and that justified any kind of thing he did to kill anybody he killed," Clinton said.

The price of victory was high, with estimates of the dead ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 and more than 2 million refugees driven from their homes, but "the peace has endured," Clinton said.

In addition to bringing peace to the former Yugoslavia, "we made an unequivocal statement, by saving the largest community of Muslims in continental Europe, that we were not an anti-Islamic country, that America would take serious risks to keep innocent Muslims from being killed," he said.