Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
The War in Bosnia has been described asThe systematic attempt on the part of the Serbs to exterminate the Bosnian Muslims (David Rieff)
Prelude. On June 21, 1991, James Baker, the Bush Administration's Secretary of State, told Yugoslav (Serb) leader Slobodan Milosevic that the U.S. supported "the unity and territorial integrity" of Yugoslavia. It was a statement made as much with the Soviet Union in mind as with the Balkans, but it gave Belgrade an excuse to send the Serb-dominated federal army into Slovenia and then Croatia to prevent their secession. Undeterred, on June 25, both Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence.
Sept. 25, 1991: UN Security Council passes resolution imposing arms embargo on whole of former Yugoslavia
December 1991: Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic requests EU recognition of Bosnian independence; asks UN to dispatch peacekeepers to Bosnia. EU tells Izetbegovic recognition will require democratic legitimacy: hold a referendum.
February 22, 1992: Izetbegovic holds referendum, in which Croat and Muslim areas vote heavily for independence. Serb leaders call for Serbs to boycott the vote. Izetbegovic pleads: It takes two sides to have a war, and we will not fight (Rieff: 131).
March 1992: Serb militias appear, heavily armed and aided by Yugoslavian National Army (hereafter: JNA) troops; establish roadblocks.
War. April 1992: Izetbegovic declares Bosnian Independence; Serbs launch attacks, begin siege of Sarajevo (April 6) and the war in Bosnia begins. UN moves administrative offices from safe Sarajevo (where it had been in 1991) to Zagreb, Croatia.
April 6, 1992: On the very day that the European Community granted diplomatic recognition, the siege of Sarajevo began (April 6). Bosnia's second largest city, Banja Luka, and most of the rest of northern Bosnia fell to the Serbs in the first month of the war. Across northern Bosnia, ethnic cleansing drives Croats and Muslims out, opening housing up for Serbs from Croatia. In Banja Luka, 16 mosques and 11 Catholic churches are destroyed; across northern Bosnia, 900 of 1000 Mosques are made into rubble within 3 years. Serbs bar UN from area in late 1992-93.
May 1992: Ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnian town of Zvornik: several thousand are killed or missing, entire Muslim population is expelled.
Dec. 31, 1992: UN Sec.Gen. Boutros-Ghali visits Sarajevo, and declares you have a situation that is better than ten other places in the world, and calls the whole conflict a rich man's war. By that time, more than 17,000 had been killed and 110,000 wounded in Sarajevo alone.
Jan. 8, 1993: French peace keepers, part of the U.N.PROFOR operation, escorting Bosnia Vice President Hakija Turaljic from the Sarajevo airport, permit Serb militiamen to take him from the convoy. Turaljic then is shot dead; UNPROFOR troops do not act. Later, the French officer responsible returns home and receives the Medal of Honor (Lewis: 34).
1993: Sieges extended. Systematic starvation of entire populations by the Serb fighters surrounding cities of Tuzla, Srebrenica and Sarajevo brings population to its knees. Bosnian Serb leader is Radovan Karadzic, the Montenegro-born nationalist chieftain. Karadzic is a poet and, in civilian life, bizarrely enough, a psychiatrist. A sleek, fat man with an expensive double-breasted suits, bushy eyebrows and flamboyantly styled long hair, his good English charms the West. He preferred to refer to Bosnia's Muslims as Turks.
early 1993: Journalists report that a camp at Foca, near Sarajevo, is used to rape Muslim women. UN refuses to investigate.
July 1993: "I think we are on the threshold of the final solution," said Slobodan Milosevic, the President of Serbia and architect of ethnic cleansing. "The main remaining question is the question of maps." UN Security Council this year declared six sites to be UN-protected safe areas.
July 1993: U.S. troops arrive in Skopje, Macedonia. An advance guard of 41 soldiers from the U.S. Army's Berlin Brigade arrived in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia to join 700 U.N. peace keepers keeping an eye on the borders of neighboring Albania and Serbia. By 1995, 500 U.S. troops were there. (On Sept. 4, 1995, U.S. pressure on Greece and Macedonia led to an agreement to end the Greek blockade against Macedonia, 1994-95, which the U.N. had called illegal.) They remain there until 1998 under U.N. authority, and continue on after China blocks continued U.N. mission there.
Sept. 1993: Serbs dynamite grand mosque of Banja Luka, which one year earlier they had held up to visitors as a sign of normalcy under their occupation. Of the 1000 mosques in Bosnia, less than 100 remained by 1995.
November 1993: The Old Bridge at Mostar, erected in 1566, is destroyed by Bosnian Croat shells.
Jan. 1994: Shell lobbed into Sarajevo market kills 68, shocks world by the brazen defiance of the move toward ending the siege there.
Feb. 9, 1994: NATO issues ultimatum to Serbs: withdraw heavy weapons from area around Sarajevo, or face NATO air strikes. Siege of Sarajevo abates; but Serb militia leader Ratko Mladic initiates new siege of Gorazde, a UN declared safe area for 60,000 Muslims trapped there. British Gen. Michael Rose repeatedly refuses to call for NATO air strikes, claiming that relief worker in Gorazde who report mass killings are exaggerating.
N.A.T.O. Threats. April 10, 1994: For the first time in its 45 year history, NATO warplanes attack. Two USAF F-16s attack a Serb command tent near Gorazde. Serb forces retaliate: seize 150 UN peace keepers, kill a British liaison officer.
April 1994: Five major nations, called the contact group attempt to bring about agreement on maps of partition of Bosnia (US, UK, France, Russia, Germany). July 1994: Contact Group announced plan for rewards and punishments to induce all sides to settle the conflict. It called for UN lifting the arms embargo against the Bosnian (Muslim) Government.
July 1994: UN force commander, British Lt. Gen. Michael Rose accedes to Serb demand that the only road into Sarajevo still open be closed. Earlier, Serb negotiators had agreed the road could remain open, protected by the UN.
Fall 1994: Cease fires near Sarajevo ease suffering, but in November Bihac is besieged by Mladic's Serb forces.
December 1994: the siege of Sarajevo resumes for the third straight winter. Former US Pres. Jimmy Carter arranges a 4 month cease fire, which begins on January 1, 1995. It called for roads to open to Sarajevo, where Serbs had again menaced air relief supplies by restricting flights in and out of the airport. Elsewhere in most of Bosnia, fighting was in a lull. But fighting continued near Bihac.
Jan. 1 to April 30, 1995: Cease fire occurs, but is violated many times.
May 1, 1995: Though 200,000 already had died and 2 million had been made refugees, the Bosnian Government formally allowed cease fire to expire April 30. Fighting then resumed in rural Bosnia.
May 1, 1995: Croatia invaded and in 48 hours retook the 200 sq. mile Western Slavonia area of Croatia which Serbs had seized in 1991.
July 11, 1995: Bosnian Serb forces seized the U.N. protected safe area of Srebrenica. 40,000 Muslims were expelled and reports of mass executions and rapes soon surfaced from these refugees and those of the safe area of Zepa, seized on July 25. In the end, 7800+ are proven to have been massacred.
July 25, 1995: International War Crimes Tribunal in Holland indicted Bosnian Serb military (Mladic) and civilian (Karadzic) leaders for genocide.
August 1995: Croatian Army forces attacked and retook the Krajina region of Croatia which had been under rebel Serb control since 1991-92. At least 150,000 Serb civilians were made refugees by this action.
N.A.T.O. Intervention. Late August 1995: After Serb gunners again defied U.N. warnings against attacks on the capital of Sarajevo by lobbing a shell into a crowded market killing 37, U.N. authorized sustained N.A.T.O. air strikes against Serb positions.
-In the first attack, more than 60 aircraft attacked sites throughout Bosnia.
-This was the first large scale military action ever undertaken by N.A.T.O.
-The wider objective was to force a political settlement of the whole war. Air raids continued for two weeks.
Sept. 1995: Negotiations. Serb President Milosevic joined his counterparts from Bosnia and Croatia in negotiations to end the Bosnian war first in Geneva, and then (through foreign ministers) in New York. U.S. mediators hosted the latter. A new element was that the Yugoslav/Serbian Government alone spoke for the Bosnian Serbs: no representation was given to the Serb government in Pale, Bosnia.
Sept.-Oct. 1995: Bosnian Government Army overran many Serb-controlled regions of Bosnia; shelled and advanced on Serb positions near Sarajevo. These moves were protested by the U.N., who sought no side to take advantage of the change in military balance produced by the U.N. authorized NATO air raids.
Nov. 1995: Under U.S. Government auspices, Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia sent top government officials to Dayton, Ohio to negotiate peace. Early agreement was reached on return of Eastern Slavonia to Croatia.
Dayton Accords. Nov. 21, 1995: Presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia initialed comprehensive peace agreement. Terms:
-Muslim-Croat Federation (51% of land area) and Serb republic, Republika Srpska, (49%) will be states within one country
-refugees may return to homes
-Sarajevo and suburbs to be unified and placed under Federation control
-60,000 NATO peacekeepers (20,000 US) to patrol
-all signatories pledge to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Nov. 22: UN sanctions against Serbia lifted.
Dec. 1995: US, NATO Peacekeepers arrive in Bosnia. Called IFOR, the contingent's name is changed to SFOR in 1996. Troops remained into the middle of the 2000s. Force levels of 12,000 in 2002 were reduced to 7000 in 2004. The largely NATO force transferred authority to a force representing the states of the European Union, Eurfor Althea. Non-NATO states participating in SFOR during its period of operations included important U.S. ally Australia, former ally New Zealand, neutrals Sweden, Austria, Ireland, and Finland, friendly Muslim states Morocco and Egypt, and others including Malaysia, Argentina, and Russia.
David Rieff, Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995).
Anthony Lewis, War Crimes, The New Republic (March 20, 1995): 29-34.
Annotated Bibliography on the conflict in Bosnia
For further reading, see Prof. Bowen's essay elsewhere on this website, and the sources below:
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
This official website presents indictments, case information, judgments, opinions of the justices, and much more to help the student grasp what corroborated evidence shows to have taken place when genocide and war crimes became Serbian state policy in Bosnia (and to a much lesser extent, Croatia and Kosovo).
Steven Burg, "Why Yugoslavia Fell Apart," Current History (Nov. 1993): pp. 357-363.
Focuses on the role of International Organizations' roles in the collapse of Yugoslavia.
Steven Burg, "The International Community and the Yugoslav Crisis," in International Organizations and Ethnic Conflict, Milton J. Esman and Shibley Telhami, eds. (Ithaca NY: Cornell UP, 1995): 235-274.
Extends on the arguments made in Burg (1993, above). Provides excellent analysis of the behavior of external actors (Europe, USA, Russia. G-7, CSCE) in dropping the ball which might have preserved peace in the face of the slide toward war. Traces the comings and goings of various intermediaries much more directly and objectively than does the Owen volume (below).
Lenard Cohen, "The Disintegration of Yugoslavia," Current History (Nov. 1992): pp. 369-375.
Discusses the reactions of the West to the democratization of Yugoslavia.
Mark Ellis, "Non-Negotiable: War Criminals Belong in the Dock, Not at the Table," Washington Post (May 9, 1999): B1, B5.
Argues that criminal courts could have impeded the later rounds of the Balkan wars.
V.P. Gagnon Jr., "Historical Roots of the Yugoslav Conflict," in International Organizations and Ethnic Conflict, Milton J. Esman and Shibley Telhami, eds. (Ithaca NY: Cornell UP, 1995): 179-197.
Presents a historic portrait of the founding, inter-war, and communist eras, focusing on the role of Serbia within the enlarged Yugoslav states 1918-1991. Assembles strong evidence that the wars of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia were not the result of ancient feuds but "the purposeful creation of specific sectors of the country's political elite, which provoked conflict along ethnic lines." Much more skillful and direct than the book length focus on just the 1980s and 1990s given by Silber and Little (below).
Roy Gutman, Tragedy of Errors, The New Republic (October 26, 1998): 15-19.
Addresses the after-effects of the world's response to Serb-run ethnic cleansing in Bosnia; i.e. Serb ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
Richard Holbrooke, To End a War revised edition (NY: Modern Library, 1999).
Pres. Clinton's chief negotiator's memoir of his role in negotiating the conclusion of the conflict in Bosnia. Excellent profiles of the protagonists who made the road to Dayton, Ohio (where peace was forged) so difficult.
Richard Holbrooke, "Why are we in Bosnia?" New Yorker (May 18, 1998): 42-45.
Pres. Clinton's chief negotiator provides interesting insights into the struggle between the Pentagon and the State Department concerning the role of U.S. power in Bosnia in 1995. Also reports that French Pres. Chirac delivered an ultimatum to Pres. Clinton on June 13-14, 1995, demanding greater U.S. involvement or France would pull out unilaterally. Shows a relatively low level of engagement in the issues by Pres. Clinton, e.g. that he was unaware that a NATO plan to assist the U.N. in a rapid evacuation of U.N. personnel ("Operations Plan 40104," which never was implemented) would virtually automatically involve U.S. Armed Forces. Revealingly shows the personal stakes involved in the decision to respond to the massacre at Srebrenica (July 1995): Holbrooke's son was apparently in the nearby "safe area" of Tuzla at the time, as was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck. Holbrooke wins the candor award when he states that "NATO finally did what it should have done years earlier: it launched massive air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions." Provides further insights into the 1995-98 phase of the NATO deployment in Bosnia, the post-war role of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, and the clear judgment of Madeline Albright, whom Holbrooke quotes as saying "there will be other Bosnia's in our lives."
Rezak Hukanovic, The Tenth Circle of Hell : a memoir of Life in the Death Camps of Bosnia (NY: New Republic/Basic Books, 1993).
Stunningly direct, first person account of the storm of "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia as viewed from the eye of that storm in the camp at Omarska. (For more information on the hundreds of concentration camps created during the Bosnian war, and a map to their locations, go here)
Rezak Hukanovic, "The Evil at Omarska," The New Republic (February 12, 1996): pp. 24-29.
Eyewitnesses from concentration camps' stories are told in a brief version of the book above.
Borijove Jevtic, "The Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo, 28 June 1914" in Eyewitness to History ed. John Carey (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1987): pp. 441-444.
Eyewitness testimonial from one of the terrorists, gives insight into the deep roots of Serb nationalism.
Robert D. Kaplan, Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History (New York: Vintage, 1993).
Travel writer and Atlantic Monthly editor Kaplan takes an early 1990s tour of the Balkans. Mixes history and stories to inform a commentary that locates the impulse toward war among the former Yugoslav peoples as an expression of ancient feuds. Strong on Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia (and Romania), the book is less convincing about Bosnia, as Kaplan anticipated the worst conflict would come in Kosovo. He misjudged his moment, but not the story overall.
Anthony Lewis, War Crimes, The New Republic (March 20, 1995): 29-34.
Journalist and editorialist Lewis frankly confronts the meaning of Serbian policies in Bosnia.
Ryan Lizza, "A Final Solution," The New Republic 220, 19 (May 10, 1999): 28-29.
Traces the origins of eliminationist racism toward Kosovars and others, to the writings of Serb intellectuals in the 1930s.
Rusmis Mahmutcehajic, The Denial of Bosnia (University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).
An extended polemic on the theme that, while Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Croatia's Franjo Tudjman (inexplicably spelled Tudman throughout this book) primarily were responsible for the corrosive spread of ethnic nationalism into what Mahmutcehajic regards as the ancient Bosnian state and its tolerant, multi-ethnic Bosniak culture, the European peace negotiators also need to be blamed for accepting the premise that a "Muslim" state is what a largely secular Bosnian culture wanted, or needed. Witheringly indicts negotiator David Owen, and Harvard political scientist S. P. Huntington, as accomplices in the transformation of Western consciousness of the Bosnian situation from one of clear Serb aggression into one of irreconcilable "clashing civilizations," a view that demanded partition of Bosnia to contain these intractable forces. An advocacy piece in the service of multi-ethnicity, tolerance, and the end to nationalism in the Balkans, and the intellectual laziness that abets it, the book includes a dizzying array of maps and charts.
"Milosevic, Slobodan," from Current Biography Yearbook 1990: pp. 442-446.
Lists basic biographical information and early career of the Serb leader; curiously omits mention of the suicides of his parents. Does cover the large influence of his wife on his thinking.
Noel Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History updated edition (NY: NYU Press, 2000).
Thorough, balanced history of the disputed area and much of the Southern Balkans. Effectively demonstrates the hollowness of the Serb claim to Kosovo.
David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (NY: Harcourt Brace, 1995).
Assuming a reader has a rudimentary understanding of what Bosnians, Croats and Serbs were doing to one another in Bosnia, 1992-95, this diplomat's memoir adds details about the involvement of outside powers in Bosnia's slow descent into hell. Owen, a British former Foreign Secretary, along with former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, traveled widely and met with most key politicians of the European states, the European Union, the former Yugoslavia, and the U.N. He shares the atmosphere and content of those interactions; even providing a timeline of what went on that closely resembles his personal calendar. Modestly, Owen opines "I am convinced that if President Bush had won re-election in November 1992 there would have been a settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina in February 1993 on the basis of the Vance-Owen Peace Plan..." (357). Europe surely tried, he argues: "The member states of the European Union and their Foreign Ministers did accept responsibility and devoted much time and effort and considerable resources... to help resolve the crisis in the former Yugoslavia" (367). Once again, as in all things apparently, Bill Clinton seems to be at fault: "It was a tragedy that President Clinton did not exercise leadership..." (358). Some rays of truth penetrate through this partisan fog of European self-exoneration, e.g. "The Bosnian Muslims ...suffered... by far the most the longer the war went on" (365) and "prolonging the war meant prolonging the Serbs' ethnic cleansing, prolonging the casualties of war" (365). But the volume overall is unsatisfying. Why is it that Europeans and Americans cannot jointly accept that responsibility can be equitably shared in this disaster?
David Rieff, "The Institution that saw no evil," The New Republic (February 12, 1996): pp. 19-23.
Sharp indictment of the U.N. in regard to Bosnia. Makes many of the same general points as made in his book long Slaughterhouse (below), but does so in more economical prose and with full evidence of the Serb-run massacre of Muslims at Srebrenica available to reinforce his points.
David Rieff, Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995).
A searing, if disorganized, indictment of the UN, and to a lesser degree, the entire west in its dithering attention to genocide in Bosnia. Unlike many strained academic commentaries, Rieff focuses responsibility squarely on the Serbian leadership, in Bosnia and elsewhere.
Michael G. Roskin, The Rebirth of East Europe (Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997): 170-187.
A dated, brief overview of the origins of Yugoslavia, the Balkan Wars of the pre-WWI era, the "Fake State" of communism there (1945-90), and the 1990s. In a mere seventeen pages Roskin is able to conclude that "the truth is... all sides committed atrocities in the fighting (but the Bosnian Serbs committed more)" (p. 176). Though published in 1997, the Dayton Accords of 1995 somehow were still in the future, and the author's best guesses on that theme, e.g. that Republika Srpska would formally join Serbia, prove little guide to understanding what will become of Bosnia or the region in the period after Serbia's loss of Kosovo (June 1999) and the end of the Milosevic dictatorship there (October 2000).
Serbian Academy of Sciences, "Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences (SANU) of 1986," in From Stalinism to Pluralism: a documentary history of Eastern Europe since 1945 , Gale Stokes, ed., second edition (NY: Oxford U.P., 1996): 275-280.
This famous manifesto from 1986 illustrates the support for Serbian nationalism and the depth of resentment toward Yugoslavia among intellectuals in Serbia long before the collapse of that socialist state. Refers to the migration of Serbs from Kosovo as "genocide," illustrating the paranoia and exaggerated sense of victimhood of leading Serb intellectuals in the 1980s.
Laura Silber and Allan Little, Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation (NY: Penguin, 1995).
Chronology organizes this tour of the events c.1985-95 by Financial Times correspondents. Directly parallel to the Discovery Channel six part, six hour television series of the same title. Strong on details, especially in 150 plus pages on the period prior to the outbreak of fighting in Slovenia and Croatia (1991). Analysis of the dozens of peace plans, negotiations, etc. continues this focus on the fine points, missing the somewhat larger patterns at times. Encyclopedic in its nearly 400 pages of coverage, the book anticipates a greater U.S. postwar role in what it presciently titles its final chapter: Pax Americana.
Gale Stokes, ed., From Stalinism to Pluralism: a documentary history of Eastern Europe since 1945 second edition (NY: Oxford UP, 1996): 275-80.
A book of original documents from both major sides in the global Cold War over Eastern Europe, including most of the most celebrated utterances (e.g., the Brezhnev Doctrine). Yugoslavian coverage is proportional to the wider scope of the volume, and includes excerpts from the Stalin-Tito correspondence leading to the 1948 split between the USSR and Yugoslavia; Milovan Djilas' critique of the "New Class" and other issues; the 1970s "Praxis Group" (Marxist) critique. Of greatest value to understanding post-Communist Yugoslavia are four documents including the Constitution of Croatia, D. Rupel on the Slovene National Question, and most significantly, the Serbian Academy of Sciences' 1986 nationalist "Memorandum" which widely is recognized for its seminal role in rekindling Serbian nationalism, among intellectuals and Marxist politicians.
Stacy Sullivan, "Milosevic's Willing Executioners," The New Republic 220, 19 (May 10, 1999): 26-35.
Analyzes the basis for public support for Milosevic and genocide among Serb intellectuals. Usefully read alongside the Serbian Academy of Sciences 1986 piece (above) and the Ryan Lizza essay. Together they reinforce a view that tends to demonstrate that a long pattern of Serb intellectuals' support and Serb common people's support for extreme nationalism.
Warren Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and its Destroyers (New York: Random House, 1996).
The book length memoir and analysis by the last U.S. Ambassador to pre-war Yugoslavia.
Warren Zimmerman, The Last Ambassador: A Memoir of the Collapse of Yugoslavia, Foreign Affairs (March/April 1995).
Reports the close ties between Karadzic and Milosevic. Recounts US policy blunders in the early 90s in a shorter version of the book immediately above.
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