The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1991-1995

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The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1991-1995 edited by Branka Magas and Ivo Zanic. Frank Cass Publishers (http://www., 5824 N.E. Hassalo Street, Portland, Oregon 97213-3644, 2001, 416 pages, $26.50 (softcover).

The military history of the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia is yet to be written, but for the next decade this volume of essays is likely to be the starting point for both academic researchers and military professionals. This collection is based on the proceedings of a conference in Budapest, Hungary, sponsored by the Bosnian Institute and Central European University in September 1998. The essays redress the "systematic inadequacy" of Western scholarship, which largely discounts military affairs, the war on land, and war termination. War may well be "an extension of politics by other means," but as the authors rightly point out, this should not imply that military matters are irrelevant. In fact, the situation on the ground is of critical importance from the perspective of military professionals, considering the problem of intervention. The collection's strongest essays and greatest contributions deal with the weaknesses of the Yugoslav national army; Croatian military preparations, including Operations Flash and Storm; as well as the defense of Bosnia-Herzegovina. These contributions demolish many myths, especially the belief in the invincibility of Serb forces waging "people's war." Despite the immense destruction and atrocity, these were limited wars, pursued for limited (and often poorly conceived) ends. The ambivalence of ordinary Serbs toward the war and the Greater Serbia project is striking. And for all the conceits of the military commanders, these wars are revealed to be contests of very small, often irregular, forces. Bosnian Serb forces, in particular, appear to have been a "paper tiger," the figment of Serb propaganda and Western imaginations. Fighting is characterized as mostly World War I-style positional battles. War termination is among the areas specifically addressed in the essays. …