The War against Bosnia-Herzegovina

By Mahmutcehajic, Rusmir | East European Quarterly, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

The War against Bosnia-Herzegovina

Mahmutcehajic, Rusmir, East European Quarterly

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina may be explained as part of a wider process which also included the collapse of Yugoslavia. To this day there has been no comprehensive model offered to interpret this process. Furthermore, what we see promoted and adopted are one-sided ideological interpretations which create an illusion of clarity of the process analysed, with the purpose of preventing a methodical and all-encompassing explanation of the linkages involved. "The war in Croatia" and "the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina" are the terminology that flows from such interpretations. What we have instead is "the war against Bosnia-Herzegovina," resulting from a long, well prepared and rationally based attitude towards that state. Only through such analysis can we fully comprehend the multitude of events.

The origins of the destruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina lie in the three ethno-nationalist projects, their relations with each other and their linkages to forces in the outside world. These projects are not the same; they did not develop at the same time, not do they carry the same significance. Yet, although of different form, they originated in the same way. These are rational projects, though masked by irrational rhetoric, religion and emotive interpretations of history, as is indisputably proven by their focus on quantifiable goals. It is possible to establish a reliable and rational model of their relationship while worth highlighting and clarifying at the outset its fateful two-way split--that Bosnia and Herzegovina is: firstly, an organic unity or, second, a construct of separable parts. The model espoused here adopts the first premise. Bosnia-Herzegovina, when compared to its neighbours, has the most enduring internationally recognised borders, with the least alteration in the last hundred years. Linguistic, historic and geographic integration of its population is on a higher level than can be found among its neighbours. The population was almost completely mixed and intertwined: Serbs and Bosniacs lived before this war over around 95% and Croats over around 70% of the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The recent war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was preceded by an era in which the state was founded on ideology. Regional (as defined by the country's republics), national and all other dimensions of society were perceived as subordinate to the ideological project. Any insubordinate ideas and trends were rejected, suppressed and often liquidated. The weakening of the hold of ideology allowed these forbidden and suppressed ideas to come to the surface, the force of their expression being determined quantifiably, by the numbers prepared to embrace them.

The analysis presented in this essay does not take account of those external forces most frequently denoted as "the international community." In the course of the development and workings out of the three ethno-national projects, there was a complex impact from American, British, German, French, Russian and Chinese policies relating to them. (The presence of other international factors is not negligible, yet is not decisive.) This particular aspect of the issue discussed herewith requires a separate approach and quantification.


There are three ethno-national projects that participated in the process of the destruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina--the Greater-Serb, the Greater-Croat and the Bosniac one. They are determined by the mentality and the logic of the previous ideological totalitarianism, even though they try to distance themselves from it as much as possible. Their insistence on their differences to the communist regime is largely rhetorical and superficial.

The Greater-Serb project tied in to the creation of a new Yugoslav state as the project which answered the demand for all Serbs to be gathered in one state with their own political domination guaranteed by virtue of their being in the majority, which in turn would be justified by their ethno-national ideology in its most literal application. …

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