Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War

Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War

Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War

Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War


Yugoslavia was well positioned at the end of the cold war to make a successful transition to a market economy and westernization. Yet two years later, the country had ceased to exist, and devastating local wars were being waged to create new states. Between the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the start of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in March 1992, the country moved toward disintegration at astonishing speed. In this book, Susan Woodward explains what happened to Yugoslavia and what can be learned from the response of outsiders to its crisis. Woodward's analysis is based on her first-hand experience before the country's collapse and then during the later stages of the Bosnian war as a member of the UN operation sent to monitor cease-fires and provide humanitarian assistance.


Few issues of foreign policy and world order in our time have evoked as much division, emotion, and disillusionment as the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although major powers considered the conflict of little strategic consequence, their inability to prevent the violence, reverse its course, or resolve the crisis was widely judged a failure of Western leadership and corroded the credibility of regional and international institutions. These international institutions, and many domestic institutions in Europe, had been created after World War II precisely to prevent the repetition of such developments in Europe. Even the successes that were claimed for international intervention, of containment and humanitarian relief, were under constant threat of reversal with a new round of fighting that could escalate and spread.

In this book, Susan L. Woodward, senior fellow in the Brookings Foreign Policy Studies program, argues that the failure arose from a lack of understanding of the causes of the conflict, and the application of cold war thinking and instruments that were not appropriate to the case. Although many books have attempted to bring the plight of Bosnia and the fall of Yugoslavia to the attention of the outside world, this is one of the few that attempts to analyze the causes of these events and that weaves into the story of decline and war the influence of the international environment and outside actors.

The significance of the Yugoslav case cannot be underestimated as an early warning of other such conflicts currently brewing. The collapse of political orders under international pressures, economic austerity, and policies of economic reform and liberalization during the 1980s has led in many parts of the world to a massive upheaval. The stabilizing social, economic, and political mechanisms that countries used over the past fifty years are often proving inadequate to new circumstances. Dealing with each instance as a separate case disguises the common elements and the need for a collective response.

This book grows out of the decades of gracious hospitality, scholarly exchange, and open encounters with strangers for which the former Yu goslavia-

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