The Road to Dayton: Diplomatic
and Military Interaction in Bosnia
THOMAS A. KEANEY AND SCOTT DOUGLAS
In November 1994, Lieutenant General Michael Ryan, NATO air commander in Southern Europe, organized what was at the time the largest bombing raid in Europe since the end of World War II. The target, an airfield in the Krajina region of Croatia, served as a launching base for Serb aircraft conducting bombing raids into Bosnia. Ryan’s task, however, was not to make war on Croatia or on the Serbs, but to support United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. As a result, he had to limit the effects of his attack so as not to hinder diplomatic efforts then underway or compromise the neutrality of the UN forces on the ground.
Further complicating Ryan’s task were the command structures in place. Ryan himself reported through NATO channels, ultimately to political authorities in Brussels, Belgium. The UN forces he supported traced their command channels back to UN headquarters in New York. Ryan, an American, commanded mainly U.S. air forces, but the UN peacekeeping force he supported had no Americans—the United States had refused to take part in this peacekeeping effort.
Tangled command arrangements notwithstanding, it had taken more than two years to reach a point whereby the NATO and UN forces could act in coordination to enforce the UN resolutions, and the attack on the airfield at Udbina represented a test of the partnership. General Ryan favored a comprehensive attack of the airfield, with strikes against the aircraft, runways and taxiways, as well as the air defense system and weapons in the area.1 And, with the full support of Admiral Leigh ton Smith, USN, the theater commander for NATO forces in Southern Europe, Ryan sought the necessary UN approval for the strike plan.
The approval process itself reflected the differing opinions of NATO and