Finally, by initially accommodating the Bosnian Serbs and later by punishing them as the sole aggressor, the EU, with the UN and NATO, failed to recognize that taking sides would prolong the civil war, and that the participants in the Bosnian conflict -- namely Croats, Muslims, and Serbs -- share a strong fear of becoming a minority in what may be a hostile environment. Given this fear, an all Bosnian rule by any of the three parties would be unacceptable at least to one of the other two sides. The real aggressor, therefore, would be the party which sought an all Bosnia rule. By taking sides, first by deferring to one party and later by punishing only one for wrongs committed by all, the EU exacerbated the fears of the warring factions, perhaps contributing inadvertently to the civil war.
The Serbs should have been punished only if they were clearly fighting for an all Bosnia rule. Vilifying them for not wanting to be part of a Muslim ruled Bosnia is clearly inconsistent with the ideal approach of recognizing that all sides have legitimate concerns and demands and that no side should be forced to be part of a Bosnia ruled by either of the other two. Regardless of the type of involvement -- either through direct diplomacy, participation in peacekeeping efforts, or military operations through NATO -- the challenge for the EU was how best to avoid taking sides by looking more closely at the demands made by all.
Undoubtedly, the Bosnian imbroglio caught the EU unprepared and exposed its inability to deal with it. At the same time, the Bosnian crisis tested its military independence from the United States. The Union, unable to coerce the warring parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina to end the war -- a war fought in Europe -- took a back seat to a group that could and was eager to do so, the United States. 55 The Bosnian crisis confirmed the limits and strengths of political and military capacities of both the Union and the United States. It was a test between good intentions of the EU and the military muscle of the United States. Washington won and its prize was a leadership role in the searfor Europe's security identity. The Europeans must learn an important lesson: if they want to become self sufficient in defense, they must unite to make it happen. The choice, as many see it, is "between weakness and independence." 56 Independence means Europe shoulders its own defense burden, while weakness means dependence on the uncertain military commitment of the United States.