NATO and the Bosnian Quagmire: Reluctant Peacemaker
Timothy J. Birch
The disintegration of Yugoslavia and the ethnopolitical conflicts in the successor states created a challenge which for four years defied solution by the international community. 1 Early diplomatic failures by the European Community (later known as the European Union, or EU), combined with the inadequacies of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), forced the Yugoslav issue onto the agenda of the United Nations (UN). Lacking adequate military and surveillance capabilities, the UN in turn came to rely upon European military organizations -- the Western European Union (WEU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) -- to assist with peacekeeping and to enforce the arms embargo imposed on Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The mission of the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was sustained by NATO assets almost from its inception. Moreover, NATO carried out several military operations into 1995 under UN sanction. Nevertheless, by the beginning of 1995 it seemed that NATO, along with the UN, had failed to resolve the crisis in the Balkans. Senior American Republicans in particular gave vent to their frustrations, while the French government denounced American reluctance to share the peacekeeping burden. Ultimately, the American sponsored Dayton Accords were pushed through in late 1995. However, for many, and not least the Bosnian people, NATO's intervention was somewhat late in coming.
This chapter will analyze the reasons for this tardiness and will seek to tease out some of the implications of NATO's performance in Bosnia for the Alliance's new security role in Europe. Three lines of investigation are