Britain bears its share of responsibility for the Bosnian fiasco but a simplistic polemic does little to deepen understandingby David Hannay / December 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2001 issue of Prospect Magazine
It is chastening to be reminded by the publication of this book just how completely Bosnia has drifted out of public view. Even before the events of 11th September blotted out pretty well every other subject on the international scene, Bosnia had receded into the margins of international concern. The odd cameo performance in the Hague by the Butcher of Belgrade, cross-references to the atrocity of Srebrenica, some bracketing with Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia as unsolved Balkan trouble spots. That was about the sum of it.
Yet for half of the last decade, Bosnia was almost as pervasive a presence in the 24-hour-a-day media as the war against terrorism is now. It came close to destroying Nato’s post-cold war rationale and mission. It laid out the Anglo-American special relationship on the mortuary slab. It destroyed any hope that the UN could itself conduct a complex peace enforcement mission. It tore apart the solidarity between the five permanent members of the security council. And it spread a feeling of despair and guilt among the governments of every country which had the misfortune to try to grapple with it. Not a bad score for a country which began as an obscure province of the Ottoman and Habsburg empires before becoming a part of the former Yugoslavia.
Now Nato is alive and well, preparing to add new members and keeping the peace in Bosnia itself as well as in Kosovo and Macedonia. The special relationship is flourishing as never before in recent times. The permanent five are working together in the war against terrorism. So we can see that the Bosnia poison, although powerful, had fewer lasting effects than predicted. That is one reason, though not a justification, for Bosnia’s disappearance from public view.