Pauline Neville-Jones, Britain's chief negotiator at Dayton, on why the Bosnian intervention provides so many examples of what not to doby Pauline Neville-Jones / January 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Survival the IISS quarterly
Two questions arise from the Bosnian experience: how much responsibility does the international community have for reconstructing a society after a war; and is the option (confirmed at Dayton) of a single Bosnia sensible? Would we do Dayton again? For me, the broad direction was absolutely right, but the agreement is too complex and prescriptive. That said, there is a potential paradox. Many commentators-among them those who have taken the strongest line on human rights-have argued that it would have been more honest simply to have partitioned the country on ethnic lines. Other commentators have argued that this will ultimately happen since it is the “natural” order of things and efforts to counteract ethnic separation are a waste of time and resources.
There have even been accusations that separation has been the secret agenda of at least some of the Contact Group countries. This is nonsense. It may be that in the end the communities cannot be persuaded not to separate further. But it is right, politically as well as morally, to try to prevent this happening. If ethnic purity were to be sanctioned as the main criterion of stable statehood, there would be no viable-size unit in the Balkans which met it, and almost infinite bloodshed would be in prospect.
On the other hand, in order to keep Bosnia together as a single country, was it necessary for outsiders to become so deeply involved? Many of the mistakes in Bosnian policy lie in the early stages of the process. Once events had been set on a track leading to war, it was probable that they could only have been rescued by interposing a force capable of peace enforcement.
Elections are an indispensable ingredient of any settlement. But it is less clear that it was desirable to try to erect a complex political structure which is itself liable to be the cause of further disagreement. A single Bosnia composed of several ethnic communities is one thing. The development of a degree of political and economic integration between the embittered communities is probably too ambitious in the short term.
In general, peacekeeping in Bosnia is not a model for the future, not even the Ifor period which, while a success, was too intensive and too expensive a way of stopping war to become a blueprint. The time taken, diplomatically and militarily, to bring about…