The American Interest

Lord Ashdown’s Balkan Fiefdom

For 200 years, the Balkan states have been manipulated by the powers of “Old Europe” to slow and control the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.  They were created, enlarged, and shrunk as the need arose.  During the two world wars, the territories inhabited by southern Slavs were used as bargaining chips in constructing alliances, while their inhabitants’ ethnic loyalties and aspirations were never taken seriously.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-95) followed this trend.  It was the most destructive segment of the War of Yugoslav Dissolution that began when the republics of Slovenia and Croatia seceded in the summer of 1991.  The chief outcome of the war was a transformed NATO coupled with the renewal of American influence in Europe to an extent not seen since before the Vietnam War.

International intervention could not alter the underlying dynamics of Bosnia’s deeply divided communities, however.  Because of foreign involvement, the war lasted longer than it would have and the future of the Republika Srpska (R.S.) is perhaps more uncertain, but the settlement that followed Dayton was a plausible compromise that could have been reached in April 1992.

Over the last eight years, Bosnia has become the first major experiment of the “international community” in nation-building, demonstrating that international...

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