chapter  3
21 Pages

Bosnia- Herzegovina: from peace support to coercive diplomacy

The Bosnian conflict of April 1992 to December 1995 resulted in more than 250,000 deaths, thousands of cases of rape, and an exodus of more than one million refugees. The majority of the war’s victims were Bosnian Muslims subjected to the “ethnic cleansing” campaign by the Bosnian Serbs, although similar tactics were employed by all three warring parties-Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs. The international response initially comprised peace support organized as a United Nations peacekeeping mission with a relatively small number of lightly equipped ground troops (fall 1992 to spring 1995), but later shifted to coercive diplomacy involving the use of force by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in summer 1995 to pressure the Bosnian Serbs into accepting peace negotiations. The purpose of this chapter is to explain this transformation through an analysis of the triangulated legitimacy comprising bases, performance and support. The bases of the peace support combined humanitarian concerns and stability interests. The Bosnian case highlights the importance of humanitarian concerns, which propelled the UN intervention and NATO’s later entrance into the international peacemaking process. Humanitarian concerns were also the basis for the shift seen in the UN Security Council’s application of international humanitarian law. Limited outside interest in the humanitarian issues involved and in regional stability, however, confined the scope of international involvement. Opposition to legitimizing the use of force in Bosnia stemmed from the absence of strategic interests in Bosnia. The shift to coercive diplomacy may be explained by the breakdown of the legitimacy of the initial peace support regime. Throughout 1994, the deteriorating performance of the mission in deterring attacks on safe areas had already caused support to dwindle and undermined the credibility of the UN and NATO, but the crisis of reputation culminated with the fall of Srebrenica to Bosnian Serb forces in summer 1995. Ultimately, this crisis in legitimacy changed the initial conditions of peace support. The addition of strategic-reputational interests further tipped the balance between ethical (humanitarian) and power-political legitimations of the use of force, creating the conditions for coercive diplomacy.