The Case of Bosnia

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The case of Bosnia presents analysts with a complex set of circumstances and factors surrounding multiple instances of intervention, carried out by a diverse set of external actors. Indeed, even the distinction between "internal" and "external" might be considered problematic in this case. For the purposes of this analysis, the conflict among Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats, and Bosnian Muslims (who have since adopted the "Bosniac" label) is defined as an internal conflict over the status of the territory and its internal political organization. This conflict erupted as part of the larger set of conflicts surrounding the disintegration of the former Yugoslav federal state, of which Bosnia and Herzegovina was a federal "republic". However, the larger conflict will be treated only as context, and not subjected to detailed analysis here. The direct and indirect involvement of the neighboring states of Serbia and Croatia in the internal Bosnian conflict, which could be defined as "external" interventions by local powers, are instead treated here as dimensions of the internal conflict. The involvement of these local powers, and their very real interests in the outcome of the conflict, were important factors affecting the series of decisions by US and other Western policymakers, as well as UN actors, concerning intervention. Recent changes that have moved both Croatia and Serbia in the direction of democratization, disavowal of support for the ethnic dismemberment of Bosnia, and even affirmation of the principle of territorial integrity have improved the prospect that international intervention will ultimately succeed in establishing some form of multinational state in Bosnia, although the institutional character of such a state remains in doubt. This paper focuses on the decisions and actions of external policymakers, and US policymakers in particular, as "third parties" to the conflict, and the outcomes of their interventions in it.


Case Study Prepared for Intervention in Internal Conflict