How Tudjman won the war

Misha Glenny

  • The Death of Yugoslavia by Allan Little and Laura Silber
    Penguin, 400 pp, £6.99, September 1995, ISBN 0 14 024904 4

Medals and mementoes from a successful Gulf War adorn almost every corridor and room at the headquarters of the US Army’s First Armoured Division in Bad Kreuznach, a charming little spa town in Rheinland Pfalz. Considered one of the toughest and most effective branches of the American military, the ‘Old Ironsides’ excelled itself in the deserts of Kuwait. Yet from Major-General William Nash, the commanding officer, down through the ranks, there is little appetite for testing this reputation in the mud and slush of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

President Clinton has not yet convinced the soldiers of the mission’s purpose. Indeed, President Clinton himself is probably rather unsure as to the mission’s purpose – aside from its comprising an essential plank of his re-election campaign. But General Nash and his soldiers would not dream of defying their Commander-in-Chief, and so controlled chaos governs the massive task of decamping from Bad Kreuznach to Tuzla. Nash will be running the American sector of Ifor (the Implementation Force), an area which includes one of the most fiercely contested territories of the Bosnian war, the Posavina Corridor. The General’s operational bible is the first part of the Military Annex of the Dayton Agreement. In contrast to the absurd mountain of contradictory UN Security Council Resolutions which made up the mandate of Unprofor, the United Nations Protection Force, the Military Annex is curt and precise. Ifor is to establish the ceasefire line between the Bosnian-Croatian Federation and the Serbian Republic (RS), the two entities into which Dayton divides Bosnia-Hercegovina. Ifor will then police a zone of separation which extends two kilometres either side of the ceasefire line. The Nato-led forces will be at liberty to respond to any incursion into the zone by either the Federation or the Bosnian Serb Army with as much force as it deems fit from land or air. Ifor will also supervise the exchange of territory from the Federation to the RS and vice versa. Finally, it will ensure the exchange of POWs, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from front lines and the demobilisation of troops now active in the three indigenous armies in Bosnia.

This is a very difficult goal, but achievable nonetheless. Yet the provisions of the Dayton Agreement as a whole go well beyond the aims of the Military Annex. General Nash is deeply concerned that the complex political mechanisms born of the Agreement will demand a de facto extension of Ifor’s mandate. The American contingent in Ifor is under a strict deadline. They must leave in 12 months, a sufficient period to ensure that Bosnia calms down in time for President Clinton to face up to his Republican opponent in November’s Presidential election. But if Dayton is to work, this means that an inordinate amount of political progress has to be made in Bosnia in a ludicrously short time. If the constitutional status of Bosnia-Hercegovina remains unclear at the end of Ifor’s mandate, then there is a good chance of the country sliding back into war when the Nato troops leave.

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[*] Gollancz, 394 pp., £20, 6 November, 0 575 06251 7.