National Interests

Western officials such as U.S. Secretaries of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Warren Christopher had trouble seeing a vital interest in acting to prevent genocide in Bosnia, beyond "containment" of the violence within the boundaries of Bosnia. At this time, it is still unclear whether the Dayton accords will be enforced or whether the NATO operation to support them will be degraded in the manner of the UN mission from 1992 to 1995. The outcome will affect the security of peoples and nations outside of Bosnia in profound ways.

In 1948, the first Arab-Israeli war left 750,000 Palestinian refugees. The "Palestinian problem" led to three more major Middle East wars, the destruction of Lebanon, East-West geopolitical conflict, proliferation of nuclear weapons by Israel and its enemies, and billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid to the Middle East. In July 1995 there were more than twice as many Bosnian refugees as there were Palestinian refugees in 1948, and they have suffered atrocities beyond description. The consequences of allowing Bosnia to be destroyed will begin to appear in the second and third generations of children born in refugee camps, and they will be incalculable.

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Genocide In Bosnia, 1992-1995


June 28

Milosevic speaks at the 600th anniversary Kosovo celebration


September 25

UN Security Council Resolution 713: Arms embargo on all parties in the former Yugoslavia


March 27

Republika Srpska declared

April 6-7

Bosnia-Herzegovina is recognized by the EC and U.S.

April 3-17

Serb military begins genocide in Zvornik, Visegrad, Foca, and Bijeljina areas

April 21

Siege of Sarajevo begins


Bosnian government pleads in vain for military help or a lifting of the arms embargo

May 17

Serb army destroys Oriental Institute in Sarajevo

May 19

Yugoslav Army claims it is "withdrawing" from Bosnia, transferring soldiers and weapons to the control of the

Bosnian Serb army

May 27

Bread-line shelling in Sarajevo

May 30

UN Security Council Resolution 725: Sanctions against Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)

June 19

Union of Herceg-Bosna declared

August 3

Bosnian President Izetbegovic appeals in vain for an end to the arms embargo

August 4-6

Televised pictures of Omarska and Trnopolje concentration camps

August 25-28

London Conference: NATO nations affirm Bosnia's territorial integrity

Serb army burns the National Library in Sarajevo

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Genocide In Bosnia, 1992-1995


January 2

Unveiling of the Vance-Owen plan

January 8

UN gives over the Bosnian Deputy Prime Minister to Serb soldiers, who kill him on the spot

January 15

Water-line shelling in Sarajevo


Serb army takes Cerska and threatens Gorazde, Srebrenica, and Zepa

April 16

UN Security Council Resolution 819: Declares Srebrenica a safe area

May 5

The Republika Srpska rejects the Vance-Owen plan

May 22

Bihac, Tuzla, Zepa, Gorazde, and Sarajevo declared safe areas along with Srebrenica


Owen-Stoltenberg partition of Bosnia, based on a map drawn by Tudjman and Milosevic

June 30

UN Security Council rejects a proposal to lift the arms embargo


Joint Croat-Serb nationalist attacks on Bosnian Muslims

August 23

HVO forces destroy Pocitelj's Old Town and expel its Muslims

September 6

Izetbegovic pleads for the UN Security Council to lift arms embargo

September 27

Fikret Abdic declares an autonomous state in the Bihac pocket

November 9

HVO destroys the Mostar Old Bridge

November 17

UN War Crimes Tribunal authorized


February 5

Marketplace shelling in Sarajevo; NATO pressure leads to temporary relief from shelling

April 4-15

Serb army shells Gorazde, enters the safe area, and burns Muslim homes. British UN General Michael Rose refuses to protect the safe area

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Genocide In Bosnia, 1992-1995


Contact Group plan to partition Bosnia with 49 percent of the territory to go to the Republika Srpska


Vojkan Djurkovic phase of expulsions and religious terror in Banja Luka and Bijeijina


Yugoslavia claims it has closed its border with Bosnia


Bihac attacked by Serb forces from Bosnia and Croatia, and by Abdic rebels. British UN General Michael Rose renounces further NATO air strikes to protect Bihac


July 11-21

UN hands over safe areas of Srebrenica and Zepa to Serb army; mass killings ensue

July 26

U.S. Senate passes Dole-Lieberman bill to lift arms embargo against Bosnia


Croatian regular army crushes the Serb Krajina Republic in "Operation Storm"

August 28

Second Sarajevo marketplace shelling leads to NATO bombing

November 22

Peace agreement initialed in Dayton, Ohio

At the end of the cold war, NATO changed its mission from defense against the Soviet Union to protecting the peace and security of Europe. Failure to fulfill that mission in Bosnia will weaken and may destroy an alliance that has been critical to stability in Europe and to which all the NATO nations have contributed enormous resources.

Sarajevo is at the center of ethnic and religious fault lines that stretch around the world: the Slavic and Orthodox Christian

world extends to the east and northeast; the Muslim and Turkic worlds extend to the east and southeast across central Asia and to the west along North Africa; the Catholic world extends to the west and northwest from Austria to Latin America; the Protestant world begins its arc not far north of Sarajevo. Rewarding genocide in Bosnia will send a message to the many potential antagonists: strike first and strike ruthlessly and you will get what you want.

In 1994, the extremist Hum leadership of Rwanda was plotting genocide. They had every reason to expect that if genocide could be carried out with impunity in Europe, right in front of NATO, it could be carried out in Central Africa, far from any force like NATO. A final failure in Bosnia will send an ominous message to any other group in the world (and there will be many) who might contemplate genocide.

A geopolitical cold war between Islam and the West would be more intractable and more dangerous, perhaps, than the cold war between the West and the Soviet Bloc. Muslims around the world were stunned by Western acquiescence in the genocide, and by the passivity of pro-Western Islamic governments. A final failure in Bosnia will only strengthen the claim of Islamic militants who argue that the West wishes to destroy Islam. It will weaken the position of Muslims who seek peaceful relations with the Western world.

Religious violence has broken out globally: a Buddhist group's poison gas attack against Tokyo; the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by followers of the Christian Identity movement; the attack on Muslim holy sites by Hindu militants; the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City by Islamic radicals; the celebration by Jewish militants of the mass murder of Mus lim Arabs in Hebron and the killing of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Israel. Rewarding genocide in Bosnia will make such violence a model for success.[54]

For some, it may well be in the national economic interest for a major arms producer like the United States to allow or even foster such strife and conflict. It assures markets for a major export item, keeps a military industrial complex in a state of readiness, and keeps a large army as a safety valve in a time of increasing unemployment; a conflict with the Islamic world would create a new global enemy; outside enemies help interior cohesion. The practitioners of realpolitik do not make these arguments so baldly, but they intimate them. Ultimately, whether preventing genocide is in our national interest depends on our definition of "interest"; that definition depends in turn upon what kind of nation and what kind of world we wish to inhabit.[55]

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