Trouble in the
How easily have ethnically mixed communities co-existed since the war?
However, since the war, Bosnia has been divided into three zones of control. I would refer to these as three national and nationalist statelets with an overwhelmingly homogeneous population. Very roughly, the Serbs control about half of the country, which is known as Republika Srpska, a radically autonomous unit formally within Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croats control about 20 percent of the territory, and the Muslims control the remaining 30 percent, including the city of Sarajevo. There have been some returns of refugees and evicted peoples from all three communities since the war. Nonetheless, each of these three statelets--Bosnian Serb, Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat--still have a largely homogeneous population. The old population mosaic of Bosnia-Herzegovina is destroyed, possibly forever.
What is happening as a result of some of the refugees' returns is that there are now some minority enclaves within these homogeneous zones of control, these national and nationalist statelets. But if you go, for example, to Sarajevo, it is quite clear that this is a Muslim city and the capital of the de facto Muslim statelet within Bosnia-Herzegovina, which covers about 30 percent of Bosnia's territory, rather than in any meaningful sense the capital of the common multi-national state. Similarly, Banja Luka in northwestern Bosnia is the largest city in the Serb part of Bosnia. However, it had 16 mosques, all of which have been razed to the ground. It is an overwhelmingly Serb city now, even though there were sizeable concentrations of Croat and Muslim minorities until the war. If you go to some of the Croat-held areas of Bosnia, you will find very few non-Croats. Each part of the country is not exclusively but largely homogeneous, and although returning minorities are present in each of these zones, they are barely tolerated. So things have changed radically.
Why didn't the Vance-Owen plan succeed?
The Vance-Owen plan was the last international proposal that sought to salvage a mixed, united Bosnia-Herzegovina. All subsequent international proposals, including the ones that culminated in the Dayton peace agreement in November 1995, were essentially partitionist even though they claimed otherwise. Vance-Owen was the last heroic effort in early to mid-1993 to salvage some sort of a common multi-national state in the real sense of the term. Why didn't it work? I think it didn't work primarily because it had been overtaken by events on the ground. By 1993, Bosnia was already divided into three separate statelets and military zones of control.
The Vance-Owen plan had many points to commend it, but it was obsolete given the pace at which events unfolded in the year since March/April 1992, and the degree of real territorial division and fragmentation, aided by ethnic cleansing, that had taken place.
What did the the Dayton peace agreement hope to achieve and do you think it has been a success?
In reality, the country is divided into three entities, not two, and three zones of control as I have outlined, close to 50 percent Serb, 30 percent Muslim and 20 percent Croat. Dayton has also put in place a strangely convoluted and Byzantine governmental structure. There is a weak central government with some institutions, and the efforts of the implementers of Dayton in the post-war period have been directed at strengthening those central institutions so that the common state becomes viable and has some chance of becoming a state in a real sense. By and large however, that hasn't worked.
Though the architects of the Dayton peace agreement would deny it strenuously, I think it is more or less fair to say that Dayton formalised the wartime division of Bosnia-Herzegovina, even while maintaining the nominal integrity of the common state. Real power resides at the entity level. Most Croats and Serbs in the federation would not want to live in one of the Muslim cantons. Similarly for Serbs and Muslims in the Croat cantons. There are a couple of mixed cantons, but even those are divided territorially, as well as otherwise. I think the basic problem is that it is extremely difficult to sustain an island of multinational coexistence in the context of the fragmentation that has taken place in the former Yugoslavia over the past decade.
The overwhelming logic of this fragmentation and the overwhelming impetus of this fragmentation has been the creation of nationally homogeneous states and statelets of various sorts. So, in a way, what the international community is trying to do in Bosnia is buck the tide, and it is not easy to fight against the current, especially when the vast majority of both Serbs and Croats in Bosnia seem to disagree with the idea of a common Bosnian state.
What do you believe have been the biggest obstacles to peace in Bosnia?
However, we must remember that as long as there is an independent sovereign
Serbia next door, and an independent sovereign Croatia next door, the
loyalties of the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Croats will at best always
be divided. There will always be a competing focus for their loyalty and
their allegiance. The former Yugoslavia had avoided this choice because
people could be both at the same time. They could be Bosnians and they
could be Serbs because there was an overarching political framework that
accommodated all these different layers of identity. That is no longer
an option. This is the crux of the problem. It is an interlocking constellation
of very adverse domestic and international--i.e. regional--circumstances
that keeps the Bosnian state as a tenuous, internationally sponsored construct.
How contingent is it on a peaceful and democratic Serbia and Croatia?
However, as you might know, in November 2000, elections were held at various levels of the complicated governmental structure put in place in Bosnia by the Dayton peace agreement. Nationalist parties with rather shady wartime records won large-scale victories among both the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Croats. The Muslim electorate was more split, but even there parties that could be classified as Muslim nationalist parties managed to do quite well in the vote. So it wasn't that democratisation in Croatia or Serbia had this great transformative impact on Bosnia-Herzegovina, which highlights what I believe is a serious, endogenous, internal problem of legitimacy of the Bosnian state, of course related to the broader regional context--it's impossible to separate Bosnia-Herzegovina from the two surrounding countries and from the former Yugoslav region as a whole--but I think Bosnia is destined to remain divided territorially and psychologically for some time to come. There is a serious internal endogenously generated problem of legitimacy, the fact that the three communities--Serbs, Croats and Muslims--cannot agree on the legitimacy of the Bosnian state as yet. That is the bottom line.
Have there been any provisions made for the Bosnian army, and how would that be divided along ethnic lines?
Freedom of movement has been assured by the presence of the military-implementation forces which were initially known as I-FOR (Implementation Force), and since 1996 have been known as S-FOR (Stabilisation Force). This is a NATO-led enterprise, even though there are troops contributed by various non-NATO countries as well. However, S-FOR is not going to be around in this divided country forever. That security guarantee will not be there forever, though it will be there for the foreseeable future.
There is talk of a unified Bosnian army. The war left three different armies on the soil of Bosnia. There was the VRS, which is the Bosnian Serb army; the HVO, which is the nationalist Croat army; and there's the Armija BH, which is an overwhelmingly Muslim Bosnian force. Under the federation agreement, the shotgun marriage between Croats and Muslims under American auspices which I referred to earlier, the Croat militia, the HVO, and the Muslim army, the Armija BH, were nominally integrated into a single force. If you go to Bosnia you would see that they sport identical uniforms, common insignia and so on, but they are not functionally integrated because these people still distrust each other way too much in order to co-operate. After all, the Croats and the Muslims fought a very bloody war of their own, in parts of Bosnia in 1993-1994.
Then there is the Bosnian Serb army, which is a tale unto itself. There is some international pressure now to integrate these three into one force, but even if that happens it would be nominal rather than real, functional integration. One needs to point out that the Bosnian Serbs are now the weakest of the parties militarily, while the Bosnian Muslims are now the strongest of the factions militarily. This is a radical change from most of the war period when the Bosnian Serbs were by far the strongest, and the Bosnian Muslims by far the weakest. Since then, the Bosnian Serb army has basically disintegrated, while the Bosnian Muslim army has been built up under the aegis of an American train and equip program, involving everything from supply of heavy weapons to expert training by American military professionals. So the balance of military power is very different in Bosnia today from the war period. But a common standing army of Bosnia remains a very distant prospect. The people are too divided.