A Recent History of Bosnia-Herzegovina
by Captain Roger F. Cavazos and Second Lieutenant Sherman S. Powell
Yugoslavia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia,
Croatia, Slovenia, Karadzic, Milosevic.... Just what is what and
who is who in the Balkans? This article will try to answer
questions like the following ones: What countries comprise the
Balkans? Who are the major players in Bosnia-Herzegovina and what
is their ideology? What does the Dayton Peace Accord say? What
forces are in the region?
The Balkan region is generally defined as the area south of the
Danube and Sava rivers. Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania (even
though it is north of the Danube it is still considered a Balkan
country), the European part of Turkey, and the former Socialist
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) all lie in the Balkans. FRY
consisted of six republics: Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro,
Serbia, and Slovenia. Marshal Tito and Communist rule were the glue
which held these heterogeneous religious and ethnic groups
together. Yugoslavia showed signs of disintegration after Marshal
Tito's death in 1980. Shortly after the Soviet Union broke apart in
1989, Yugoslavia was torn apart from within by nationalism. This
raises the question of who would have reason to want to be separate
from whom and how?
The Belligerents and Their Ideology
The people in the FRY are almost all ethnic Slavs. After that, all
similarity ends. We will look at the three major groups, their
religion, who they look to for international support, their leader,
and some of their goals. Serbs account for over a third of the FRY
population. The Croats are about one-fifth. Almost nine percent are
The Serbians are comprised of three basic groups Serbians,
Bosnians, and Krajinans. They use the Cyrillic alphabet and look
toward Russia for international support. Some of the more
well-known Bosnian Serbs are Radovan Karadzic, General Ratko
Mladic, and Slobadan Milosevic. The first two are convicted war
criminals. Milosevic is not. The army was mainly composed of
Bosnian Serbs before FRY dissolved. This disintegration allowed the
Bosnian Serbs to quickly attain the majority of their territorial
objectives. The Krajinan Serbs simply wanted to keep their
territory and prevent any Croat attempts to control Krajina. All
the Serbs want a unified territorial entity a greater Serbia.
Most of the Serbs live in the Serbian Republic of
Bosnia-Herzegovina. This region is the self-proclaimed state of the
Bosnian Serbs. Since the religion of most Serbs is Eastern
Orthodox, the Orthodox church also supports a unified Serbia. The
problem is that at least two other groups occupy part of the ground
which the Serbians want.
One of the groups blocking a unified Serbia is the Roman Catholic
Croats. They are headed by President Franjo Tudjman. The Croats
want to keep open access to the Dalmatian coast. The Dalmatian
coast was a large source of revenue in the pre-war years. They also
want to retake the third of their territory which the Krajinan
Serbs usurped. The Bosnian Croats have joined forces with the
Bosnian Muslims to help repel the Serbs. The Croats reflect their
Western orientation through their written use of the Latin
alphabet. The Croats generally find the Germans and Austrians are
their biggest supporters.
The Bosnian Muslims are ethnically the same as everyone else in the
region Slavic but they are more oriented to Turkey and the Muslim
Arab countries. Their President, Alija Izetbegovic, wrote a
treatise called the Islamic Declaration: A Program for the
Islamization of the Muslims and the Muslim Peoples. His vision is
to establish a multi-ethnic state. He reached an agreement with
the Croats to create an eight-canton federation. Half of the
cantons would be Muslim, two Croat, and two mixed. But first, he
has to establish and maintain a unified state. The Bosnian Serbs
hold almost three-quarters of the Bosnian Government's territory.
The Bosnians must keep Sarajevo and some additional territory to
remain a legitimate state. The Balkans and especially the FRY are
similar to the Middle East in that both areas depict the
juxtaposition of Islam and other religions contesting the same
areas. Each side has arguably justified claims to be there.
The Dayton Peace Accord
The United States was losing credibility in the region, in the
world, and in the Middle East because of its inaction. The Dayton
Peace Accord represents the culmination of our diplomatic efforts
to solve the situation.
The General Framework agreement consists of each of the three
signatories recognizing the other two. Further, each one agrees to
respect the sovereignty and equality of the others and to settle
disputes peacefully. Each party also fully agrees to cooperate with
all entities authorized to implement the peace settlement, and
investigate and prosecute war crimes. (These include
intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations,
nongovernment organizations (the Red Cross, for example), and the
United Nations Implementation Force or IFOR.) The rest of the
agreement is spread over eleven annexes. We will briefly summarize
what is in each one and highlight some specifics.
Annex 1-A: Military Aspects. The cease fire which began the
agreement on 5 October 1995 continues in effect. Foreign combatant
forces had to withdraw in 30 days or less. (Most worried about the
Mujahideen, especially since we had armed them with Stingers and
trained them.) All forces had to move approximately 4 kilometers
behind a zone of separation (ZOS). Sarajevo and Gorazde had special
provision. (Gorazde has a particularly large and efficient
munitions plant. Almost every safe haven was turned into a
munitions and manufacturing area.) All parties agreed to withdraw
heavy weapons and troops into cantonment or barracks areas as a
confidence-building measure. IFOR has the right to use force as
necessary. They will have unimpeded freedom of movement, airspace
control, and status of forces protection.
Annex 1B: Regional Stabilization. The three signatories had to
begin negotiating under the auspices of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to agree on
confidence-building measures. Part of this included agreeing on
numerical limits of tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles,
combat aircraft, and helicopters. All parties agreed to forgo
importing arms for 90 days. They also agreed to not import any
heavy weapons, mines, military aircraft, or helicopters for 180
Annex 2: Inter-Entity Boundaries. There will be an inter-entity
boundary between Bosnia and the Bosnian Serb Republic (the
agreement does not recognize Karadzic or that he has a state).
Sarajevo will be open to all. Gorazde will remain open and linked
by a land corridor. They will determine the status of Brcko within
Annex 3: Elections. All citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina who are
older than 18 may vote. The electoral parties must grant citizens
the right to vote secretly, express themselves, and have access to
a free press.
Annex 4: Constitution. Bosnia-Herzegovina adopted a new
constitution when they signed this agreement at Paris.
Bosnia-Herzegovina will continue as a sovereign state with two
entities. No person who is serving a sentence or under indictment
by the tribunal may be a candidate or hold any public office.
Annex 5: Arbitration. The Federation and the Bosnian Serb
Republic agree to binding arbitration (both sides must do whatever
an outside arbiter decides). Also they agree to institutionalize an
arbitration system to settle disputes peacefully.
Annex 6: Human Rights. Everyone agrees to grant basic human
rights. They also agree to grant all organizations full access to
monitor the human rights situation.
Annex 7: Refugees and Displaced Persons. All refugees and
displaced people may safely and freely return home and regain lost
property or receive compensation. A commissioner for refugees may
decide on return of property or compensation.
Annex 8: Commission to Preserve National Monuments. The
commission can declare property to be a national monument. All
signatories will make every effort to protect and conserve national
Annex 9: Bosnia-Herzegovina Public Corporations. Corporations
may be established to run road, rail, and port facilities. The
provision also establishes joint ventures to run utilities and
Annex 10: Civil Implementation. This annex installs a civilian
hierarchy which has no authority over IFOR (emphasis added).
Annex 11: International Police Task Force. This provision allows
for the training and advising of local law enforcement personnel.
(This conforms to the U.S. view of posse comitatus and our
prohibition against allowing the military to perform
law-enforcement activities). The organization charged with making
sure the signatories keep their promises is called the
The IFOR is headquartered in Sarajevo and has three zones. The
French command the Eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina from Mostar. The
United Kingdom has about 14,000 troops; its headquarters is in
Gornji Vakuf. They cover western Bosnia-Herzegovina. The United
States of America has a division-sized Task Force and some support
elements; its area of responsibility covers north-northeast
Bosnia-Herzegovina. Tuzla is the American sector headquarters in
Bosnia. U.S. total troop strength is approximately 20,000. Several
other countries have sent troops. A partial list of participating
countries would include: Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark,
France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, The Netherlands,
Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, and Spain. As of this writing (late
July 1996), IFOR has been fairly successful.
The free elections are scheduled to take place on 14 September
1996. That has IFOR worried about possibly having to play
policeman. No matter how fair and impartial a country tries to be
when playing this role, some entity is always dissatisfied with the
outcome. Peacekeeping operations and even peace-enforcing
operations require the peacekeepers or peace enforcers to appear
impartial. If they are not, then those sent to keep the peace may
find themselves in the line of fire.
Try the Internet
If you want to find more information on Bosnia, use the Internet
(we did in writing this article). An especially helpful site is
CNN.COM/ world/bosnia/key/ groups.html. From there you can connect
with several other related sites. BosNews has some interesting and
up-to-date information. Other sites include www.
Captain Cavazos is currently Commander, Alpha Company,
1-19 Infantry, Fort Benning, Georgia. His past assignments include
Long-Range Platoon Leader, 165th MI Battalion; Bradley Platoon
Leader, 3d Infantry Division (ID); and United Nations Command
Security Force Joint Security Area, Panmunjom, Korea. Captain
Cavazos has a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Military
Academy and a master of science degree in International Relations
from Troy State University. Readers can reach the authors through
(706) 544-9163/9565, DSN 784-9163/9565, and via E-mail at
Second Lieutenant Powell just left a position as the
Executive Officer, Alpha Company, 1-19 Infantry, and is on orders
for the 3d ID. He has a bachelor of arts degree from the Sloan
School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.