Foreign Policy Briefing No. 37

Holbrooke Horror: The U.S. Peace Plan for Bosnia

Executive Summary

The terms of the emerging peace accord to end the war in Bosnia are a blueprint for disaster. Washington foolishly insists on maintaining the fiction of a united Bosnian state while accepting a de facto partition. Renewed fighting is highly probable when the Serb self-governing “entity” attempts to secede and merge with Serbia and the Muslim-dominated government tries to assert Bosnia’s sovereignty. Indeed, a clash between Muslim and Croat forces is also possible, since any Muslim-Croat cooperation has been a matter of expediency. To enforce such an inherently unworkable settlement would be to recklessly put American treasure and lives at risk.

Since Bosnia is little more than a battleground for contending ethno-religious factions, and the United States has no vital interests there, Washington should let those factions work out their own destiny, however long it takes. Only a settlement forged by the parties to the conflict—an agreement that reflects battlefield realities and the balance of political and military forces—has any chance of achieving a durable peace.

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Ted Galen Carpenter is director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.