Foreign Policy Briefing No. 34

Killing with Kindness: The UN Peacekeeping Mission in Bosnia

By John F. Hillen III
June 30, 1995

Executive Summary

The recent onset of clashes between UN and Serb forces in Bosnia is the latest evidence that the UN-led intervention in the former Yugoslavia is fundamentally flawed. That operation prolongs the fighting and suffering instead of contributing to a secure environment in which the local parties might negotiate a lasting peace settlement. The UN intervention has imposed an artificial life-support system on a Balkan society bent on continuing to fight. The “middle way” between traditional passive peacekeeping and large-scale coercive intervention has left all the local parties with greater incentives to continue the conflict than to negotiate a settlement.

That situation exposes the many weaknesses of international humanitarian intervention in violent intrastate struggles. Rather than prolong a policy that seems destined to fail, the United States should advocate the termination of the UN operation and urge the European countries, which have the most at stake, to take measures to contain the Yugoslavian conflict.

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John F. Hillen III, a former U.S. Army officer, is a research scholar and doctoral candidate at Oxford University. He is writing a book on the strategy of UN military operations.