Homage to Bosnia

Bosnia: A Short History

by Noel Malcolm
Macmillan, 340 pp., £9.99 (paper)

Sarajevo: Survival Guide

by the FAMA Collective, Sarajevo, 1993
distributed by Workman, 95 pp., $10.00 (paper)

Why Bosnia? Writings on the Balkan War

edited by Rabia Ali, edited by Lawrence Lifschultz
Pamphleteer's Press, 353 pp., $19.95 (paper)

Sarajevo: A War Journal

by Zlatko Dizdarević, translated by Anselm Hollo, edited by Ammiel Alcalay
Fromm, 193 pp., $19.95

Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo

by Zlata Filipović
Viking, 200 pp., $16.95


Roadblocks are being bulldozed away in Sarajevo’s Sniper Alley; the first streetcars since April 1992 are running in the city’s streets. Schools may soon re-open; Western engineers will be deployed to restore water, gas, and electricity. On the hilltops, the Serb artillery redoubts are deserted; the snipers have left behind the lawn chairs where they used to sit, drinking plum brandy and drawing beads on the frantic blurs in the streets below.

In the West, we’ve become adept at taking credit for whatever good news ever emerges from Bosnia, while avoiding blame for the bad. The recent meager portents are being heralded as a triumph of “our” resolve. Yet we have been deceived by our own self-congratulation before, and we may well be again. For this may not be peace at all, merely a lull while the warlords regroup. The briefest look at the position of each side makes this clear. On the surface, the Bosnian Serbs are nearest to achieving their basic war aims. Seventy percent of Bosnia is theirs. They have succeeded in hacking out their ethnically cleansed state, linked to Serbia proper and to their enclaves in Croatia. Yet General Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander, still has his eye on the Muslim enclaves in Bihac and Maglaj. The Bihac pocket in the northeast threatens knin, Mladic’s home base, and Maglaj stands between him and his long-term aim of splitting Muslim territory in central Bosnia in two. While the Serbs have lifted the siege of Maglaj, they will not be content until they have squeezed the Muslims out of their territory.

The Bosnian Muslims may have lost northern and eastern Bosnia to the Serbs, but they have fought the Croats to a draw in the center and, in so doing, they have saved themselves from becoming the Palestinians of Europe, a fate which seemed inevitable six months ago. Having achieved this much by holding out against Western pressure to settle, they might decide to fight on, if they think they have a chance of breaking the Serb siege of some of their encircled enclaves.

The Croatians may appear, for the moment, to be the war-weariest of all. Yet a vital Croatian war aim remains unachieved. While they have gained territory in the hinterland of Herzegovina, thus strengthening their grip on the Dalmatian coast, Serb conquests in northern Bosnia have immeasurably strengthened the Serb enclaves in Croatia. These are now contiguous with Serb holdings in northern Bosnia and can be re-armed and re-supplied directly through Serbia. The enclave at Knin severs Croatia proper from the Dalmatian coast, while the enclave round Nova Gradiska cuts Croatia proper in two. As long as these two enclaves exist, Croatia is scarcely viable as a state and unless the outside world can impose on the Serbs their partial restitution to Croatia, the Croatian state will remain unworkable. Thus, as far as Croatia is concerned, there remains a casus belli, which if unsolved may set off another Serb-Croat war in Croatia.

At the…

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