The Threat Of A Bosnian Breakup Should Be A Wakeup Call For The West

Warning lights have started flashing in the Balkans in recent weeks as the threat of a Bosnia-Herzegovina breakup becomes more pronounced. When the Dayton Accords were signed in 1995, it brought an end to the 1992-95 Bosnian War, one of the Yugoslav Wars. Bosnia was divided largely along ethnic lines with a government that was defined by its weak centralized role. The Serb-run Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-majority Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the two main political power blocs. Bosnian Croats have been pushing for their own political entity, but creating that would splinter the country even more and perhaps fatally weaken the already unsteady government.

The Dayton Accords created the Office of High Representative, a post intended to oversee implementation of the accords in Bosnia. Christian Schmidt of Germany will be taking over the position this summer. His primary mission is to continue Bosnia-Herzegovina’s journey towards becoming a fully functioning nation-state. This will not be an easy task to accomplish. Schmidt will come to the Balkans at a time when the ethnic and territorial problems of the past are simmering once again, fueled by factors such as Russian interference in Bosnia and the publication of an authorless Balkan non-paper. The controversial document appears to champion a permanent breakup of Bosnia and realignment of the region around three new entities should efforts to integrate Bosnia into the European Union fail. The new entities would include the following: a Greater Albania, Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia.

The problem with Bosnia-Herzegovina right now stems directly from the Dayton Accords in 1995. The peace agreement did not provide permanent solutions to the root problems that sent Bosnia into a tailspin in the early ‘90s. Instead, it froze these problems and cast them aside with the intent that Bosnia would become a nation-state in its own right at some point in the foreseeable future. Then the root problems could be dealt with once and for all. Unfortunately, the hopes and timelines that came to life at Wright-Patterson AFB in December of 1995 have not been met.

Now the problems that have been frozen for just over twenty-five years are beginning to thaw, and this fact is beginning to cause real concern in European capitals.

The July Crisis: Moving Towards The Abyss

Alliances

 

It is widely accepted that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the catalyst for the First World War. While this is unquestionably correct, the origins of the war are more difficult to trace. To the surprise of nearly everyone in Europe with the exception of a handful of generals and statesmen, an amalgamation of miscalculations, ineffectual diplomats, military doctrines, treaties and alliances came together and produced a war that, in many ways, shaped the twentieth century. Analyzing the events of July, 1914 in contemporary times, historians, and political scientists have an overabundance of factual material to base their conclusions on, as well as the benefit of hindsight. The thought processes of the diplomats, generals and monarchs, as well as the fateful decisions they made have been examined and scrutinized to no end. A general consensus is that the events in Sarajevo during June, 1914 did not have to lead to a major war. Looking back now, that is a simple deduction to make. In July, 1914, though, it would have been impossible.

Now, with the 100th anniversary of the July Crisis upon us, it is important to remind ourselves of how consequential a miscalculation or false impression can be in a time of heightened tensions. July 1914 is a classic example of Brinkmanship oscillating dangerously out of control. More than one party aided in pushing events to the edge of disaster for the purpose of obtaining the most advantageous outcome for their respective side. When the desired outcome did not come to fruition, they continued to push closer to the edge. By the time it was realized that there was no more room left to maneuver, it was too late to pull back.

The crisis that led to World War I did not strike as a bolt out of the blue. In 1914, Europe was a pressure cooker with a faulty release valve. Decades of tension, numerous crises, inferiority complexes and a host of other variables helped bring about a situation where war appeared to be the only logical choice remaining. It was not a question of if war was coming, but when. Think of Europe as a game board in the early summer of 1914. The pieces were in place. All that was required was for the game to begin. It did on June 28th in Sarajevo, yet none of the players were fully aware of it for another week. In some cases longer.

I know there is a lot happening in the world right now. Iraq, Ukraine, the South China Sea, and a half dozen other potential hot spots waiting to flare up at a moment’s notice. The world is a very dangerous place. In light of that, and with my genuine passion for the lead-up to World War I, I want to use Today’s DIRT to write about the July Crisis for a couple of weeks. I will present in the same informal manner that I have since this blog’s inception. I’ve tried, with success, to keep it informal and non-academic for nearly two years now. With a little luck, I can continue that. J

I hope you all enjoy the 4th of July, and if you’re down along the North Carolina coast, please stay safe.