The Misunderstood Lessons of Bosnia for Syria

Andrew Radin
Content Type
Journal Article
The Washington Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
Winter 2015
Center for Strategic and International Studies
In developing U.S. intervention policy in Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, and most recently Syria, the 1992 to 1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has repeatedly been used as an analogy. For example, John Shattuck, a member of the negotiating team at the Dayton peace talks that ended the war, wrote in September 2013 that for Syria “the best analogy is Bosnia…Dayton was a major achievement of diplomacy backed by force…A negotiated solution to the Syria crisis is possible, but only if diplomacy is backed by force.” Many other analysts and policymakers with experience in the Bosnian conflict—such as Nicholas Burns, the State Department spokesman at the time; Christopher Hill, a member of Richard Holbrooke's negotiating team; and Samantha Power, who began her career as a journalist in Bosnia—also invoked the Bosnian war to urge greater U.S. involvement in Syria. Although the rise of ISIS has significantly altered the conflict over the last year, echoes of the Bosnian conflict remain in Syria: the conflict is a multiparty ethnic civil war, fueled by outside powers, in a region of critical interest to the United States.
Political Geography
United States, Iraq, Libya, Kosovo, Syria