CNN Mission: Peace

Understanding the complexities of the intervention into Bosnia

From Military Analyst Maj. Gen. Perry M. Smith (USAF Ret.)

December 15, 1995
Web posted at 3:40 p.m. EST (2040 GMT)

(CNN) --The movement of large number of United States military forces is of enormous potential strategic importance. If the operation goes well and peace is truly established in Bosnia, the operation may help define and institutionalize a new grand strategy for the United States. The strategy of containment of the Soviet Union served the United States reasonably well from the late 1940s until 1991 (when the Soviet Union collapsed). But this strategy of containment is no longer relevant and a new grand strategy is beginning to emerge. Hence, understanding this Bosnian operation, and its underlying strategy, is particularly important for anyone interested in the future role of the United States in world affairs, especially when the use of military forces are involved.

For those who might wish to pursue in depth the issues of the Bosnian intervention, let me suggest some useful sources. I have gained great insights from two books. Balkan Ghosts by Robert Kaplan and Bosnia: a Short History by Noel Malcolm. I would also recommend two articles from Foreign Affairs magazine. "Origins of a Catastrophe" by the former ambassador to Yugoslavia Warren Zimmerman (March/ April 1995 issue) and "Making Peace with the Guilty" by Gen. Chuck Boyd (September/October 1995 issue).

Other additional resources that have helped me immensely are the short studies published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College. The two I would specifically recommend are Deciphering the Balkan Enigma by William T. Johnsen and Yugoslavia's Wars: The Problem from Hell edited by Stephen Blank.

Next Wednesday, December 20, Gen. Covault, CNN's other military analyst, and I will meet with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Shalikasvilli, and his top staff officers (his planner, his operations director, his intelligence officer and his logistician). Late next week, I will summarize the main insights from our session.

Gen. Smith is the author of Taking Charge (a handbook on leadership) and Assignment Pentagon (a guide to the military services and the Pentagon).

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