John R. Schindler: Forgotten Failure in Bosnia





John R. Schindler is professor of national-security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and a former intelligence analyst and counterintelligence officer with the National Security Agency. He has written widely on Balkan affairs and blogs at The XX Committee.

Twenty years ago this August, there was no hotter story in the emerging global media than Bosnia and its terrible civil war, which was unfolding gorily in near real time. CNN in particular made great copy on the conflict, and worldwide its emerging star Christiane Amanpour became an icon with her "live from Sarajevo" pitch.

Just how accurate much of the reportage out of bloody Bosnia was that fateful summer remains an open question. The war’s position as the first extended conflict to take place in the context of 24/7 global TV coverage before the rise of Internet fact-checking seems historically important. Yet there can be no doubt that "advocacy journalism" did a magnificent job at forcing Western governments to pay attention and eventually intervene militarily in Bosnia.

Even the masterful politico Bill Clinton, who initially professed minimal interest in foreign affairs, least of all Balkan conflicts which few Americans understood, wound up pushed by the media and advocates to get involved in Bosnia’s fratricide. Soon, it became America’s and NATO’s problem. By the autumn of 1995, the United States was brokering a deal to end the fighting, the so-called Dayton Accords, and almost sixty thousand NATO troops soon headed to Bosnia to keep a then-fragile peace.

What a difference two decades makes...




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