Courtesy Reuters

Appease with Dishonor: Faulty History

General Charles G. Boyd (ret.) is Director of the International Legislators Project at the Congressional Institute. He served as the Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command, until July 1995.

General Charles G. Boyd complains that the "conventional wisdom" on the war in Bosnia is "stunted by...a tragic ignorance or disregard of history" ("Making Peace with the Guilty," September/October 1995). But his own article is far from an accurate analysis of the origins, history, or nature of the conflict. To establish his credentials, the general assures us he has visited the region on several occasions and has benefited from speaking to U.N. personnel, including soldiers serving with U.N. deployments in Croatia and Macedonia. This is akin to someone telling us that he understood the political conflict in Nicaragua because he had spoken to American soldiers in Haiti.

Boyd's claim that "the Serbs are not trying to conquer new territory, but merely to hold on to what was already theirs" is doubly false--first concerning the facts about land ownership and second as an account of what happened when those territories were seized by military means. The correct figures for the private ownership of farmland in Bosnia, drawn from the last set of land registers before the war, are as follows: 44.8 percent was owned by Muslims, 42.6 percent by Serbs, and 12.6 percent by Croats. Moreover, more than 50 percent of Bosnia's surface area--mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and much urban and industrial land--was not owned by individuals at all but belonged instead to the state authorities. The claim that roughly 60 percent of Bosnia was owned by Serbs has been repeated so often by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić and his spokesmen, and has been so welcome to U.N. officials eager to even the balance of conflicting claims, that it has become part of the United Nations' own conventional wisdom. But that does not make it true.

When in April 1992 artillery began bombarding Muslim-majority cities such as Zvornik in eastern Bosnia, the

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