After a week of deadlines I am back to my longer-term project on how wars end. I leave for Bosnia this weekend to do some reporting on what sort of peace has followed the Dayton Accords, what Bosnia is like today, how people there understand the war and the meaning of the end of the war. In each segment of this project, I want to look at how wars end in two senses: why the shooting stopped when it did, but also what sort of an ending it was. Bosnia is seen in the U.S. as a foreign policy success story; I want to understand the combination of events and diplomacy that ended the war, and the legacy of that ending. There are some very good books about Bosnia in English, testament to the scores of journalists and political scientists and aid workers and former government officials who poured their souls into the tragedy. Here is some of my background reading.
Roger Cohen Hearts Grown Brutal
Ivo Daalder Getting to Dayton
Richard Holbrooke To End a War
Lynne Jones Then They Started Shooting
Noel Malcolm Bosnia: A Short History
Samantha Power “A Problem from Hell”
David Rohde Endgame
John Shattuck Freedom on Fire
Laura Silber and Allan Little Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation
I haven’t read them all yet but the one that has given me the most visceral sense of what the war was like for ordinary people is Then They Started Shooting: Growing Up in Wartime Bosnia. Lynne Jones is a child pyschiatrist and the book is based on her interviews with young people who were children during the war. It has also helped me understand some of the dilemmas faced by Bosnians of different identities as they navigate the post-war landscape.
I didn’t cover the Bosnian war; while it was raging I was criss-crossing the United States with a film crew looking for compelling examples of civic activism for a PBS series on grassroots democracy. But my political scientist mother was deeply immersed in the topic. Much of what I know about Bosnia was gleaned at her dinner table. Now it’s time for me to go find out more for myself.