Selected Longer Reviews
Fighting For Peace: Bosnia 1994
By Rose, General Sir Michael
Price: 18.00 Pound Sterling
Shelf mark: 949.7024 [testimonies]
If General Rose was not a bitter and angry man before he went to Bosnia, he certainly was by the time he left. Members of the press corps there recall him (as Roger Cohen of the New York Times puts it) "barking scattershot responses to questions, pouring scorn on what he viewed as America’s guilt-ridden attachment to Bosnia’s Muslims, muttering about Muslim plots...". Even Rose himself now refers to the "venomous" way he treated anyone whom he regarded as obstructing his "peace process". Particularly high on his hit-list were those critics in the media (including myself) who argued that his policies were, in effect, prejudicial to the Bosnian Government and (whether he intended it or not) beneficial to the Pale Serb leadership.
And now General Rose has produced a book which performs two useful services. For the General himself the benefit must be therapeutic: this volume of memoirs enables him to get a great deal of anger and bitterness off his chest. For the rest of us, the service it performs is a documentary one: it provides a wealth of evidence to show just how right General Rose’s critics were. At the same time, it also supplies useful evidence of some other relevant things: his ignorance of the history and politics of Bosnia, his uncertain military judgement, and his strange confusion over the real nature of his mandate.
One of the main themes of this book is the sheer unremitting awfulness - in Rose’s eyes - of the Bosnian Government leaders, both civilian and military. Vice-President Ejup Ganic is described as "ruthless, without once demonstrating to me ... a shred of human decency", and there are sneering references to his "high nasal voice" and his "soft white hands". Bosnian Army General Atif Dudakovic is characterized as "short, fat, arrogant and brutal". As for President Alija Izetbegovic, Rose simply announces, without offering any evidence whatsoever, that "his talk of creating a multi-religious, multi-cultural State in Bosnia was a disguise for the extension of his own political power and the furtherance of Islam."
Rose habitually refers to the Bosnian Government as "the Muslims" (when he introduces General Divjak, he describes him as "an elderly Serb who ... was fighting on the side of the Bosnian Muslims"), and loses no opportunity to emphasize what a cultural gulf divides these people from the Western world to which Sandhurst-trained, Paris-educated generals - and, it seems, Serb peasants - belong. When a special performance of Mozart’s Requiem was held in the ruins of the National Library (a library, incidentally, that had contained hundreds of thousands of the products of Western culture, before it was targeted with incendiary shells by the Serb commanders), Rose notes that "across the river, in their trenches, the Serb soldiers kept their guns silent and listened to the music." After the concert, when Izetbegovic goes to the trouble of thanking Rose for making the occasion possible, Rose cannot resist just one more sneer: "I wondered if he understood the Christian sentiment behind the words and the music". Evidently Rose has never bothered to read Izetbegovic’s treatise Islam Between East and West, which contains not only praise of Mozart, but also knowledgeable and sympathetic discussions of Christian ethics and Western art. For Rose, however, as he puts it in his opening pages, "Bosnia’s cultural inheritance is Near Eastern rather than Western European".
At some points, readers may begin to wonder whether Bosnia is part of Europe at all - as, for example, when Rose explains that the city of Travnik "lies astride a traditional trading route between Asia and Europe". General Rose apparently did not think that the Bosnians belonged in Europe, even if they happened to be there in some geographical sense. Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic once complained to Rose about his description of the Bosnians as "savages", and insisted that they were all, like Rose, Europeans. "I refrained", General Rose now writes, "from replying that, in my view, after the way they had slaughtered each other it would take them at least 500 years to achieve that status." This comment displays not only the usual obfuscation about who had actually killed whom and why ("they" had just slaughtered "each other"), but also an extraordinary lack of historical consciousness. Had General Rose been stationed in 1945 in Berlin, or Auschwitz, or Dresden, the logic of this argument would surely have compelled him to say the same, or worse, about the Germans and the British. In which case, all of us (including British Army generals) can look forward to achieving European "status" in a mere 446 years’ time.
Do General Rose’s views on the awfulness of the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) extend equally to the Bosnian Serbs? Almost, but not quite. He gives some vivid descriptions of the bluster and outright mendacity of Radovan Karadzic, and describes General Ratko Mladic as a "fat, swaggering and coarse-featured" man who thought nothing of targeting civilians and used "trickery and intimidation" to win arguments. And yet, almost in the same breath that he calls Mladic "brutal and manipulative", Rose insists that he "generally kept his word if he agreed to something" -- contrasting him immediately with his Bosnian Government counterpart, General Rasim Delic, who "rarely did". This statement about Mladic, who will go down in history as the man who promised safety to the people of Srebrenica, would be extraordinary enough, even without the fact that in the course of this book Rose himself gives four examples (on pp. 39, 71, 101-7 and 160) of important agreements which Mladic broke.
Discussing one of these incidents, involving a broken promise not to shell Gorazde, Rose writes: "Mladic was either quite mad, a liar, or completely out of touch with his army. I ruled out the latter possibility". Whether he ruled out the first, however, is much less clear. There are moments in this book when Rose seems to imply that the Serb leaders were not fully responsible for their actions. "Since the end of the Geneva talks", Rose comments, "they had lapsed into a state of lunacy and self-destruction, blocking convoys and cutting off communications with the world." (Did it not occur to Rose that the blocking of convoys was not a mad act of self-destruction, but a calculated attempt to destroy a different set of people - the people whom the convoys were meant to reach?) When he introduces the Serb leadership he explains that "they lived in a world so far removed from reality and so full of hatred for the Muslims, that their own propaganda was contributing to their state of paranoia" - again, a depiction of people suffering from a psychiatric condition, not fully in control of themselves.
On the other hand Mladic is credited with being "deeply religious" (apparently because he "once told me that he prayed every day for the lives of his men"), and on two separate occasions we are informed that he wept - in the presence, conveniently, of important UN officials - over the deaths of Serb soldiers or civilians. The overall effect is to imply that the Serb leaders were not always responsible for their actions because they were slightly crazy, and that what had rendered them crazy was the strength of their genuine and deeply-held beliefs and feelings. This contrasts with the overall depiction of "the Muslims", for whom no such potential exculpation can be constructed from the arguments of this book: they are consistently described as calculating, cunning and devious. Rose’s comments on that Mozart performance are, indeed, an example of this contrast in miniature: in Rose’s view, the Serb soldiers were obviously moved by the music, while Izetbegovic’s expression of gratitude was somehow hollow and suspect. He does not consider the possibility that, while Izetbegovic may have genuinely enjoyed the performance, the Serb gunners and snipers may have been under orders to stay their fire, for fear of the bad publicity that might have accrued from disrupting the concert, maiming Zubin Mehta or killing Jose Carreras.
The deviousness of "the Muslims" is in fact the most constant Leitmotiv of this book. If any readers were to rely on this memoir as their sole source of information, they would come away with the impression that the Bosnian war consisted mainly of tricks, provocations and aggressions by "the Muslims"; that the Serb forces replied to these in self-defence; and that Western policy-makers (and Western journalists, who were in thrall to Bosnian Government "propaganda") then unfairly blamed the Serbs for doing so.
One very prominent example of this occurs on Rose’s first day in Sarajevo. As he was driven from the airport to the city centre, some nearby Bosnian Army mortars opened fire on Serb artillery positions; the UN civil affairs adviser told him that this was a common tactic, aimed at provoking an artillery bombardment in order to strike terror and sympathy into the hearts of visiting dignitaries. Rose’s writing immediately glows red-hot with furious indignation. "Here, humanity and decency had been banished to another world in which the ends always justified the means. Obviously my first task would be to tell President Izetbegovic that this grim strategy of inflicting such horrors on his own people would never succeed..." (That first sentence has gone slightly wrong: he means that humanity and decency had been banished from a world in which, etc. - but never mind.)
The tactic was indeed a callous one, and few observers of the war in Sarajevo would deny that it was employed from time to time. But Rose’s presentation of the issue remains hugely one-sided. Of the several hundred thousand artillery shells that the Serb gunners fired at Sarajevo during those three and a half years, what proportion were sent in response to such calculated provocations? One percent? Half a percent? No one knows the precise figure, but it was certainly very small. And yet in Rose’s account, this type of incident receives almost one hundred percent of the emphasis. The fact that the city just happened to be ringed with heavy artillery in the first place is more or less taken for granted.
The most dramatic example of Rose’s fixation with trickery and deviousness on the Bosnian Government side concerns the marketplace massacre of 5 February 1994. As with every other shelling that succeeded in killing a large number of people in one go, this mortar attack was immediately blamed by Serb propagandists on the Bosnian Government side. (The usual argument, which had been current since the bread-queue massacre of 27 May 1992, was that the Bosnian Army had detonated a land-mine at the site; only in this way could they have guaranteed an explosion at the precise point where so many people stood. Such allegations continue to be repeated to this day, even though the characteristic "splash-mark" of a mortar shell landing at an angle remains clearly visible in each of these cases.)
When Rose introduces this topic, he says that the first examination of the site by "French military engineers" suggested that, because the market was almost surrounded by high buildings, "the bomb might not have been fired from a mortar at all, but detonated in situ". This strange claim conflicts with the most detailed previously published account of the investigation (David Binder, "Anatomy of a Massacre", Foreign Policy, no. 97, Winter 1994-5, pp. 70-8), which notes that the two French soldiers who did the first analysis of the crater were in no doubt that a mortar shell had landed there - they even found its tail-fin. Two other initial analyses were made on the day of the massacre; all three agreed that a mortar had been fired, but each gave a different estimate of the direction and/or the distance. Only one of the three, made by a French captain, argued that the shell must have been fired from an area under Bosnian Army control; this report was, however, immediately given credence by many people, including General Rose. Later a team of artillery experts re-examined the evidence, and discovered that the French captain had made an elementary mathematical error. The final verdict of this team was that the mortar had been fired from the north-north-east, from a distance of between 300 and 5,551 metres. This meant that it could have come from either Bosnian Army or Serb positions: the scientific evidence was simply inconclusive.
How does Rose present these facts? When he first discusses the incident, he mentions that a team of experts eventually contradicted the claim that a bomb had been let off "in situ", concluding that a mortar had been fired from the north-east. But he makes no comment on the question of the distance, leaving the reader completely unsure about whether the experts had reached any conclusion or not on the identity of the firers. Then, four pages later, he drops a little bombshell of his own. Describing how he put pressure on two Bosnian Army generals, Divjak and Hajrulahovic, to agree to a ceasefire which he was negotiating with the Serbs, Rose says that he threatened to reveal that "the first UN examination of the bomb crater" had shown that "the bomb had been fired from the Bosnian side ... or perhaps detonated in situ". (He also said it was hard to be precise "because the Bosnian Army had removed some of the important forensic evidence before the UN arrived": this is contradicted by Binder’s account, which, based on interviews with the relevant UNPROFOR personnel, states that UN soldiers were on watch at the marketplace within five minutes of the mortar attack, that they themselves removed the tail-fin, and that there was no tampering with the crater site.)
There followed, Rose says, "a long silence in which I saw Hajrulahovic and Divjak exchange glances". Finally Divjak agreed to take part in the ceasefire discussions; having given in to Rose’s demands, Divjak now looked "strangely relieved". The innuendo is unmistakable: Rose wants his readers to believe that these "glances" and relieved looks were tell-tale signs of guilt. The alternative explanation, that the two generals were bewildered by having such an extraordinary accusation thrown at them, and alarmed by the thought of the damage it could do if it were made public, is not even considered. And the reader is left completely unaware that the key difference between this "first UN examination" and the final report lies not in the question of whether the shell was detonated in situ, but in the claim that it had definitely come from a Bosnian Army position - a claim which, in Rose’s presentation, remains uncontradicted.
This incident is also important because it illustrates another of Rose’s fixations: his belief that the Bosnian Government and Bosnian Army were the real war-mongers, while the Serb leaders were more genuinely interested in peace. Again and again, Rose tried to persuade the Bosnian Government to agree to local ceasefires, or general ceasefires, or demilitarizations of entire areas. His own sincerity need not be doubted: he sincerely believed that in this way he would fulfil his most essential task, which was to bring peace to Bosnia.
But what has to be doubted is Rose’s willingness to make any attempt to look at the situation through the Bosnian Government’s eyes. For Izetbegovic and his colleagues, at that stage of the war, a general ceasefire would have meant a freezing of front lines at their most disadvantageous extent; any negotiations for a final settlement would then have taken place against the background of a de facto Serb military victory. Churchill, one presumes, would have been equally reluctant to agree to a general ceasefire in 1940.
From time to time Rose repeats the Owen-ish mantra that the peace schemes on offer from international mediators in 1994 were not very different, in territorial percentage terms, from what was eventually agreed at Dayton; this argument is then used to blame the Bosnian Government for inflicting more than a year of "unnecessary" suffering on its people. The key difference, however, lies not in the percentages of the map, but in the political conditions of the deal and in the psychology of the situation in which the deal would have been struck. Any settlement that followed from a de facto recognition of a Serb military victory would have been negotiated by Karadzic in triumphalist mood; whatever its terms, it would then have been treated by him as merely a step on the way to complete partition. That Dayton ruled out partition (in theory), or at least put a heavy brake on the move towards it (in practice), is something that was possible only because it was a deal hammered out against a background of impending Serb defeat. Dayton does in fact furnish the justification, not the condemnation, of that attitude of Bosnian Government intransigence which so infuriated General Rose in 1994.
Although Rose seems unable to look at the situation through Bosnian Government eyes, he does display quite a good understanding of the viewpoint of the Serbs. Discussing the Sarajevo ceasefire deal with American special envoy Charles Redman, he "explained that the Serbs had shown themselves to be more than happy to stop the fighting while they were ahead". Later, when he was trying to arrange a demilitarization agreement for that city, he noted that Mladic was "interested" in the idea because "this would release thousands of troops from the trenches around the city for deployment elsewhere." And yet he continues to present the Bosnian Government’s resistance to such plans as evidence of its irresponsible war-mongering attitude.
In his failure to consider the wider context of such decision-making, Rose offers a classic example of what might be called "football referee syndrome". This is an attitude adopted by self-styled peace-keepers that involves treating a war rather as if it were a football match. All talk about good or bad behaviour, about "aggressors" or "victims", relates only to the conduct of the players as combatants, once the match has begun; and almost the worst offence a player can commit is to carry on with the game after the referee has blown his whistle. Of course, for a referee, that a football match is taking place is just a donnée, a given fact, and there is no point in his enquiring into the reasons why those two teams came to play against each other in the first place. But a war is not like that. The question of why it was started (and by whom, and how) is not some separate, irrelevant issue; it is basic to the whole nature of the conflict, and central to any understanding of the meaning of any particular "peace settlement".
Even if football-referee mode were the only way in which the Bosnian war could be judged, a proper judgement along those lines would still differ overwhelmingly from Rose’s: the evils committed by Serb military and paramilitary forces, above all in their campaigns of mass ethnic cleansing during the first four months of the war, vastly outweighed those for which the Bosnian Army was to blame. But many of those evils happened in far-off places such as Kozarac, Prijedor, Višegrad, Fo_a and Srebrenica, before or after General Rose’s tour of duty; whereas the minor tricks or obstructions of Bosnian Government officials happened right under his nose in Sarajevo.
Another reason for Rose’s failure to consider the wider context of the fighting can be more simply stated: he was (and has remained) extremely ignorant about such matters. His brief summary of the historical and political background, presented in the opening pages of this book, is a mass of errors, and the rest of the book is a riot of mis-spelt names, of both people and places. He says that Bosnia was never an independent state; in fact, under King Tvrtko it was the most powerful independent state in the Balkans. He says that Slovenia and Croatia were part of the medieval Serbian empire; they were not. He says that Bosnia was ruled by the Turks for 500 years; the correct figure is 415. He says that more than 500,000 Serbs were killed by the Germans and the Ustashe during the second world war; the figure he uses is in fact a total Serb death-toll, including typhoid victims, Axis collaborators, Serbs killed by Chetniks, Serbs killed by Partisans, and several other categories.
Rose’s grasp of the facts is equally shaky when he turns to the immediate background to the war. He gets the results of the 1991 census wrong: the figure for Croats was not 20 percent but 17. He thinks that Izetbegovic became President after an election in 1992; the election was in 1990. He says that the EU recognized Croatia and Slovenia in 1991; the recognition came in 1992. Ludicrously, Rose states that Karadzic "had once been in prison with Izetbegovic, but had split from him after he had been freed"; in fact the two men had been imprisoned at different times, and for completely different reasons - Izetbegovic for his beliefs, and Karadzic for criminal fraud. Rose declares that the Vance-Owen peace plan was "destroyed by the unenforceable demands being made by the Bosnian Government"; in fact Izetbegovic signed the plan, and it was Karadzic’s Serbs who rejected it in a referendum. Most bizarrely, Rose says that "it must be remembered that in 1996, as a result of the Dayton Agreement, 250,000 Serbs left the Krajina part of Croatia and western Bosnia"; the mass-exodus from the Krajina took place, as everyone knows, in the summer of 1995. It is as if General Rose, having failed to do any serious historical reading before he went out to Bosnia (the only works he specifically commends are those by Misha Glenny and Karadzic’s key adviser, "John" Zametica), could not be bothered even to read the newspapers after his tour of duty had ended.
Alert readers will have noticed that many of the errors listed above have the effect of downgrading "the Muslims" and strengthening Serb claims. Thus the suggestion that Izetbegovic was thick as thieves with Karadzic lowers the former to the latter’s level, while most of the historical howlers in Rose’s account have the effect of boosting Serb historic claims (about victimhood, or territorial rights) and undermining Bosnian statehood.
Similarly, when he comes to explain the actual outbreak of the war, Rose defends what is in fact - whether he realizes it or not - the central Serb propaganda claim, which is that the whole Bosnian conflict was essentially just a "civil war". The way in which Rose presents this case involves a thoroughly confusing use of the word "Serbs". First he describes the outbreak of the war, with "the Bosnian Serbs" firing on unarmed crowds in Sarajevo on 6 April 1992. (This in itself is misleading: it was not the Bosnian Serbs in general that did the firing, but a particular group of extremists organized by Karadzic and supported by Miloševic.) Then, in the next sentence, he says that "the Serbs" were determined "to fight to the death to prevent Bosnia establishing itself as a Muslim State"; he goes on to say that "the Serbs" had therefore withdrawn the JNA into Bosnia. Many casual readers may think that "the Bosnian Serbs" and "the Serbs" refer here to the same people; but of course it was not Bosnian Serbs, but Serbia - i.e. the government of Slobodan Miloševic - that had moved the JNA into Bosnia and continued to direct its actions there after Bosnia had become an independent country.
Rose has already told his readers (two pages earlier) that "the situation in Bosnia was not simply that of one nation invading another. It was a civil war about territory in which the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Serbs sought to secede from the State..."; thereafter, the concept of invasion receives no further mention, and the term "civil war" is used over and over again. And in his entire account of the origins and outbreak of the war, Rose refers only once, in passing, to Miloševic.
If such an account had come from the Ministry of Information in Belgrade, one would regard it as a masterfully sanitized version of events. In Rose’s case, one has to accept it as just an honest expression of his own extremely limited understanding. At the same time, however, it is possible to sense a kind of ideological pressure at work on his thinking - the ideology being not a deliberately pro-Serbian one, but rather the fixed pattern of thought of the professional "peace-keeper". Standard peace-keeping doctrine depends on maintaining a doctrine of absolute equivalence between the "sides" or "factions"; this is what is drummed into officers at staff colleges when they go on "peace-keeping" courses. For anyone who went to Bosnia with such assumptions in his head, dismissing the war there as just (to quote Rose) "a three-sided civil war over territory" was by far the most convenient line to take, ensuring maximum equivalence all round.
Unfortunately this doctrine of equivalence corresponded neither to the facts, nor even to the terms of General Rose’s mandate. The UN Security Council resolutions which made up his mandate referred repeatedly to the status of Bosnia as a sovereign state, and to the need to respect its integrity - something which the legitimate government of Bosnia was quite properly seeking to defend. The first key task assigned to UNPROFOR by those resolutions was to help ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid; if one "faction" was mainly responsible for blocking such deliveries, then the actions of the UN troops would necessarily be directed mainly against that side. Other key elements of the mandate concerned the so-called "safe areas": here the UN forces were mandated by Resolution 836 (1993) not only to "deter attacks", but also to "promote the withdrawal" from those areas of "military or paramilitary units other than those of the Government of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina". In other words, the forces of the legitimate government of this sovereign state were quite clearly permitted to stay in the "safe areas", which of course remained parts of Bosnia’s sovereign territory.
Readers who depend only on Rose’s book will, however, acquire a rather hazy and inadequate idea of what the mandate was. He constantly refers to UNPROFOR as a "peace-keeping" force; at one point he sternly announces that "our mandate was to keep the peace", although he readily admits elsewhere that there was no peace to keep. Those staff-college courses make a basic distinction between peace-keeping, which depends on the consent of all parties on the ground and derives its mandate from Chapter VI of the UN Charter, and peace-enforcement, which is based on Chapter VII and permits the use of force where consent has not been given. At one point Rose does comment, quite correctly, that the UNPROFOR mandate was largely based on Chapter VII; but because it was not a mandate to end the whole war by force, he persists in trying to squeeze it into the category marked "peace-keeping" - a category to which it patently does not belong. The best description would be to say that it was a mandate to use force, if necessary, to carry out a number of specific tasks, most of them humanitarian-related, within a war-situation.
How did General Rose conceive of his mandate? This is what he wrote in the Royal United Services Institute Journal in June 1995, after his tour of duty had ended: "Once a military force has deployed in a humanitarian aid role it is precluded by its rules of engagement from acting as an occupying power, which can dictate its own political and military agenda to the parties in the conflict... It is ... only able to operate with the consent of those elements who control the territory ... A peace-keeping force designed to assist the delivery of humanitarian aid simply cannot be used to alter the military balance of force in a civil war, modify the political goals of one party or another, or even attempt to enforce the passage of a convoy - for these are pure acts of war".
One leading expert on this area of international law, Marc Weller, discussing this statement in his authoritative study of the UNPROFOR mandate ("Peace-Keeping and Peace-Enforcement in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina", Zeitschrift für auslandisches offentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, vol. 56 (1996), nos. 1-2, pp. 70-177), has described Rose’s opinion as "absolutely extraordinary": after all, enforcing the passage of convoys, and taking other necessary measures to ensure humanitarian access, were precisely what UNPROFOR was mandated to do. Yet this was the doctrine for which Rose became famous: invoking America’s unhappy experience in Somalia, he argued that there was a "Mogadishu line" which must never be crossed, a line between peace-keeping and war-making.
Where exactly should that line be drawn? Those who want a clear answer to this question will certainly not get it from Rose’s book. Describing his attempt, during his first weeks in Bosnia, to introduce a more "robust" policy, he proudly relates his order that "any illegal roadblocks or other obstacles to the movement of a convoy were, after due warning, to be forcibly dealt with" - after which, to Rose’s satisfaction, "a young French lieutenant smashed down a roadblock outside Pale with his armoured cars". Did that lieutenant cross the Mogadishu line? Apparently not. A couple of months later, Rose even states that he "dispatched NATO aircraft to the enclave of Maglaj at the request of [General Rasim] Delic to support the Bosnian Army". Was such an action designed "to alter the balance of force in a civil war"? Of course not - for that would have been a pure act of war.
As for "acting as an occupying power", or trying to "dictate" a "political and military agenda to the parties in the conflict", readers may find such phrases not altogether inapposite when they consider Rose’s account of how he treated the "elderly" General Divjak (then the second-in-command of the Bosnian Army), when trying to get him to take part in a negotiation which Rose had arranged in February 1994. "I ran past the startled sentries and burst into Divjak’s office ... Seizing hold of Divjak’s arm, I asked him what the hell he was playing at ... He resisted, saying that a senior officer of the Bosnian Army should not be treated like this. Putting my face close to his, I shouted at him that I represented the Secretary-General of the UN and I would not be lied to or given the run-around by the Bosnian Government ... Not even allowing him to get his coat, I bundled him into the Range Rover behind a grinning Goose [Rose’s bodyguard] ... Goose was clearly enjoying this unexpected shift from Chapter VI to Chapter VII of the UN Charter - from the peaceful settlement of disputes to enforcement".
One has to assume that the last remark, about the UN Charter, is facetious, given that the Chapter VII elements of his mandate had absolutely nothing to do with manhandling Bosnian Army generals; this is, on the other hand, one of the very few places in the book where Rose specifically invokes such powers.
The strangest aspect of Rose’s presentation of his mandate concerns his treatment of the safe areas, and of the enforcement of "demilitarization" agreements. It is a simple fact that the safe areas, as defined by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, were not intended or required to be "demilitarized" by all sides: Resolution 836, as quoted above, clearly permitted Bosnian Army units to remain in them. Once again, however, any readers who depend only on Rose’s book will get a very different impression. At one point he quotes Radovan Karadzic as saying that the Serb offensive against Gorazde "had been caused by the Muslims attacking out of the enclave in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution, which demanded the demilitarization of all safe areas". Instead of immediately explaining that no such UN resolution existed, Rose blithely goes on to say: "Karadzic always quoted UN resolutions when it suited him".
As we already know, General Rose was very keen on demilitarizing. Once, after a heavy- weapons exclusion zone had been created (thanks to a NATO ultimatum) in and around Sarajevo, he was so angered to hear that a solitary Bosnian Army tank had been spotted inside the zone that he threatened to call down a NATO air strike on it. On another occasion, he wanted to make the same threat when he learned that Bosnian Army infantrymen were violating an earlier agreement (between the Bosnian Government and Mladic’s army) to vacate a "demilitarized zone" on Mount Igman, just to the south-west of Sarajevo.
The fact that Rose thought such threats were even legally possible must raise serious doubts about his understanding of his mandate. It is true that the NATO ultimatum of 9 February 1994 had threatened air strikes against all parties; but the legal grounding of that ultimatum consisted only of the UN resolutions, which means that the threat to bomb Bosnian Army positions was a mere flight of fancy by NATO drafters, not justified in law. (To quote Marc Weller again on this point: "It is difficult to conceive of a legal argument which might be deployed in defence of this action".) General Rose, in any case, was acting as a UN official, not a NATO one; in calling for a NATO air strike against a Bosnian Army tank he would have needed a strict justification for his action within the UN mandate, and this he did not have.
At one point he says that if he had asked NATO to bomb the infantrymen on Mount Igman, it would have been not under the 1994 ultimatum but under some earlier NATO declaration - referring, presumably, to the North Atlantic Council statements of 2 and 9 August 1993. But the second of those statements had clearly said: "the air strikes foreseen by the Council decision of August 2 are limited to the support of humanitarian relief". Quite how knocking Bosnian Government soldiers off Mount Igman could be described as supporting humanitarian relief remains obscure. The most straightforward interpretation of these UN and NATO documents would suggest that Rose’s mandate simply did not permit him to call down air strikes on Bosnian Government troops in such circumstances. Had he done so it would have been, to coin a phrase, "a pure act of war". The General would then have crossed, finally and decisively, the Mogadishu line, in order to go to war against the Bosnian Army. In the event he actually did this, albeit in a less dramatic way: he sent French UNPROFOR units to Mount Igman to carry out an "assault" on the Bosnian Army positions, using armoured bulldozers to drive them off the mountain.
When Rose was trying to persuade NATO to bomb those soldiers, he telephoned a senior figure, General Corvault, at NATO’s Naples headquarters. His account of this conversation forms one of the defining moments of the book: "Corvault replied that ... NATO was not prepared to carry out air strikes against the Bosnian Army merely because they were in the demilitarization zone in violation of the NATO ultimatum. For the first time I was being officially told that NATO had taken sides in the war ... Sadly, this failure by NATO to act impartially was to prove terminal to the UN peace-keeping mission in Bosnia".
The significance of this is not confined to the fact that Rose seems to have got things completely the wrong way round, accusing NATO of "taking sides in the war" when it was in fact refusing, quite correctly, to be dragged into an act of war by him. What matters most here is the insight such comments give us into Rose’s overall attitude to NATO, to American policy, and to the way that the war was eventually ended. As the book proceeds, Rose’s expressions of irritation with various Americans (both military and civilian) for being "pro-Muslim", or hawkish, or both, grow stronger and stronger. On the political side, his comments about the actions and initiatives taken by the USA are notably grudging. The first time he refers to the Vance-Owen peace plan he immediately repeats the old canard that it was "the Americans" who "pulled the plug" on it at the end of May 1993. (As was mentioned above, the plan was massively rejected by the Pale Serbs in a referendum, held on 15-16 May; what the Americans rejected ten days later was in fact a new proposal by Owen, suggesting that the West should just go ahead and enforce the plan on the ground, with or without the Serbs’ consent.) And when Rose describes the negotiations between Bosnian Army and Croat military commanders which preceded the Washington Accord, he tries hard to divert all credit for their agreement away from the American envoy Charles Redman. ("It became clear to me that [General Rasim] Delic and [General Ante] Roso had both been briefed by their respective political masters, before the meeting arranged by Redman": apparently it has not occurred to him that those political masters were themselves acting under American diplomatic pressure.)
At the end of the book, Rose even manages to transfer much of the credit for the successes of both the Washington Accord and Dayton to UNPROFOR, in a couple of sentences from which the acronym "USA" is conspicuous by its absence: "It was also UNPROFOR that helped bring about an end to the fighting between the Muslims and Croats by implementing the Washington Accord. By doing this, the UN created the necessary preconditions for the Dayton Peace Agreement that finally brought an end to the war in Bosnia".
How, then, does Rose deal with the fact that when those irritating NATO "hawks" finally got their way, and launched a bombing campaign against Mladic’s army, the end of the war followed within a few weeks? His comments on the bombing itself are very off-hand: "the military effect of some 3,500 sorties was judged by many commentators to be negligible". (Which commentators? He does not say; certainly he cannot mean Richard Holbrooke, who remarks that one of the American cruise missiles "knocked out the main communications center for the Bosnian Serb Army in the west, with devastating consequences".) When Rose returns to this theme in his last chapter, he declares that "the NATO air campaign was no more than a useful signal to the Serbs that the peace-keeping option had been suspended and that the West was now prepared to use a greater level of enforcement than before". But that "useful signal" was useful precisely because it was not just a signal: if 3,500 sorties did not count as part of the reality of a "greater level of enforcement", one wonders what would have done.
As General Rose himself puts it in his final pages, "the peace process was suspended for a brief period and the Serbs were compelled by force of arms to accept a negotiated settlement that ended the war". Readers should pause to savour the unintentional irony of that passage, in which it is admitted that the achievement of peace was made possible, at long last, by a suspension of the "peace process". And they will find that the irony becomes even more exquisite when they place that passage alongside the one quoted above, in which Rose bitterly complained that "this failure by NATO to act impartially was to prove terminal to the UN peace-keeping mission in Bosnia".
Rose’s final chapter does at least attempt to answer the obvious question: if the war was ended successfully in 1995, why could it not have been ended, using the same methods, in 1994? His answer (on p. 239) takes the form of a list of special factors which had arisen after the political climate had "radically changed" in mid-1995 - in other words, after his departure from Bosnia. The most important of these are the following: 1. Belgrade had withdrawn its support from Pale, reducing the risk of Serbia entering the war if the West attacked the Bosnian Serbs; 2.the Bosnian Serb Army had ceased to be militarily superior to the armies of the Croat-Muslim Federation; 3.the Americans had finally accepted the fact that a "just" political settlement was not obtainable and that territorial concessions would have to be made to the Bosnian Serbs.
This is not, however, the first such numbered list to appear in Rose’s book. Readers who turn back to pp. 134-5 will find an analysis of the strategic situation in Bosnia made by Rose himself in May 1994, when he was less than half-way into his tour of duty there: "It was obvious to me that there were five strategic imperatives that would persuade the Serbs to sign up to the present proposals: 1. the Serbs could no longer rely on support from the Russians; 2. their economy was suffering because of international sanctions; 3. President Miloševic no longer supported the Bosnian Serbs in the war in Bosnia; 4. the Bosnian Serb Army was finding it difficult to recruit soldiers from an exhausted Serb population; 5. the military balance had now tilted in favour of Bosnia with the formation of the Croat-Muslim Federation and the growing strength of the Bosnian Army.
Placing these two lists side by side, we see that factor 1 in the 1995 analysis corresponds to factor 3 in the 1994 list, and that factor 2 in 1995 corresponds to factor 5 - reinforced by factor 4 - in the 1994 list. As for factor 3 in the 1995 list, the willingness of the Americans to accept a less than perfect political settlement, this corresponds to the fact that, as Rose has already explained in his narrative, the American Government was backing the Contact Group plan in the summer of 1994. (In late May of that year, Rose tells us, "I had an encouraging meeting with Redman, who for the first time admitted that the US Government might have to support a territorial division of Bosnia that was less than what the Bosnian Government wanted".) The "radical change" between May 1994 and the second half of 1995 is, to put it mildly, hard to discern.
One qualification, however, must be added here. Although Rose clearly states that he thought the military balance had tilted against the Serb forces by May 1994 - he had noted as early as the end of March that "the Bosnian Serb Army was beginning to lose its military superiority" - he did not draw the obvious corollary of this, which was that the Bosnian Government and Croat armies might actually win back territory from the Serbs. On the contrary, he argued throughout his time in Bosnia, and continues to argue in this book, that the Bosnian Army was so militarily hopeless that even lifting the arms embargo would not have improved its chances. Apparently the Bosnian Army officers were all incompetent, including even the ones who had been trained as JNA officers before the war, whereas those Serb officers who had also had careers in the JNA "had been well educated by their Soviet masters in the art of manoeuvre". This is, incidentally, yet another of Rose’s historical howlers: "Soviet masters" had had nothing to do with training the Yugoslav Army since 1948. And his general statement that "the Bosnians, on the other hand, had received no military training" is also absurd: among the ordinary soldiers in the two armies the level of previous training, acquired through the military service that was performed by all young men in the former Yugoslavia, was precisely the same.
Some might expect an experienced British Army general at least to produce some well-reasoned observations on military matters of this kind; but his comments on these topics are at best confusing, and at worst self-contradictory. Just after his announcement that the military balance had tilted against the Serbs, he says that even if the arms embargo were lifted "it would take many years before the Bosnian Army would be in a position to conduct offensive operations on a scale capable of delivering their political aims". A few pages later, on the other hand, he admits that lifting the arms embargo "might put pressure on the Serbs to agree to the Contact Group plan and map", which suggests that even if Rose did not think that a better-equipped Bosnian Army could make politically significant gains, the Serbs did. (Should we not allow their opinion at least some weight, given that they were, after all, the ones fighting the war?) And at the end of the book, when Rose discusses the "series of strategic actions" that ended the war in 1995, he does include "the Croat-Muslim Federation ground offensive in the west of Bosnia". Otherwise, throughout the book, he simply repeats that the idea of letting the Bosnians defend themselves was "militarily unwise", because the Bosnian Army "was not militarily capable of defending itself", and that if the arms embargo were lifted "Bosnia would be overrun by the Serbs" - those very same Serbs who had such difficulty recruiting soldiers, and against whom the military balance had so decisively tilted.
If readers find Rose"s military judgement a little confusing here, they will be even more disconcerted by his geo-political pronouncements. Take, for example, his comments on Russian policy. He welcomed the sudden deployment of Russian troops in the Sarajevo area in February 1994: as he now explains, "I realized that our common determination not to allow air strikes placed me in some kind of unholy alliance with the Russians against NATO". So pleased was he to see them, indeed, that he brushed aside the objections of Ejup Ganic (who complained that the Russian soldiers had openly taken the Serb side, giving the Serb nationalist three-fingered sign as they drove through Pale), and told him rather briskly that "it was not his responsibility to decide the locations of UN troops". (There is a whiff of double standards here. Elsewhere in the book, Rose calmly states that offers of new UNPROFOR contingents from Pakistan and Turkey were of limited value because "it was not possible to deploy Muslim troops on 70 per cent of Bosnia that was occupied by the Serbs"; indeed, the Serbs would not "allow" such Muslim contingents even to "transit their territory".)
At this point in his narrative, Rose has a little dig at the Oxford historian Mark Almond, who warned in a newspaper article against the dangers of allowing the Russians into Europe’s Balkan back-yard. "Perhaps no one had told him", sniffs General Rose, "that the cold war was over". Three chapters later, however, Rose has changed his tune. During the crisis over Gorazde, he notes, the Russian UN civil affairs adviser in Sarajevo, Victor Andreev, was "gloomily predicting the start of a Third World War". Rose comments that "he had some grounds for saying this, as President Yeltsin, following NATO air strikes against the Serbs in Gorazde, had refused to sign the "Partnership for Peace" deal with NATO, and had even threatened "war for ever" if the West intervened in Bosnia". And one chapter after that, Rose’s own gloom has intensified: "I began to wonder whether the gradual slide into war that was taking place in Bosnia in the summer of 1994 might not end in a world war". It is hard to tell which was the more absurd of Rose’s opinions: his initial idea that Russian involvement in Bosnia was risk-free, or his later belief that the risk it might entail was that of a third world war.
This mention of Mark Almond brings me, finally, to an admittedly minor point: Rose’s constant desire in this book to rebut comments made by several of his critics in the media, among whom Mr Almond and myself seem to enjoy pride of place. Rose was certainly a very media-conscious person; he says that he regarded the creation of a positive impression in and through the media as an absolutely crucial part of his job. (This obsession with the media is one of the things that distinguish him most sharply from his successor, General Rupert Smith, whom many observers believe to have been the more effective commander.) Readers can get some sense of the importance which General Rose attributed to the impact of the media from passages such as the following: "In response to the growing international concern caused by the escalating number of violations [of the ceasefire agreement in Sarajevo], I simply put a stop to the daily reports of them, although we continued to brief the press on incidents that resulted in any civilian casualties. I took this decision to reduce the political pressure growing in NATO for punitive action to be taken against the Serbs".
Some of the comments I made at the time seem to have stung General Rose to such an extent that he cannot now give either an accurate representation of what I said, or a sensible answer to it. In one passage - where he calls me, by direct implication, a "propagandist" - he says that I described Douglas Hurd as having blood on his hands because of his refusal to take direct military action. What I actually argued was that he had blood on his hands because he had actively supported the arms embargo, thus preventing the Bosnians from adequately defending themselves. Another put-down from General Rose concerns my prediction, at the time of Jimmy Carter’s intervention in Bosnia in December 1994, that any ceasefire brokered by him would hold only for a short period. Triumphantly, General Rose retorts: "It lasted for more than four months". In fact the ceasefire never held in one important theatre of war, the Biha_ region (where, contrary to what Rose states, fighting continued between Serb forces and the Bosnian Army); and in any case the ceasefire was decisively ended by the launching of new Bosnian Army campaigns in central Bosnia, in the Majevica hills and around Mount Vlasic, on 20 March 1995 - just two months and three weeks after that ceasefire agreement had come into force.
A public figure who routinely refers to his critics as "propagandists" needs to be sure that his own record, in respect of propagandistic activities, is squeaky-clean. But although, as I have tried to emphasize in this review, the overall sincerity of General Rose’s views cannot be doubted, there are two specific issues on which an element of possibly conscious propagandizing seems to have crept in. One concerns the destruction of houses and expulsion of Serbs from Gorazde. In 1994 Rose claimed that "most" of the destroyed houses there had been damaged not by Serb artillery, but by "the Muslims" when they expelled 12,500 Serb inhabitants from the town in 1992. In the extra chapter which I added to the second edition of my Bosnia: A Short History, I pointed out that this statement was simply not credible: there had been fewer than 10,000 Serbs living in the entire administrative district of Gorazde (an area of 383 square kilometres), only half of whom had lived in the town itself. I concluded that "General Rose was acting here, however unwittingly, as little more than a conduit for Serb propaganda". Now, when Rose returns to this issue in his book, he repeats the substance of his original claim, but simply omits the false statistic of 12,500 Serbs. Perhaps he has learned, either directly or indirectly, of my comment on this bogus figure; if so, it seems strange that he should continue to repeat the same argument as before, even when he knows that the central plank of that argument was rotten.
Stranger still is his own admission about another Gora_de-related topic: the alleged destruction, during a NATO air strike against the Serb tanks outside that town, of a Serb armoured ambulance. General Rose was so pleased by this visual proof of the unwisdom of air strikes that he kept a photograph of the wrecked ambulance pinned up on the wall of his office, for visiting dignitaries and journalists to see; underneath it he added the sarcastic caption, "Nice One Nato!" Several members of the press corps were sceptical about this photo, suspecting that the story had been concocted by the Serb side. (I myself have no technical military expertise, but I can report that when I showed the photo - which is reproduced on the jacket of this book - to a Bosnian journalist who had been a soldier during the war, he immediately said that it must have been hit by a grenade. The chassis is completely intact and unbuckled, which would not be the case, he observed, if it had been hit from above by an air-to-ground missile.)
And now, astonishingly, Rose himself admits: "I suspected that the Serb report [that the ambulance had been hit by a NATO air strike] was probably propaganda". Yet he made use of it, in an attempt to influence key Western policy-makers who visited his office, all the same. Readers who recall Rose’s account of his arrival in Sarajevo, and his furious denunciation of a "world in which the ends always justified the means", may start to wonder just what sort of world it was that the General himself inhabited.
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