The Critic Magazine

Lessons of Bosnian war and peace

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO last month the Dayton Peace Accords were signed in Paris, ending the bitter Bosnian war. The general framework of the agreement was brokered during three weeks of negotiations at Wright-Patterson airbase in Ohio, thanks to a mix of “diplomacy, bluffing and bullying” by the towering American diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

By that point, the Bosnian war had become a large point in my life. I first arrived there in the late summer of 1992, working in Central Bosnia for the Sunday Times. The editor, Andrew Neil, dispatched and supported me even though I had little experience, displacing one middle-aged male correspondent who threatened to sabotage my voyages into Sarajevo, even giving me maps of the wrong roads. Such was competitive Fleet Street in those days: my first taste of internecine fighting.

Those were pre-politically correct times, pre-#MeToo, too. If that happened now, the unhappy man would be fired and shamed. But I was youthful and very ambitious, and a war in Europe was a place I could make my name: I couldn’t care less about office politics.

Innocently, and without much knowledge of the Balkans, I set off for Zagreb, then took a plane to Split, followed by a long drive over the mountains in a sputtering Lada Niva towards Travnik, where refugees from cities that had already fallen were piling in for the long, dark winter ahead.

Janine di Giovanni is a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Her next book, The Vanishing: Christians in the Middle East, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2021

We thought the war would be over within a year. Instead, it went on for close to four more. I had no idea how the next years would mark the rest of my life and my career, how consumed I would become by a country on the edge of Europe I had barely heard

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