The views expressed in FMSO publications and reports are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the Department of the Army,
Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

United Nations Crisis Management in Bosnia: Problems and Recommendations

by Mr.Timothy L. Thomas
Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS.

This article was first published in
Vojenske Rozhledy,
March 1995, pp 50-63.


"If security policy during the Cold War was perceived mainly as maintaining the status quo, even maintaining a balance of terror, so security policy in the post-Cold War era is about the management of change."

NATO Secretary General Willy Claes, 13 November 1994

As Yugoslavia fragmented and the segments turned to vicious civil war, the United Nations (U.N.) reluctantly intervened with the goal of creating "the conditions of peace and security required for the negotiation of an overall settlement of the Yugoslav crisis. 1U.N. crisis management, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina, focused on the actions of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR). The force monitored combat actions among the opposing sides, sought to protect the civilian population through the creation of safe areas, and engaged in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Early this year these efforts pressed forward with attempts to create weapons exclusion zones, to curtail certain activities through the use of combat power, and to interposition UNPROFOR units between the opposing sides. Initially, the U.N. enjoyed some limited success. According to recent battle accounts, however, the crisis management effort appears to have failed. Headlines in newspapers scream "NATO, Peacekeepers are powerless in Bosnia", and reports detail the Serb humiliation of U.N. forces they have taken hostage. 2 A U.N. commander noted that "if the scene gets much worse militarily, then I suspect the peacekeeping mission would find it very difficult to continue." 3

For more than two years, the U.N. tried to manage the conflict in the former Yugoslavia by heading a cooperative effort involving the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the West European Union (WEU), the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and individual nations. The latter range from countries directly bordering on and affected by the conflict (such as Hungary, which also has an ethnic minority within the territory of rump Yugoslavia 4), to concerned European countries (such as Britain, France and Denmark), to countries on other continents (such as Canada, Pakistan, and Malaysia), and to regional and great powers which have an interest in regional stability and order (such as the U.S.). These various international and national actors have used a series of crisis management measures peculiar to the particular organization or nation-state. These measures embraced various types of diplomatic and coercive pressure ranging from closed door threats to internationally imposed embargoes. The national and international actors have reacted to events according to their interests, be they humanitarian or aimed at their country's force maintenance, or aimed at conflict (and refugee) containment.

The U.N. received the Bosnia mission after the European Community had failed to solve the crisis and after the CSCE showed itself to be unprepared to handle peace operation missions. The U.N. and its member nations, both organizationally and philosophically, were unprepared to tackle a conflict of this size and complexity but took on the mission anyway. The U.N. had (and still has) no adequate crisis management mechanism to manage and gain control over the fighting, and lacked a consensus among member states required to forecast a political-military end-state. As a result the war has turned into both a bitter fight for land and a propaganda battle that has sown seeds of distrust among combatants and their interlocutors.

This paper will examine U.N. crisis management techniques and explanations for their failure in Bosnia. It will offer some recommendations concerning vital elements of a future U.N. crisis management planning process. This is an important process, because there are many "red flags" that the U.N. must recognize if it wants to avoid a repetition of the Bosnian scenario.


The U.N. does not have an official definition of a crisis or of crisis management. Therefore, for terms of reference, the U.S. military definitions will be utilized for the purposes of this article. The U.S. defines a crisis as "an incident or situation involving a threat to the United States, its territories, citizens, military forces, and possessions or vital interests that develops rapidly and creates a condition of such diplomatic, economic, political, or military importance that commitment of U.S. military forces and resources is contemplated to achieve national objectives." 5 This definition could be subdivided further into peripheral, major, vital, and survival crises (in regard to U.S. national interests). The U.S. would respond to each type crisis in a different manner.

If the U.N. would add the idea of "humanitarian importance" if it crafted this definition. It would also be helpful to further subdivide U.N. crisis management according to the U.S. criteria of survival, vital, and other type crises confronting the international community. For example, for the U.N. a survival crisis may be a superpower confrontation, a vital interest a threat to regional security, such as the conflict in Bosnia, and a major interest a humanitarian issue, such as the Rwandan relief effort.

The U.S. military does not officially define crisis management but does define crisis action procedures (CAP) which are, in fact, crisis management techniques since they are "flexible procedures keyed to the time available, to communications that are rapid and effective, and to the use of previous planning, whenever possible." The U.S. military defines crisis action planning as a "process involving the time-sensitive development of joint operation plans and orders in response to an imminent crisis. Crisis action planning follows prescribed crisis action procedures to formulate and implement an effective response within the time frame permitted by the crisis." 6 In the management of a crisis, CAP ensures the utilization of logical procedures, the rapid and effective exchange of information about the situation, the timely preparation of military courses of action for the National Command Authorities (NCA) to consider, and the timely relay of NCA decisions to the combatant commander for execution. 7

A civilian source defines crisis management as "modulating foreign policy reactions during an unstable situation so as to maximize one's own interest while not forcing an opponent into an action-reaction cycle. In many ways crisis management is simply good diplomacy, in contrast to brinkmanship- taking a tough line and calling the opponent's bluff. A good crisis manager will avoid raising the temperature in the situation as much as possible. While tough or threatening behavior may be necessary to give a clear signal of resolve, it should be used carefully. Stress must be placed on absolute clarity of international expression to avoid causing the opponent to panic. The essence of this attitude is summed up by President John F. Kennedy's remark, reported by his brother Robert in his Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis: 'If anybody is around to write after this, they are going to understand that we made every effort to find peace and every effort to give our adversary room to move.'" 8

This latter definition more closely explains U.N. action in Bosnia. Interestingly, the combatants, in a turn of events, have utilized the U.N.'s attempts to establish an action-reaction cycle (action=embargo, reaction=reluctance to continue fighting, according to U.N. logic) to their own advantage, as explained in the sections below.


Formal techniques.
The U.N. is not a free actor. The security council members set it's actions and represent the lowest common denominator of policy. It is not a state with sovereign powers. The end of the Cold War created circumstances where a number of states were willing to give the U.N. a mandate to deal with pressing international problems that had no other organizational solution. These problems, if left unattended by the U.N., could have resulted in nation-states or ad hoc coalitions conducting unilateral actions and thereby setting off new conflicts in an unstable, post-Cold War period.

Most important for the process of solving crises is the fact that U.N. actions in the crisis management arena are dependent on the common will of its member states to affect a solution. U.N. failures consequently are a result of the limits imposed by member states, to include the strong powers, who do not want a U.N. that could threaten their national and sovereign interests.

When common will prevails, the U.N. has utilized an established, formal crisis management technique imbedded in the Security Council, which has the power to make decisions concerning crises and which member governments must carry out under the Charter. In fact, a "representative of each Security Council member must always be present at U.N. headquarters so that the Council can meet at any time." 9 The General Assembly also has some limited crisis management powers, since it is authorized, under the "Uniting for Peace" resolutions adopted in 1950, to "convene in emergency special session on 24-hour notice and to recommend collective measures- including the use of armed force in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression." 10

Informal techniques. Confronted with a formal crisis management process unable to address each crisis as it developed in Bosnia, the U.N. has tried to manage the conflict through a series of threats (perceived and real, such as air strikes), outright pleading for support, moral suasion, negotiations, and the acceptance of an action-reaction relationship between the international community and the combatants. In a non-cooperative environment, this process more closely resembles crisis response, in which the U.N. is always running several steps behind the combatants, than crisis management. Likewise, the U.N.'s ability to use the crisis management technique of multilateral talks to bring the combatants to the negotiating table has met with limited success. The U.N. vastly underestimated the ferocity of the fighting and the will of the combatants in this respect.

From the military perspective, an innovation that has worked with varying degrees of success is the military-political arrangement of the U.N. on the ground, that is the U.N.'s command and control system for the crisis (see Figure One). This arrangement, composed of a senior representative of the Secretary General, a UNPROFOR commander, and area and sector military commanders has allowed the U.N. to command and control, as well as coordinate, U.N. and NATO missions at the tactical, operational and strategic levels (see Figure Two for the U.N.'s rules of engagement).

Recent developments.
To the U.N.'s credit, it has continued to develop crisis management techniques. For example, in September 1994 the U.N. circulated an organizational draft of what appears to be a deliberate planning process to deal with crisis management, even though it wasn't formally called that. In late November, an office opened at U.N. headquarters to study lessons learned from the crisis to date. But the most important crisis management technique was the development of the "Contact Group," which included representatives from the United States, Russia, France, Germany, and Great Britain. The mission of the group was to construct a plan to stop the fighting (which they succeeded in doing, even though one of the combatants rejected it).

The September deliberate planning draft is a U.N. document called the "Coordination of the Department of Humanitarian Assistance (DHA), Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and the Department of Political Activities (DPA) in Preparing for Complex Operations in the Field." Step three of the draft contains "output requirements" which appear to approximate crisis management techniques. These requirements include an:

The draft outlines 24 coordinating steps, which indicates that the U.N. took some important steps and addressed some vital considerations. While this is a good start, the draft appears to fall short of a comprehensive exposition of crisis management techniques, especially those that could address unexpected crises. In addition, recent checks with individuals within the U.N. reveal that some departments only now have the equivalent of hand written crisis management principles to follow, indicating that much work remains to be done in this area.

But the U.N. made progress. As late as November 1992 the U.N. had only 30 military personnel at U.N. headquarters to manage 52,000 soldiers in the field worldwide. There was not even a military planning cell, nor was it possible to get independent information on a 24 hour basis since the U.N. had no operations center open that long. The U.N. is trying hard to solve these problems. Two individuals, one political and one military, have been assigned to each conflict on a 24 hour basis. But the war in Bosnia may be too far advanced for the new techniques to help much, especially since many nations are now talking about bringing their forces home.

The U.N. must institute these measures. Otherwise, the U.N. will continue to rely on outdated crisis response instead of crisis management techniques. The U.N.'s response to the situation in Bosnia demonstrated this shortcoming. It has been unable to move to the management aspect of the process and to get ahead of the situation and actually manage it. Consequently, they are caught in an action-reaction do loop, and even the reaction is delayed due to the lengthy decision-making processes in the Security Council of the U.N..

Perhaps even more foreboding for the future, one psychiatrist noted that "a group is most susceptible to political forces after they have suffered a major dislocation, a loss of their psychological bearings, with their old verities and meanings destroyed." 12 Therefore, the U.N. would be wise to not take the post-conflict building phase lightly in Bosnia. They should view it through the lens of crisis management as well.


In addition to the inadequacy of the U.N. crisis management structure when the conflict began; the immaturity of it's mechanisms for a complex crisis such as that in Bosnia; and the lack of will among U.N. member nations to effect a solution, there are several other reasons why the U.N.'s crisis management techniques haven't worked:

(1) Terminology-concept mismatch.
Peace operations terminology. Crisis anagement techniques have little chance of working in the presence of overt terminological misnomers that cause confusion over mission statements, expectations, and intentions of peace operation forces. Yet such is the case with the U.N. peace operations terminology of peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and U.N. protected force, which are inadequate to describe the situation at hand. 13 The international community and the media are particularly guilty here, as they continue to call the U.N. forces in Bosnia peacekeepers. The Bosnian Serbs would not call the U.N. force peacekeepers, since they did not give their consent to the presence of the force as called for by the U.N. definition. Instead of consent, the Bosnian Serbs have tolerated the presence of UNPROFOR, who are not peacekeepers, in Bosnia.

Therefore, U.N. forces in Bosnia are not conducting peacekeeping or peace enforcement operations, but something akin to a combination of conflict monitoring and managing (through the UNPROFOR) interspersed with attempts at peacemaking. There is no peace to keep. The actions of U.N. forces resemble those of an "interposition contingent" sent to manage the delivery of aid and to create conditions favorable to a cessation of hostilities. This is a new phenomenon of the post-Cold War world, "warfare monitoring". U.N. Senior Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) to the war in Bosnia, Yasushi Akashi, noted that "we are in a war but we are not at war." 14 As one U.S. officer noted:

"We are groping in the fog between traditional peacekeeping and peace enforcement. We [the U.S.] are calling these operations "aggravated peacekeeping," defined as military operations undertaken with the nominal consent of all major belligerent parties, but which are complicated by the subsequent intransigence of one or more of the belligerents, poor command and control of belligerent forces, or conditions of outlawry, banditry or anarchy." 15

A second and equally harmful aspect of the terminology mismatch is its ability to deter meaningful action by the international community. Placing peacekeepers in an environment not intended for them, that is one in which consent does not exist, deters the U.N.'s ability to stop ethnic cleansing (it's not in their mission statement nor implied in the definition of peacekeeping), and often results in the peacekeepers themselves becoming hostages (literally and figuratively) to a situation. The peacekeepers have no chance of effecting a political-military end-state when placed in such an environment.

Finally, closely associated with the peace operations terminology mismatch in Bosnia is the confusion caused by mixing the terminology with concepts under which the U.N. operates. The two most important that the U.N. has tried to maintain from the beginning of the conflict are impartiality and credibility.

Impartiality concept. People are impartial according to their own cultural understanding of the definition of the term "impartiality" as well as their perspective of the war, that is participant or intermediary. The combatants, from the very beginning of the war, had trouble believing in the impartiality of the U.N. command. In spite of this situation, the U.N. managed to maintain some semblance of impartiality in the face of threats, insults, and a lack of respect for its dedicated efforts to monitor the crisis and establish a peace process.

In the case of Bosnia, the terminology and concept mismatch has caused additional suffering which U.N. soldiers meant to relieve. This happens, according to one analyst, by:

"following a principle that sounds like common sense: that intervention should be both limited and impartial, because weighing in on one side of a local struggle undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of outside involvement...But it becomes a destructive misconception when carried over to the messier realm of 'peace enforcement,' where the belligerents have yet to decide that they have nothing more to gain by fighting." 16

Obviously, U.N. forces in Bosnia are not conducting a peace enforcement operation. But it is not peacekeeping and "the belligerents have yet to decide that they have nothing more to gain by fighting." A limited impartial intervention conducted under the guise of peacekeeping in an environment in which the combatants have no desire to end the fighting cannot be expected to end a war of this nature. Moreover, when the belligerents desire to keep fighting, "trying to have it both ways blocks peace by doing enough to keep either belligerent from defeating the other, but not enough to make them stop trying." 17

The efforts of LTG Michael Rose, commander of U.N. forces in Bosnia, are an example of someone unwittingly blocking the peace process (in the eyes of the combatants but not the U.N.) through the use of the concept of impartiality. As a consequence of his attempts to remain impartial, he has been accused of siding with the Serbs by the Muslims and of being too free handed with his use of military power by the Serbs.

The Bosnian Ambassador to the U.N., Muhamed Sacirbey, recently suggested that Rose be court-martialed for his lack of impartiality, a charge Rose and his supporters at the U.N. deny. After the recent NATO air raid on Croatian Serb airfields, the Serbs made similar charges against U.N. forces in general:

In a letter to the U.N. commander in former Yugoslavia, French Gen. Bertrand de Lapresle, Bosnian Serb Army Commander General Ratko Mladic was even more blunt."I see no reason (U.N.) personnel should still be deployed (in Bosnia), nor do I know how to protect you after the brutal attacks against the Serb people," Mladic said. "You have turned the peace forces into occupiers," said Mladic, considered the chief architect of the Serb gains in Bosnia. 18

A recent U.S. decision to abandon its enforcement of the embargo of the Bosnian Muslims, based on the fact that Bosnian Serbs would not partake in the peace process proposed by the Contact Group, demonstrated how quickly charges of impartiality can be spread even among the members of the coalition intent on stopping the conflict. The U.S. unilateral action caused at least one NATO spokesman to note that "the United States has just taken sides." 19 Unilateral actions by one member of the coalition thus can damage the legitimacy of the entire force and cause quick splits among its members.

There are also unconfirmed rumors that individuals partial to a cause can manipulate reporting up the U.N. chain of command. These charges begin with soldiers at the UNPROFOR level. Reports from UNPROFOR soldiers go to Headquarters in Sarajevo first, then to Zagreb and eventually on to U.N. headquarters. It is conceivable that, along the way, individuals made small changes, on occasion, to reports that more clearly reflected the interests of those intermediaries sending the reports forward than they did the actual situation on the ground. If true, this introduces a degree of prejudice into the U.N. process that damages U.N. impartiality and concerns combatants as well as U.N. officials. 20

Credibility concept.
Regarding the issue of credibility, NATO Secretary General Claes, speaking on Belgium TV 21, purportedly noted that the U.N. keeps peace and NATO imposes peace. This idea, which Claes termed an "infernal contradiction", is really a contradiction between the differing bases upon which credibility rests in the two organizations. Underscoring this inherent point of contention, one analyst noted that "the U.N. cannot enforce peace; it can at best help feed people and monitor agreements between the parties once they are ready for it. Herein lies its credibility. It does not lie in being able to impose solutions by force. NATO's credibility lies not only in being available to do whatever the U.N. demands but also in demonstrating its ability to force an adversary to do what he would not otherwise do." "In short, NATO has made an organization unwilling to use force the guardian of its ability to use force." 22

The concept of credibility is closely tied with the issues of terminology and impartiality. For example, for Secretary General Boutros-Ghali to retain his credibility, he must remain impartial based on the performance of his forces to fulfill a peace operations mission. The terminology-mission mismatch in Bosnia has certainly hurt his credibility, as is underscored by the boisterous negative reaction he receives from the local population in Sarajevo each time he visits. Giandomenico Picco, a former U.N. Assistant Secretary for General Political Affairs, noted that the Secretary General is inherently inappropriate to manage the use of force since it compromises his impartiality, crucial to his capacity as a negotiator. 23

Finally, credibility wanes in an environment in which the number of war crimes is so high. Crisis management does not work in a lawless environment in which it is extremely doubtful if the majority of the perpetrators of war crimes will ever be put behind bars.

(2) Peace manipulation.
Perhaps the most important lesson learned from the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina is that today's wars, especially those regulated by the U.N., are subject to perverse overt and covert manipulation by the principals. Certain aspects of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina even resemble a giant strategic psychological operation (PSYOP) with tactical PSYOP components. To date, the combatants have:

This latter point is particularly important, since there are perhaps 20 groups involved in the conflict and not just the three (Croat, Serb and Muslim) usually considered. Some of the splinter groups have entirely different agendas than the parent group. For example, a Bosnian Muslim corps commander can be independent of the center in order to protect his own local area. This war is about land, after all, and some regions have forces dedicated to protecting that land regardless of the position of the center. Another example is that offered by Fikret Abdic, leader of a rebel Bosnian Muslim force who favored cooperation with Serbs and Croats. He broke from Izetbegovic many months ago and on 18 November allowed Croatian Serb units to join with him to fight Muslim-led troops protecting the region around Bihac.

All of these actions above are designed to manipulate peace according to the desires of the side initiating the action.

(3) Information laundering.
Both sides have used all forms and means of getting the media on their side to advance their particular cause. As a result, those journalists and reporters who failed to check out sources have inadvertently put disinformation in the press and conducted PSYOP on behalf of one of the combatants. The combatants, in some cases, have carefully orchestrated an event or events so that what reporters see and hear is precisely that which the combatants want the reporters to see and hear.

In some cases the perception of information by an audience can be inadvertently manipulated by the manner in which a reporter views a situation. For example, take the use of the word "hostage." Seldom is it used in the sense most westerners think of the term. When a convoy is held up and its "freedom of movement" impeded, it is often reported that the convoy is being held "hostage". The U.N., in fact, uses the phrase "lack of freedom of movement" to describe such situations.

Some news agencies in third world countries abroad, in actions similar to money laundering, served as fronts for subtle disinformation. They developed material for publication that reflected the viewpoint of one of the combatants. Sponsored by third or fourth parties interested in supporting their ethnic or religious brothers, these agencies fed information (disinformation) into America and other Western countries with the goal of having the information rebroadcasted by Western agencies. 24 Finally, rumors suggest that the combatants, through laundered sources, have employed western-based advertising agencies to influence public and official perceptions.

(4) Mission-situation incompatibilities.
Officially, the U.N. mission in Bosnia is to: - provide military assistance to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and approved organizations and agencies involved in humanitarian activity and repair of utilities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and assist in the following: evacuation of wounded; protection and care of people; and improvement of living conditions of people. - establish conditions favorable to a cessation of hostilities. This includes the creation and maintenance of total exclusion zones 25 and also deterring attacks on U.N. safe areas.

This mission statement, in the Bosnian environment, is beset by several incompatibilities, in particular as regards force structure, use of military action, control over mission creep, and command and control issues.

Mission-force structure incompatibility. The U.N. utilized its past experience in establishing a base force and operational structure for Bosnia. Experience from traditional peacekeeping missions was inadequate for Bosnia. Likewise, experience gained from the use of peace enforcement forces of the Desert Storm variety, that is those based on the use of military force through overwhelming and synchronized force, was inappropriate for the Bosnian mission, especially since the rules of engagement (ROE) prevented the use of such principles regardless of the force's structure.

The U.N. forces in Bosnia thus had no examples on which they could base their actions and, accordingly, force structure. The absence of a term describing U.N. actions in Bosnia (which actually resemble "warfare monitoring", that is, a force positioned between or among combatants to monitor and report violations of U.N. efforts to provide relief to refugees or civilians, or violations of U.N. designated safe areas or no fly zones) also provided no guidance for force structure requirements. For example, when U.N. forces required help due to mission obstruction by one of the combatants in the delivery of humanitarian goods, the U.N. Senior Representative of the Secretary General was often unable to lend assistance due to the principles and ROE (mission) and equipment available (structure).

Mission-military action incompatibility. Bosnia has shown that missions involving U.N. forces in an environment between peacekeeping and peace enforcement require new principles of military action. These principles include the synchronization of humanitarian actions and convoy procedures, the use of U.N. military observers 26 and liaison officers, and the principles of employing UNPROFOR in safe areas and ensuring the force is proficient in the tactics demanded by these conditions. Leaders must carefully manage these principles at the level of military action (tactics, operational art or strategy) at which the crisis is initiated. This is particularly important if the U.N. force hopes to prevent elevating too many tactical crises (for example, each time a platoon or company comes under artillery fire) to the strategic level. Such action can needlessly tie up the Security Council and impede its long-term view of a conflict. According to one analyst:

One way of filling in this gap would be to define crisis at the strategic, operational and tactical levels according to the lowest level of decision required to mobilize resources to deal with the situation. The Security Council has a distressing tendency to micro-manage, and therein lies part of the problem. The dilemma of a peacekeeper in a conflict without an effective cease fire lies in the limited help he can expect from the operational or strategic level. Tactical crises are unlikely to be resolved at a strategic level, and most escalations of tactical crises are a result of insufficient resources at a low level rather than the inherent capacity of a higher level to resolve them. 27

A change in terminology could assist this shortcoming in force structure and ROE versus mission requirements.

Mission perception-mission creep incompatibility. The U.N. has had to contend with two competing processes in Bosnia-Herzegovina that cloud mission clarity and management of the crisis: internally, the U.N. is trying to stop or at least contain the crisis among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims, and to control discrepancies between its stated mission and that perceived by the combatants; externally, the U.N. is trying to control mission creep among its own forces, such as the use of force beyond the mandate established by the U.N. (i.e., NATO use of air strikes).

The internal discrepancy between stated mission and combatant perception of that mission comes about in the following manner: by delivering humanitarian aide to communities under siege, the U.N. is inadvertently breaking one of its operating principles (in the eyes of one of the combatants), that is, not to interfere in the conduct of operations among combatants. U.N. assistance to besieged areas "amounted to breaking the siege-a military and political effect." 28 In another instance, the creation of U.N. supported safe areas frustrated the last phase of one of the belligerent's plans for territorial rearrangement by force, which a U.N. pullout will authorize in the end. 29

At the same time the threat of mission creep, that is the ability of the mission to move beyond its initial parameters, continues to grow. In addition to the stated mission, U.N. forces on the ground are trying to contain and de-escalate tension, and are serving as an early-warning source of potential trouble. At the same time the U.N. and various other agencies and states are trying to employ an attrition type strategy among the belligerents while playing a waiting game until all sides are politically, economically and militarily exhausted or isolated. The waiting game, while it avoids escalation or expansion of the conflict, has not worked and now has a chance of backfiring on U.N. forces. Combatants, fed up with what they view as lack of support and lack of impartiality, are striking out verbally at the U.N. command more often than before. Some of the Bosnian Serbs have warned that they could not guarantee the safety of U.N. forces in the process of withdrawing; and Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic noted that "UNPROFOR is like polluted air- it's polluted but you can't live without it." 30

Recently, the U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia requested that UNPROFOR respond more aggressively to Bosnian Serb actions, another indicator that the desire for mission creep is growing. The U.N. must continuously focus on attempts to minimize this desire.

Mission-unity of command incompatibility. The mission is also beset by problems of unity of command. NATO's military commander, U.S. Army General George Joulwan, underscored this problem recently, noting "we have a problem of unity of command, because NATO is responsible for the air and maritime, but UNPROFOR is responsible on the ground. We have two different organizations with two different missions, and trying to harmonize all that and work together is a challenge." 31

(5) Black marketeers and others sustain the conflict. There are strong indicators that some organizations, whether they be non-governmental organizations or members of the U.N. contingent force, find reason to keep the conflict going. They submarine crisis management efforts as a result. For example, black marketeers have shot at aircraft landing at Sarajevo to stop the airlift and drive up prices while simultaneously keeping their own arms and food sales in motion.

Further, the U.N. pays U.N. soldiers for their service. The U.N. pay rate is well above the pay standard for most armies, particularly third world armies. In fact, only the U.S. and Great Britain refuse U.N. pay. This pay plus the justification of a real mission are the sole rational for the maintenance of a force by some countries. This encourages the continuation of the war.

There are also reports that the senior military leadership of some of the combatants has no desire for a permanent ceasefire or internationally-imposed agreement. They foresee no diplomatic agreement that they could support, and so wait until the U.N. decides to remove its force for economic and military cost reasons.


In spite of the shortcomings noted above, the U.N. must remain at the top of the international effort to control the fighting in Bosnia and other hot spots around the globe. However, it needs to enlist substantial support from regional organizations, and to find a mechanism to coordinate national interests among member states. These two factors then must be transformed into collective political will and "new diplomatic thinking" if these crises are to be properly handled and controlled. International cooperation at the highest levels is an absolute in such a situation.

The immediate goal of the U.N. must be to develop a crisis management process that allows it to (1) prevent situations from getting out of control and erupting into open warfare and (2) curtail conflict in an orderly process if it does break out. A recommendation is that this process should be based on (a) a U.N. doctrine that describes when and under what conditions the U.N. will authorize the use of force 32 (b) terminology that adequately describes the mission of U.N. forces and (c) crisis management "organizational interoperability" among the U.N. and regional organizations (for example, the EC, NATO, the WEU, and the CSCE would be appropriate organizations for a European model of interoperational methods to manage and eventually end the fighting). As NATO's General Secretary, Mr. Willy Claes, noted about progress to date:

The embargo has certainly encouraged Belgrade to accept the Contact Group's peace plan and isolate the Bosnian Serbs; and the threat - and occasional use - of our air power has provided virtually the only protection to the people of the Safe Areas, as well as help deter attacks against UNPROFOR. Of course, cooperation between NATO and the UN -- two very different organizations, with different structures and bureaucratic "cultures" -- has been a learning experience. The Alliance stands ready to make collective assets available for WEU operations in which the United States and Canada choose not to participate, and it will adapt further its military structures in order to create Combined Joint Task Forces...We cannot expect the United States to take the lead in each and every crisis. We need to develop the flexibility to be able to respond either through the Alliance or through the WEU, according to the nature of the crisis. The Combined Joint Task Forces concept, if properly implemented, should provide us with this flexibility. 33

Absolutely crucial to any future U.N. crisis management structure is the fact that it must be based on precise peace operations terminology and concepts. The U.N. or its representatives must develop peace operations tactics for conflicts between peacekeeping and peace enforcement, and establish a process capable of monitoring peace manipulation. After finalizing these processes, then and only then can the U.N. establish a three step mechanism to utilize these elements: an information management and monitoring mechanism that takes into consideration the shortcomings noted above and serves as a data base of information; a credible conflict prevention mechanism; and a method for controlling and managing conflict if it breaks out and threatens a U.N. mandate.

To sense problem areas, such as the manipulation of peace or the actions of splinter groups, the U.N. could create an information management and monitoring system within the conflict's span of control. It would also provide all available information on terminology and concepts as well as the characteristics and nature of modern conflicts 34. Conflict prevention would include a set of procedures to (a) identify the crisis (b) quickly research the crisis and (c) implement conflict prevention procedures. Control and management of the conflict should (a) identify opposing forces centers of gravity (b) utilize arational or scientific method leading to the formulation of a model capable of determining an end-state and (c) provide the Secretary General with flexible courses of action. The entire process would be based on a comprehensive military-political-humanitarian campaign plan, based on an idea much like that proposed by the September U.N. draft cited but in an expanded form.

Step One: Establish an Information and Monitoring Institute. Actually, the U.N. or its agencies will activate this step long before they activate the conflict control and management system. The U.N., if it is to control the shortcomings noted earlier in this paper, must be able to obtain and exploit information quickly. It must also have a terminology and concept base that ensures mission compatibility with the situation on the ground. Otherwise, it will take too long to determine, for example, that the combatants are manipulating the U.N. or that a situation has changed.

Based on information available, the initial input into a military-political-humanitarian plan can begin, which the U.N. will finalize during the conflict containment phase. The campaign plan will highlight a new phenomenon of the post-Cold War era, "military-political art". 35 For the current crisis in Bosnia, a campaign plan was drawn up and executed. Whether or not it addressed centers of gravity and the synchronization of all aspects (military-political-humanitarian) is unknown to the author.

Step Two: Conflict Prevention. The CSCE is performing the conflict prevention responsibility for the U.N. on the European continent, and has demonstrated the competency to be taken as a model institution for other regional organizations desiring a similar mission. 36 Other regional organizations should make it a point to study its mechanisms.

The CSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities makes on-site visits to areas of concern to the CSCE to initiate consultations and provide recommendations. The High Commissioner has received the support of the CSCE's political authorities in these efforts and can even, if he feels the situation is escalating, issue an "early warning" to the CSCE's political authorities. There are also in-country CSCE missions to assist the high commissioner in his estimate of a situation. The composition of the in-country mission includes an ambassador-level head of mission and up to six staff members. The CSCE's Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna provides logistical support. 37 The focus is on monitoring possible trouble and assisting in identifying non confrontational solutions instead of trying to resolve existing conflicts. 38

Step Three: Conflict Control and Management. If the potential conflict area shows signs of moving to the "early warning" stage (that is, the stage where indicators demonstrate to analysts that a crisis situation has developed), then the final component of a U.N. crisis management plan unfolds, the fine tuning of the military-political-humanitarian campaign plan to control conflict. This will be a coalition plan sensitive to the cultural requirements (what type of force to send there, from which countries, etc.) of the area in question.

Undoubtedly, this is the most difficult stage of the crisis management process and the most crucial. Analysts must put the plan together correctly from the beginning if it has any hope of working. Another key element at this stage is "from where does the U.N. obtain its information (or the unspoken word, 'intelligence') about the situation?" Member countries could share limited information, but even this type of information would be suspect since it could be biased to a country's perspective or agenda. This is a crucial question that the U.N. must be able to answer if it hopes to be successful.

The U.N. has available to it specific tools, in addition to pure information, to control crises and gradually escalate its response. Parties to a coalition can apply some of these tools with precision if in agreement to their use. On the strategic level, for example, the U.N. can use the policy of exclusion. While not a new idea, the U.N. did not use exclusion as frequently as a security regulator in the past, especially during the age of containment. Today exclusion can include: export embargoes; import boycotts and blacklisting; threat of losing most favored nation trading status; visa denial; frozen bank accounts; travel restrictions; prohibitive tariffs; arms embargoes; investment restrictions; aid or funding cuts; or expulsion of students. 39 The U.N. used exclusion to some effect in Bosnia and Haiti.

Just as the CSCE has taken a lead in conflict prevention, NATO is interested in serving as a focal point for the integration of U.N. and CSCE peacekeeping missions, that is the conflict control aspect, in Europe. As Secretary General Claes noted:

NATO has taken on the new task of crisis management by offering support to CSCE and United Nations peacekeeping operations. NATO's involvement in former Yugoslavia exemplifies this new mission. We have also created new force structures suited to these new tasks. 40

Chapter VIII of the U.N. Charter appears to grant NATO in this area of the world and other such regional organizations the right to act this way. It states:

"Nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action, provided that such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations." 41

Crucial to the entire conflict control and management system, and the military-political campaign plan, is the forecasting methodology for centers of gravity of conflicts (is it military, political or economic, or some combination of the three), and a scientific method for predicting the shape and form of the end-state. Post-Cold War conflicts to date have not been about the potential of correlation of forces of opposing sides but rather about guerilla warfare and the exploitation or manipulation of situations or incidents by one of the combatants. Therefore a firm knowledge of centers of gravity and how to compute or forecast and direct them to a predetermined end-state is vital to the crisis management process. To borrow a process utilized by war-gamers, this end-state should be arrived at by considering a myriad of "what-ifs" in the decision-making tree and utilizing the most advantageous. 42 This process puts a premium on the accumulation and exploitation of information.

One analyst noted that any peace plan that the U.N. approves must have among its contents the following: a consideration of the overall strategic and territorial objectives for parties of all republics of the former Yugoslavia; a provision for the legitimate constitutional accommodations for the status of minorities in all the republics; an impartial post-settlement confidence-building plan; an international economic support plan; and contingencies in case of the failure of the peace plan. The plan must also find a way to separate the forces (that is, the implementation force must get between the sides and use the concept of deterrence). Success of the mission will depend on intelligence collection; the verification of compliance with the plan; and comprehending the evolution of events real-time will help offset local media propaganda. 43


This paper examined the reasons why crisis management techniques haven't worked in Bosnia and offered some recommendations for a future U.N. crisis management system. Clearly, the conditions under which U.N. forces operate today compel all nations to find new crisis management techniques to ensure their safety and to end the fighting. The old thought process and procedures of crisis management serve only as a basic outline for a general approach to a crisis. The U.N. must micro manage each crisis in accordance with specific circumstances existing in the crisis area through some of the recommendations presented above.

The U.N. must pay special attention to the implications of new phenomenon such as conflict manipulation, warfare monitoring, military-political art, organizational interoperability (at the crisis management level), information laundering, terminology and mission mismatches, and the science of end-states and centers of gravity. The U.N. must place special emphasis on the experience it gains in conflict control and that of other international organizations in the prevention, containment or extinguishing of conflict, and on the military actions associated with each. The CSCE, as noted, has demonstrated a remarkable degree of competency in the conflict prevention field to date.

The U.N. cannot take its time in the development of a manageable crisis management process. Its credibility in the eyes of the world community is at stake. If the U.N. fails in this work, then regional organizations will grow in importance and the old world order and stability as we have come to know it will slowly fade away.


1. "Security Council Establishes Force to Handle Yugoslav Crisis," U.N. Chronicle (June 1992), p 15. BACK

2. Snjezana Vukic, "Serbs Advance on 'Safe Area'," The Kansas City Star, 28 November 1994, p A-9. BACK

3. Ibid. BACK

4. As Dr. Jacob Kipp of the Foreign Military Studies Office has noted: in the final analysis Hungary needs a solution to the Yugoslav conflict that prevents the creation of Greater Serbia, while avoiding a massive flow of refugees into Serbia proper, since that can only undermine the position of the Hungarian minority, which was and is the touchstone of Budapest's policy. Hungary found Western immobility over Yugoslavia devastating to its own interests in terms of economic, refugee, defense, and minority-abroad problems. The Western strategy of attrition and benign neglect placed the burden of Yugoslavia's wars upon Hungary and the other bordering states. It has sought and will continue to seek a security regime for the region which incorporates "collective rights" for minorities under international guarantees. In the end Hungary has swung from a position emphasizing collective security to one seeking membership in an alliance for collective defense. Partnership-for Peace with its pledge to joint peacekeeping exercises will only take on decisive content once NATO's role in the Yugoslav endgame is clear. In the meantime, Hungary has come to recognize that on the matter of "collective rights" of national minorities the key may be bilateral relations among the states of the region. And that approach, judging by the situation in Slovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia, will be difficult. BACK

5.. AFSC PUB 1, p 213. BACK

6. Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, 23 March 1994, p 99. For purposes of comparison, the Czech military defines crisis management as "the command and control of certain antagonisms or contradictions, that is armed or non-armed conflicts in a state, between two states, or groups of states by an international political institution, nowadays more frequently the U.N.. The aim is to restore and support stability in a certain crisis region, which is a threat to international security. It is a process directed toward solving crisis situations between states and inside certain states. It has its own organs, instruments and methods, which are prepared in non-crisis situations." BACK

7. U.S. Crisis Management Procedures (CAP) have six phases: situation development, crisis assessment, courses of action (COA), course of action selection, execution planning, and execution. During the situation development phase, events are evaluated and a determination is made whether U.S. interests are threatened or not. This phase places special emphasis on the nature of the crisis and major crisis constraints. A mistake in the identification of the nature of the crisis or its impact on national interests can have profound consequences later. The crisis assessment phase identifies options for the achievement of national objectives. The action development phase shifts the crisis planning focus from the Pentagon to the Commander in Chief of the region affected, who develops several courses of action. In the remaining phases courses of action are prioritized, one is selected and transformed into an operation order, and then the order is executed. During the latter phases, either tactical or intelligence considerations will be taken into consideration and changes to the original plan implemented when required.

U.S. CAP procedures are excellent for a short crisis in which objectives can be quickly achieved through the fast application of force and the attainment of an end-state. In a situation such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, the CAP process is inadequate. The length of the crisis has altered the initial situation to a considerable extent, as has the number of organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, that are now involved. This latter point has caused agendas to change. Some international organizations have profited from the fighting and are in no hurry to bring the war to a close. U.N. measures, to include their timing and application, have been inadequate; certain media elements have become subtle advocates for a particular combatant and changed the international perception of the conflict; and all sides have manipulated U.N. measures to their own advantage. The U.S., in weighing the balance between the competing claims of the rights of national self-determination and the inviolability of borders, saw the latter as conditioning the former. The complexity of the situation in Bosnia implies that if the U.S. CAP system were used in such a conflict, it too would need to be altered to fit and manage such a potential long-term, complex crises. BACK

8. Jay M. Shafritz, Tod J. A. Shafritz, and David B. Robertson, Facts on File Dictionary of Military Science 1989, p 120-121. BACK

9. "Background Notes: United Nations," United States Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication, Volume III, No. 5, October 1992, p 522. BACK

10. Ibid., p 524. BACK

11.. Draft of "Coordination of DHA, DPKO, and DPA Activities in Preparing for Complex Operations in the Field," received at a conference at Fort Leavenworth in October 1994, p 1. BACK

12. Daniel Goleman, "Amid Ethnic Wars, Psychiatrists Seek Roots of Conflicts," The Kansas City Star, 2 August, 1994, p C13. BACK

13. The U.S. Army defines peacekeeping as "neutral military or paramilitary operations that are undertaken with the consent of all major belligerents; designed to monitor and facilitate implementation of an existing truce and support diplomatic efforts to reach long-term political settlement." The U.N. defines peacekeeping as "the deployment of a U.N. presence in the field, hitherto with the consent of all the parties concerned, normally involving U.N. military and/or police personnel and frequently civilians as well. Peacekeeping is a technique that expands the possibilities for both the prevention of conflict and the making of peace."

Peace-enforcement is defined by the U.S. Army as "the application of military force or the threat of its use, normally pursuant to international authorization, to compel compliance with generally accepted resolutions or sanctions to maintain or restore peace and support diplomatic efforts to reach a long-term political settlement; the primary purpose of PE is the restoration of peace under conditions broadly defined by the international community." The U.N. has not formally defined peace enforcement but does talk about peace enforcement units which would be warranted, as a provisional measure, under Article 40 of the U.N. Charter. Secretary General Boutros-Ghali notes that such units should not be confused with forces constituted under Article 43 to deal with acts of aggression or with military personnel which governments agree to keep on stand-by for possible peacekeeping operations.

U.S. quotations were taken from Glossary-13 (page number) of the final draft of Army FM 100-23, Peace Operations. U.N. definitions were taken from page 11 of Boutros Boutros-Ghali's An Agenda for Peace, U.N. New York, 1992, and the peace enforcement discussion from page 26.. BACK

14.. Georgie Anne Geyer, "Mired Machinery of peace in Bosnia," Washington Times, 4 August 1994, p 18. BACK

15.15. Barry McCaffrey, "Military Support for Peacekeeping Operations," in Ethnic Conflict and Regional Instability, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr. and Richard H. Shultz, Jr. editors, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 1993, p 242. BACK

16. Richard K. Betts, "The Delusion of Impartial Intervention," Foreign Affairs, Volume 73, No. 6, November/December 1994, p 22. BACK

17. Ibid., p 22. BACK

18. "Bombing Irks Bosnian Serbs," from DOD News via E-mail, 23 November 1994. BACK

19.19. Craig Whitney, "Change on Bosnia Upsets Allies," The Kansas City Star, 12 November 1994, p A-6. BACK

20. Yossef Bodansky, "The Roots of the New Escalation of the Bosnian War and Washington's Role," Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, October 31, 1994, p 9. BACK

21. Ibid., Vukic. BACK

22. Christoph Bertram, "Irreconcilable Partners," The Washington Post Weekly, November 7-13 1994, p 29. BACK

23. Giandomenico Picco, "The U.N. and the Use of Force," Foreign Affairs, September/October 1994, p 15. BACK

24. See, for example, Bodansky, p. 10. BACK

25.. Total exclusion zones pertain to heavy weapons which in the U.N. resolutions include anything larger than 40mm. BACK

26. For example, U.N. military observers have served as the advance party for a deploying unit; performed recon across unit and sector boundaries; negotiated units through check points; and performed vital civil-military functions in conjunction with the European Community Monitors (ECMs). See Major D. M. Last, "Cooperation between Units and Observers," News from the Front, The Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Sept-Oct '94, pp 1,2,5. BACK

27. Comment from Major David Last, Canadian Army, who has published widely on many peace operation topics. His many works include: "Negotiating for Peace Operations: One Unit's Experience of Translating Theory to Practice", forthcoming in Peacekeeping and International Relations; "Cooperation between Units and Observers," News from the Front!, The Center for Army Lessons Learned, September/October 1994; and "Peacekeeping Doctrine and Conflict Resolution Techniques," forthcoming in Armed Forces and Society and in Peacekeeping and International Relations. The author would like to thank Major Last for these comments as well as other critical comments he provided during the review process. BACK

28. Betts, p 24, 25. BACK

29. Ibid., p 25. BACK

30.. David Crary, "U.N. Troops Reap a harvest of Scorn, Distrust," The Kansas City Star, 23 October 1994, p A-11. BACK

31. "Clinton pledges troops," The Kansas City Star, 9 December, 1994, p A-15. BACK

32. Timothy L. Thomas, "The U.N.'s Vietnam?", Military Review, February 1994, pp 47-55. BACK

33. From a Speech by Secretary General Willy Claes of NATO at the Pio Manzu "Big Millennium" Conference, Rimini, Italy 13th November 1994. Received from NATO E-mail data base on 16 November 1994. BACK

34. Some of the characteristics of modern crises include: Methods for controlling crises utilize very imprecise and archaic language. Crises areas may require a military action with humanitarian support, or military support of a humanitarian action. Crises today, in contrast to the Westphalian system of the past, often require states to consider intervening and violating a country's sovereignty in order to stop military action. Some crises today require intervention in an area where no legitimate government is operating.BACK

35.. In the past the military focused on simply military art, defined by one U.S. specialist as the creative employment of armed organizations for the purpose of waging war and, just like any other art form, composed of at least four elements: a medium of expression, tools, creativity, and technique. To this specialist, the opponent is the medium of expression; tools are the means of expression, shaped by the will of the artist (at the operational level the military artist uses formations to shape his enemy); creativity implies a certain amount of structure or plan; and finally, technique implies sound military doctrine, the authorized body of knowledge on how to fight battles, conduct campaigns, and wage wars. See Dr. James J. Schneider, "Operational Art and the Revolution in Warfare," Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which is a 31 March 1993 unpublished manuscript, p. 3-5. This same thought process should now be applied to a combination of military and political events that identify the opponent, use means of expression to shape the combatants courses of action through the creative application of U.N. will, and the entire process should be based on a sound U.N. doctrine. BACK

36. For an early Hungarian proposal on conflict prevention through the CSCE, see Timothy Thomas, "New Hungarian Proposal on Expanded Role for CSCE in Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management," European Security, Summer 1992, Volume 1, Number 2, pp 239-247. The editor of European Security, Dr. Jacob Kipp, has noted that Hungary supported efforts to improve CSCE conflict prevention and crisis management capabilities, putting before the member states a proposal to adapt that institution to the requirements of a European collective security system. The proposal, which was put forward on April 15, 1992, emphasized early warning and early action as vital to conflict prevention. The proposal stipulated a set of measures that would bring into action the Consultative Committee of the Conflict Prevention Center and bring such situations to the attention of the regular meetings of the CSCE Committee of Senior Officials. The measure outlined "possible measures for establishing procedures for the settlement of the crisis and for maintaining stability on the ground." The Hungarian proposal covered information gathering, conflict resolution, maintenance of stability in the conflict area via CSCE-sponsored peacekeeping, and operational control. BACK

37. Konrad J. Huber, "The CSCE's New Role in the East: Conflict Prevention," RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 3, No. 31, 12 August 1994, p 26. BACK

38. Ibid, p 29. BACK

39.39. Jeffery R. Barnett, "Exclusion as National Security Policy," Parameters, Spring 1994, p 52. BACK

40. Ibid, Claes speech 13 November, 1994. BACK

41. Chapter Eight, Article 52 of the U.N. Charter. BACK

42. The author would like to thank Mr. Steven Stewman for this and other ideas, plus VGT support, in the preparation of this paper. BACK

43. Andrew Bair, "What Happened in Yugoslavia? Lessons for Future Peacekeepers," European Security, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 340-349. BACK