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UN Responses in the Former Yugoslavia: Moral and Operational Choices

  • Thomas G. Weiss


What lessons should policy makers, particularly those at United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York and those of the Clinton administration in Washington, be taking away from the military, humanitarian, and diplomatic dilemmas in the former Yugoslavia? Specifically, what have we learned about moral choice as it pertains to recent UN activities? What in fact are the moral choices, and how might they be framed by those in power to make decisions?



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2 See Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1990)

3 For an updated overview, see Thomas G. Weiss, David P. Forsythe. and Roger A. Coate, The United Nations and Changing World Politics (Boulder: Westview Press, forthcoming 1994).

4 See Weiss, Thomas G. and Campbell, Kurt C., “The United Nations and Eastern Europe,” World Policy Journal 7 (Summer 1990), 575–92.

5 For a discussion, see Robert W. Gregg, About Face: The United States and the United Nations (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1993).

6 UNPROFOR Press Release, June 1993.

7 Ruggie, John Gerard. “Wandering in the Void,” Foreign Affairs 72 (1993), 2631.

8 Weiss, Thomas G. and Campbell, Kurt M., “Military humanitarianism,” Survival 33 (1991), 451–65.

9 For an analytically reasoned statement of the negative arguments, see Ernst B. Haas, “Beware the Slippery Slope: Notes Toward the Definition of Justifiable Intervention,” in Laura W. Reed and Carl Kaysen, eds., Emerging Norms of Justified Intervention (Cambridge: American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 1993), 63–87.

10 See Bernard Kouchner and Mario Bettati, Le devoir ďingérence (Paris: Denoël, 1987), and Bernard Kouchner, Le malheur des autres (Paris: Odile Jacob, 1991).

11 Roberts, Adam, “Humanitarian war: military intervention and human rights,” International Affairs 69 (1993), 429–49.

12 See articles “On Intervention” by Chomsky, Noam, Hitehcns, Christopher, Falk, Richard, Coretta, Carl. Knight, Charles, and Leavitt, Robert in Boston Review 18 (1993–94), 316.

13 The Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949 and Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (Geneva: 1CRC, 1989).

14 Stanton, Kimberly, “Pitfalls of Intervention,” Harvard International Review 17 (Fall 1993). 1416.

15 For these and other gruesome statistics, see Sadako Ogata, The State of the World's Refugees: The Challenge of Protection (New York: Penguin. 1993). For a recent treatment of the range of arguments in relationship to jus ad bellum and jus in bello, see Hilaire McCoubrcy and Nigel D. White. International Law and Armed Conflict (Brookfield VT: Dartmouth, 1992).

16 Quoted by Stanley Meisler, “U.N. Relief Hopes Turn to Despair,”Washington Post, October 25, 1993, A4.

17 Higgins, Rosalyn, “The New United Nations and Former Yugoslavia,” International Affairs 69 (1993), 469.

18 “U.N. Bosnian Commander Wants More Troops, Fewer Resolutions,”The New York Times, December 31, 1993. A3.

19 The military lessons have been adapted from Weiss, Thomas G., “Intervention Whither the United Nations.” The Washington Quarterly 17 (Winter 1994). 109–28.

20 John Steinbruner, “Memorandum: Civil Violence as an International Security Problem,” reproduced as Annex C in Francis M. Deng, Protecting the Dispossessed A Challenge for the International Community (Washington DC: Brookings, 1993). 155).

21 Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace (New York: United Nations, 1992). For the history of peacekeeping, see Alan James, Peacekeeping and International Politics (London: Macmillan, 1990). and The Blue Helmets (New York: United Nations, 1990). For more analytical treatments, see Thomas G. Weiss and Jarat Chopra, UN Peacekeeping: An ACUNS Teaching Text (Hanover: Academic Council on the United Nations System. 1992); William J. Durch. ed., The Evolution of UN Peacekeeping: Case Studies and Comparative Analysis (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993); Roberts, Adam, “The United Nations and international security,” Survival 35 (Summer 1993), 330; Paul Diehl, International Peacekeeping (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); Colliding, Marrack, “The evolution of United Nations peacekeeping,” International Affairs 69 (1993), 451–64; and Mats R. Berdal, Whither UN Peacekeeping? Adelphi Paper 281 (London: International Institute tor Strategic Studies, 1993). For a focus on ihe military, see Mackinlay, John and Chopra, Jarat, “Second Generation Multinational Operations,” The Washington Quarterly 15 (Spring 1992), 113–31, and A Draft Concept of Second Generation Multinational Operations 1993 (Providence: Watson Institute, 1993); William J. Durch, The United Nations and Collective Security in the 21st Century (Carlisle PA: U.S. Army War College. 1993); and The Projessionalization of Peacekeeping: A Study Croup Report (Washington: U.S. Institute of Peace. 1993).

22 For a review of these concerns, see Frank M. Snyder, Command and Control: The Literature and Commentaries (Washington: National Defense University, 1993).

23 Defining Purpose: The UN and the Health of Nations (Washington: United States Commission on Improving the Effectiveness of the United Nations, 1993).

24 For a discussion of these issues, see MacFarlane, Neil S. and Weiss, Thomas G., “Regional Organizations and Regional Security,” Security Studies 2 (1992–93), 637.

25 Maynes, Charles William, “A Workable Clinton Doctrine,” Foreign Policy 93 (Winter 1993–94), 320.

26 For a discussion, see Dick Thornhurgh, Reform and Restructuring at the United Nations: A Progress Report (Hanover: Rockefeller Center, 1993). See also other cautionary notes by Maynes, Charles William, “Containing Ethnic ConflictForeign Policy 90 (Winter 1993), 321, and Stedman, Stephen John, “The New Interventionists,” Foreign Affairs (1992/93), 116.

27 With Larry Minear, the author codirccts a research project on “Humanitarianism and War” that is based at the Watson Institute and the Refugee Policy Group in Washington, DC. In September and early October 1993 he was part of a team in the former Yugoslavia whose field work had begun earlier in the year. Their findings are found in Occasional Paper #18, Humanitarian Action in the Former Yugoslavia: The UN's Role, 1991–1993 (Providence: Watson Institute, 1994).

For additional discussion of humanitarian lessons in this and other conflicts, see Larry Minear and Thomas G. Weiss. Humanitarian Action in Times of War: A Handbook for Practitioners (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1993), and Thomas G. Weiss and Larry Minear, eds., Humanitarianism Across Borders: Sustaining Civilians in Times of War (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1993).

28 Boutros-Ghali, Sec Boutros, “Empowering the United Nations,” Foreign Affairs 71 (Winter 1992–93), 89102.

29 Boutros-Ghali, Boutros, “An Agenda for Peace: One Year Later,” Orhis 37 (Summer 1993), 332.

30 As quoted by Julia Preston, “U.N. Officials Scale Back Peacemaking Ambitions,”Washington Post, October 28, 1993, A40. For a further discussion of conceptual fuzziness, see Weiss, Thomas G., “New Challenges for UN Military Operations: Implementing An Agenda For Peace,” The Washington Quarterly 16 (Winter 1993), 5166.

31 For a discussion of these challenges, see James N. Rosenau, Turbulence in World Politics: A Theory of Change and Continuity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); August Richard Norton, “The Security Legacy of the 1980s in the Third World,” in Thomas G. Weiss and Meryl A. Kessler, eds., Third World Security in the Post-Cold War Era (Boulder: Lynne Rienner 1991), 19–34; Freedman, Lawrence, “Order and Disorder in the New World,” Foreign Affairs 71 (Minorities at Risk: A Global View of Ethnopolitical Conflicts (Washington: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1993); Morton H. Halperin and David J. Scheffer, Self-Determination in the New World Order (Washington: Carnegie Endowment, 1992); “Ethnic Conflict and International Security,” a special issue of Survival 35 (Spring 1993); and “Reconstructing Nations and States,” a special issue of Daedulus 122 (Summer 1993).

32 Deng, Protecting, 134.

33 See Human Rights Watch, The Lost Agenda: Human Rights and U.N. Field Operations (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993).

34 The author is grateful to Roberta Cohen for insights on this issue. See “Strengthening International Protection for Internally Displaced Persons,” draft article distributed by the Refugee Policy Group, to appear as a chapter in Human Rights: An Agenda for the Next Century (Washington: The American Society of International Law, forthcoming). See also Charles H. Norchi, “Human Rights and Social Issues,” and José E. Alvarez, “Legal Issues,” in A Global Agenda: Issues Before the 48th General Assembly (Lanham MD: University Press of America, 1993), 213–311

35 See Minear, Larry and Weiss, Thomas G., “Groping and Coping in the Gulf Crisis: Discerning the Shape of a New Humanitarian Order,” World Policy Journal 9 (1992–93), 755–88.

36 America's Place in the World: An Investigation of the Attitudes of American Opinion Leaders and the American Public about International Affairs (Washington: Times Mirror Center. November 1993).

37 Statement to the Economic and Social Council on Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance: Emergency Relief and the Continuum to Rehabilitation and Development, Geneva. July 1. 1993. p. 4.

38 See James P. Grant, The State of the World's Children, 1993 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

39 This is a major theme developed in Larry Minear and Thomas G. Weiss, Qualities of Mercy: War and the Global Humanitarian Community, forthcoming.

40 Sanctions in Haiti: Crisis in Humanitarian Action (Cambridge: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, 1993).

41 See Richard Jolly and Ralph van der Hoeven, eds., “Adjustment with a Human Face—Record and Relevance,” special issue of World Development 19 (1991).

42 For further views from two long-time practitioners on this subject, see Frederick C. Cuny, “Humanitarian Assistance in the Post-Cold War Era,” and James Ingram, “The Future Architecture for International Humanitarian Assistance,” in Weiss and Minear, eds., Humanitarianism Across Borders, 151–93.

43 Quoted by Stanley Meisler, “U.N. Relief Hopes Turn to Despair,”Washington Post, October 25, 1993, A1.

44 Ahmad, Eqbal, “At Cold War's End: A World of Pain,” Boston Review 18 (1993), 5.

45 Job, Cvijeto, “Yugoslavia's Ethnic Furies,” Foreign Policy 92 (Fall 1993). 71.

46 For a discussion with special reference to Somalia, see Natsios, Andrew, “Food Through Force: Humanitarian intervention and U.S. Policy,” The Washington Quarterly 17 (Winter 1994). 129–44.

1 The author is grateful to Larry Minear and Richard Ullman for comments on an earlier draft and to the Council on Foreign Relations for offering the challenge to develop this argument for a study group on the former Yugoslavia. The opinions are strictly his own as is responsibility for any remaining errors in fact or interpretation.


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