Twenty Years Ago Today: Peace in our Time. Sort of.

peace_plan_vo_small Twenty years ago today, UN Special Envoy Cyrus Vance and Lord David Owen (for the EC) put forward the Vance-Owen peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina. They'd been negotiating with all the warring factions for over a year, which was kind of tricky: the former Yugoslavia was a federal nation of several different ethnicities, most of which could claim one of the republics as their own - but Bosnia, the republic in the middle, was a melting pot of Muslims, Serbs and Croats. And so the wars that ignited after Yugoslavia fell apart were at their bloodiest here, as each different group tried to carve out their own territory and expel the others. It's during this war that the term 'ethnic cleansing' was coined, to describe the campaigns of terror and atrocity by which various groups were either encouraged to leave or simply massacred.

The plan involved dividing Bosnia into semi-autonomous regions according to roughly where all the various groups actually were. But by the time it was put forward, everything had changed so much that the plan was already out of date. While the Bosnian Serbs initially seemed willing to go along with it, they ended up deciding not to take part, which killed the plan stone dead by June of 1994.

This won't be the last attempt at peace, though. People are going to keep on trying. There will be two more plans put forward in 1994, before the whole thing is finally wrapped up at Dayton, Ohio in 1995. Persistence apparently pays off - but by then, of course, much of the ethnic cleansing was already done.

Nobody really wins in a civil war.