Blue Helmets and Black Markets

Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo

Peter Andreas
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Blue Helmets and Black Markets
    Book Description:

    The 1992-1995 battle for Sarajevo was the longest siege in modern history. It was also the most internationalized, attracting a vast contingent of aid workers, UN soldiers, journalists, smugglers, and embargo-busters. The city took center stage under an intense global media spotlight, becoming the most visible face of post-Cold War conflict and humanitarian intervention. However, some critical activities took place backstage, away from the cameras, including extensive clandestine trading across the siege lines, theft and diversion of aid, and complicity in the black market by peacekeeping forces.

    In Blue Helmets and Black Markets, Peter Andreas traces the interaction between these formal front-stage and informal backstage activities, arguing that this created and sustained a criminalized war economy and prolonged the conflict in a manner that served various interests on all sides. Although the vast majority of Sarajevans struggled for daily survival and lived in a state of terror, the siege was highly rewarding for some key local and international players. This situation also left a powerful legacy for postwar reconstruction: new elites emerged via war profiteering and an illicit economy flourished partly based on the smuggling networks built up during wartime. Andreas shows how and why the internationalization of the siege changed the repertoires of siege-craft and siege defenses and altered the strategic calculations of both the besiegers and the besieged. The Sarajevo experience dramatically illustrates that just as changes in weapons technologies transformed siege warfare through the ages, so too has the arrival of CNN, NGOs, satellite phones, UN peacekeepers, and aid convoys.

    Drawing on interviews, reportage, diaries, memoirs, and other sources, Andreas documents the business of survival in wartime Sarajevo and the limits, contradictions, and unintended consequences of international intervention. Concluding with a comparison of the battle for Sarajevo with the sieges of Leningrad, Grozny, and Srebrenica, and, more recently, Falluja, Blue Helmets and Black Markets is a major contribution to our understanding of contemporary urban warfare, war economies, and the political repercussions of humanitarian action.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5828-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xvi)
    Peter Andreas
    (pp. 1-19)

    Bosnia has a special place in the post-Cold War landscape of armed conflict and international intervention. The 1992–95 war in the former Yugoslav republic became the poster child for ʺethnic conflictʺ—indeed, the term ʺethnic cleansingʺ was popularized during the Bosnia experience (although the practice is certainly not new). Bosnia and the other conflicts related to the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia represented the first outbreak of war in Europe since the end of World War II and erased the widespread assumption that war on the continent was unthinkable.¹ Bosnia was also the first drawn out humanitarian crisis of the...

    (pp. 20-41)

    Sarajevo, crowded into a narrow valley between steep foothills and mountains, could not be more perfectly situated for siege planners. Straddling the narrow Miljacka River, the city is thirteen kilometers long on an east-west axis and only three to four kilometers wide. It is in an exceptionally poor defensive position. By the start of the siege in early April 1992, hundreds of artillery pieces, mortars, and tanks encircled the city, dug into positions prepared months in advance. The Serb-held hillside suburb of Grbavica was close to the downtown area and overlooked what became known as ʺsniper alley,ʺ and the more...

    (pp. 42-89)

    The siege of Sarajevo began as a Serb military operation with the immediate instrumental goal of defeating the enemy, but it eventually became an end in itself. Similarly, international humanitarian intervention began with the immediate instrumental goal of curbing the conflict and facilitating a negotiated peace, but it also became an end in itself. Thus, the siege and the international response each took on a life of their own. In the pages that follow, I trace the front-stage and backstage mechanisms through which the siege was maintained and sustained for such an unexpectedly long period of time.

    During the course...

    (pp. 90-103)

    The siege of Sarajevo was actually two sieges: one external, the other internal. The internal siege was made possible by the external siege, and helps to explain how the interests of some players within the city were served by the siege conditions even as the majority of the population suffered. The siege provided an opening and cover for the abuse of power and a rationale for tolerating such abuses; it created an enabling environment for SDA party leaders to extend and consolidate their political power and marginalize opponents and competitors; and it created enormous economic opportunities for theft, war profiteering,...

    (pp. 104-117)

    The siege of Sarajevo was finally lifted in October 1995 with a cease-fire that brought a conclusion to the Bosnian war. The Sarajevo government delayed implementing the cease-fire until natural gas and electricity service were restored to the city—giving Croat and Bosnian forces five more days to take Serb-held territory near Prijedor and Banja Luka in western Bosnia.¹ Although the fighting stopped with the cease-fire and subsequent signing of the U.S.-brokered Dayton Peace Agreement in November, the city was not entirely reopened and reintegrated until March 1996. At that time, central road networks were fully reconnected, and Serb forces...

    (pp. 118-137)

    The clandestine political economy of war left a deep imprint on the postwar reconstruction process in Sarajevo and throughout the region.¹ In the aftermath of the conflict, Bosnia emerged as a regional hub for the smuggling of people and goods, very much exploiting and building on wartime informal trade channels and networks. As was the case during the war years, the ability to transcend ethnic grievances was nowhere more evident than in the underworld of smuggling. While bridging ethnic divisions was the new mantra of many Western-sponsored reconstruction projects,² black marketeering was not quite what international donors and officials had...

    (pp. 138-156)

    Much can be learned about the Sarajevo siege experience and its broader relevance by comparing and contrasting it to other cases across time and place. Although a detailed account is beyond the scope of this book, some brief sketches provide useful comparative insights, revealing substantial variation in levels of internationalization, degrees of permeability, and ultimate outcome. For instance, a particularly important difference between Sarajevo and the other besieged Bosnian enclaves was that places such as Srebrenica were far more difficult to access, inhibiting substantial international presence and attention. With Sarajevo in the spotlight on center stage, the other enclaves were...

    (pp. 157-166)

    Siege warfare tends to be associated with epic historical battles, from Carthage in ancient times to Leningrad in the modern era.¹ Indeed, as one urban geographer reminds us, sacking cities and killing their inhabitants ʺwas the central event in pre-modern war.ʺ² Yet as evident across the globe—from Sarajevo to Grozny to Falluja—sieges have stubbornly persisted. One former U.S. army strategist even boldly proclaims that ʺwe may be entering a new age of siege warfare.ʺ³ More broadly, armed conflict has become increasingly urbanized,⁴ given that a majority of the worldʹs population is now concentrated in cities.⁵

    Siege-style warfare has...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 167-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-208)