Armed Hostilities

Wartime and Postwar Violence Analysis

Executive Summary

The research aims to study the wartime and post-war case of violence. For the purpose of the study, we undertake the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina (hereafter referred to as Bosnia), Croatia, and Serbia. The period for the study undertaken is from 1991 to 1998. The aim of the research will be to understand the reason behind the violence undertaken by each side.

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The literature on violence in Bosnia, Croatia, or Serbia is confined to study of corruption or historically unchangeable bias as a major factor in the resultant genocide. A brief study into the matter of violence during the Balkan Wars and the post-war violence shows modern military and civilian government personnel of the former Yugoslav states perpetrated numerous atrocities of this kind. The researchers show that many crimes have been committed by the security sectors during the period of 1991 and 1998.

The crimes committed by individuals in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia was different by nature, type, and scale. The only similarity between the violence perpetrated in the three areas was the common thread of ethnic tensions. The research is proposed to have a strong contribution to the scholarship on how to prevent atrocities in these areas. The aim of the research will be to identify what controllable factors such as civilian and military structures and operations contribute to an increased likelihood of certain types of crimes over others.

Research Question

The research will aim to understand the question why do some security sectors commit human-rights violations while others do not. It will aim to address the gap identified in the literature review and then apply the theory developed on the cases of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia during and after wartime. The proposed research will argue that in case of the there were instances of international involvement in the perpetration of the domestic violence in the three states studied. The international standards influence, either the level of the domestic government, or the level of the security-sector institutions themselves committed fewer human-rights violations than those that did not.

Literature Review

In the literature, critics are quick to broach several theories to explain this thesis’s guiding question: why some security sectors commit human-rights violations and others do not. The most widely accepted theories, however, fall short in explaining the variation in these violations by armed forces in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia.

Previous scholars who have asked questions similar to this thesis have concentrated on the stark differences between Western militaries and those in developing countries, where scholars posit most major human-rights violations occur1. Theories of Peter J. Katzenstein2 and Deborah D. Avant3 have been used to understand the effect of the military’s interaction to its environment.

Although the former Yugoslavia had a relatively Western military and was fairly modernized, other scholars might propose that the atrocities committed were mostly if not solely a result of ethnic tensions. Famous arguments cite that the violence was inspired by the hatred of the different factions of ethnic Serbs, ethnic Croats, and ethnic Bosniaks for each other4.

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While the role of ethnic hatred in the Balkan Wars of the early 1990s cannot be refuted, this argument does not fully explain why these countries, all having experienced similarly fierce ethnic tensions, had such different wartime and postwar experiences with human-rights violations. In other words, in these cases, ethnic tensions were constant, and yet Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia experienced variable levels and variable types of violence, indicating that prejudice is not the only factor that plays a part in how violence is manifested.

At this point, other critics might argue that atrocities are more likely to be committed in times of war. In these cases, this argument may be true given the difference in known numbers of human-rights violations before the war and those during the war, yet there are significant variations in individual and policy violence during peacetime immediately following the Dayton Peace Accords5. Therefore, this thesis will explore both wartime and peacetime civil-military structures in order to accord a more satisfactory explanation to the imbalance in human-rights violations committed by the security sectors of these countries.

Research Questions

  1. 1. What civil-military factors explain the variation in war-crime type (individual-level versus policy-level) among the states involved in the Bosnian and Croatian Wars?
  2. 2. What civil-military factors from Question 1 were present in the changes to defense and security institutions undertaken in the immediate aftermath (1995–1998) of the Bosnian and Croatian Wars?
  3. 3. How can we explain the violence experienced by each of the involved states in this period by the new civil-military institutions?
  4. In other words, how effective was the reform during this period in curbing the types of violence experienced during the war?

Structure of the Literature Review

The proposed research chose the three states – Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia – for the study because these areas are the most disturbed regions of the globe, which has been affected by continued war and post-war violence. The reason or adopting this research topic is to understand the reasons for the continued violence during the war and even after the war is over. The research questions that the research will answer are developed after the literature review.

The literature review will be divided into two broad categories – (1) case specific literature and (2) framework based literature. The first will discuss the various literatures that had previously attempted to understand the violence in a wart torn zone or in areas after the war was over. In the second category, the research will aim to understand the framework or the structure that the previous literatures have followed.

The literature that are essential for the study of the proposed research to answer these questions, general security-sector structures and the interactions they have with other aspects of the state must be categorized. Several scholars of the civil-military nexus have offered classifications of the institutions involved in security-sector development and management.

The proposed research will show that the ultimate goal of a state’s security sector is effectiveness: throughout peacetime, a state’s armed forces should be ready to respond to a threat to the state and its people and, during wartime, should be able to follow through to victory. The research will aim to understand the best achievable goal; armed forces should be both professional and centralized to a situation-specific level – the former to know the proper steps to use force to defend a state and the latter to be able to carry out these steps efficiently in a given circumstance. The areas that will be researched in the proposed area are to be professional military personnel, command, and control. The following section will discuss the proposed methodology for the research.


The research will use two different methodologies for the collection of data and analysis for the wartime and the post-war violence in the three regions.

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Wartime Violence

The argument of the proposed wartime violence research hinges on the relationship between the dependent variable, or the variation in war-crime type among the three states, and the relevant independent variables are inter-security sector interaction, civilian government influence on security sector, domestic-public influence on civilian government, and international community influence on state.

The independent variables on which these aforesaid dependent variables are analyzed as follows – centralized or decentralized command, centralized or decentralized control, professionalism, influence of the civilian government on the military, international community influence on civilian government, international community influence on security sector, and checks and oversight mechanisms6. The possible indicators for the dependency of the variables are reporting structure formations, de facto use of reporting structure or power devolving within structure, and technical expertise or inheritance of chains of command.

The first independent variable, civil-military relations influence the military structure and functioning. This will be measured by the overlap between civilian and military leadership as well as to what extent civilians in high government positions form military strategy. For the research, I propose to use the theory of the renounced military theorist Carl Clausewitz7 claimed war is simply an extension of politics. This, I believe, is an effective theory for the case in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, given how deeply ethnic tensions pervaded politics and society in these countries. In addition, this variable will permeate the rest of the variables; in other words, how involved civilians were in military functioning will flow through the discussions of reporting structures and security-sector control, as well as top-down professionalizing.

For the study of the inter-military organization, I propose to analyze three distinct variables – formal command, real control, and professionalism. I propose to use the theories of the most renowned scholars in the field – Wilson8, Janowitz9, and Van Creveld10. Both the scholars agree that the vertical chain of command is necessary for proper policy effectiveness.

For the research, I propose to study the nature of each state’s formal armed-forces structure. The research will include the effect of paramilitaries operating inside or outside the military structure. The research methodology will aim to reveal how military institutions and the command hierarchy interacts through formal authority in order to determine whether it had centralized command. In other words, the research will try to gauge to what extent the military brass can formally control the military.

In order to understand the real control of the military units over its men, I propose to study the centralized formal command structure of the military. The research will focus on identifying the necessary items required for the effectiveness in carrying out the policy. However, during wars this formal structure often breaks down. Keeping this in mind, I propose to study the structure in order to get a full picture of the capability of a state’s armed forces to carry out its policy. For this purpose, I will go beyond simply analyzing the military structure as it is actually designed, evaluate its real-life performance in the field, or de facto control.

The third area that I will study in the research is that of military professionalism. For this, I propose to use the level of professionalism among the armed forces with respect to the newness of the country’s military forces. In this area, I propose to use the inheritance of military structures, the nature of the labor, and capabilities that were inherited will be emphasized much more in order to get at this thesis’s main definition of professionalism.

The data for the research will be collected from the war-crime-court conviction records of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as well as of each of the national courts. Examining national courts’ war-crime trial records had its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, Bosnia’s court system has a thorough and complete online record of war criminals, their affiliations, and details about their crimes as convicted by its Special Panels for War Crimes from 2003 to the present. Croatian prosecution of war criminals, however, is splintered and decentralized, leading to difficult-to-find or nonexistent public records.

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Post-War Violence

While studying the post-war violence, the same variables as mentioned in the wartime violence methodology are used. The only added section is on military oversight of the civilian government. In this regard, I propose to use a controversial theory related to military checks on civilians. These types of safeguards can include military-justice systems, clear, codified doctrines, and military laws and standards – all of which teach soldiers about the legal, and moral uses of force. Thus, I propose to measure these interactions as its own variable, but rather by identifying these kinds of military-civil checks within the moral aspects of the variable of professionalism.

The control variable that I choose to use for all the three cases is to measure violence as a dependent variable perpetrated by each state’s armed forces during the period 1991 to 1998.

In collecting and measuring human-rights violations by security-sector actors in the postwar environment, both commonalities and distinctions had to be drawn between these postwar crimes and those committed in wartime if the analysis necessary for this thesis is to be carried out. In particular, although wartime data collection (through courts) allowed organizations to arrange data by perpetrator of crime, postwar data collection (through international-organization reporting) allowed only for organization by crime. Because of this, wartime crimes and postwar crimes will not be directly compared, but rather variation in the type of postwar crime will be compared between the three countries in the same timeframe.

I propose to collect the data on postwar violence from individual as well as policy crimes committed by each state’s security sector. The data will be collected from two international organizations, the United Nations (UN) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). These institutions provide an aggregated and synthesized data from international and national monitoring organizations that today either do not exist or exist only in pieces. It should be noted that in the absence of primary sources, monitoring organizations were the most impartial, respected, and accurate of the available alternative sources of information for the postwar period in any of the three countries.

Why do I propose to use secondary wartime data? The reason being, data on postwar violence are extremely scarce, compared to wartime data, which are conveniently codified in international and national court records. In the direct aftermath of the war, international justice-making initiatives were concentrated on wartime reparations—on getting Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia to arrest and prosecute war criminals in either international or national courts based on the severity and extent of the indicted war crimes.


An important step in the preparation of research proposal is to understand and gauge the problems that one will face while doing the research and how they can be handled. In this case, the main issue that we will face is collection of authentic, unbiased data for research. Even though there are many sources available to provide the data, none can be completely vouched to be exhaustive.

Further, budget and time may be a problem for collection of the data for the study may turn out to be a time consuming as well as expensive activity. Further, getting access to the right source may cause certain problems in gathering the right data for the research. One disadvantage of collecting data from thee sources is the presence of bias in their data collection, even though, generally, organizations of this nature are impartial and accurate for these purposes than alternative postwar information sources.


The paper aims to understand the perpetration of wartime and postwar violence in disturbed regions like Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia. The aim of the paper is to establish the sources of the violence and understand what fault in the political, social, and civic machinery that causes such acts.


Avant, DD, The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security, 1st edn, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2005.

Clausewitz, C, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1976.

Janowitz, M, The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political Portrait, 1st edn, The Free Press, New York, NY, 1960.

Katzenstein, PJ, The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, 1st edn, Columbia University Press, New York, NY, 1996.

Van Creveld, M, Command in War, 1st edn, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1985.

Wilson, JQ. Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It, 1st edn, Basic Books Inc., New York, NY, 1989.


  1. C von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1976, p. 67.
  2. P J Katzenstein, The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, 1st edn, Columbia University Press, New York, NY, 1996, p. 52.
  3. D D Avant, The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security, 1st edn, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2005, p. 5-6.
  4. Clausewitz, p. 68.
  5. Clausewitz, p. 79.
  6. JQ Wilson, Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. 1st edn, Basic Books Inc., New York, NY, 1989, p. 363.
  7. Clausewitz, p. 87.
  8. Wilson, p. 371.
  9. M Janowitz, The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political Portrait, 1st edn, The Free Press, New York, NY, 1960, p. 15.
  10. MV Creveld, Command in War. 1st edn, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1985, p. 271.

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