My 18 years of involvement in Balkan affairs started during my tenure as US ambassador to Austria, where we housed the US mission to Bosnia until Sarajevo, under siege, was deemed safe enough for an embassy. We hosted negotiations that led to a Bosniak-Croat Federation; conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with politicians, journalists, activists, and a host of other citizens, including refugees; and organized three international symposia of policymakers.
Throughout, I was struck by the extent to which outsiders were using the principle of impartiality to distance themselves from responsibility.
Impartiality has been a fundamental principle of peacekeeping since the 1950s. Peacekeepers were to show no preference among warring sides – a kind of neutrality. Interpretation evolved from intervention to intervention, and “evenhandedness” was the catch-word when the Dayton Accords ended the war in late 1995.