As policymakers in Europe, the US, the Gulf, Turkey, and the Arab League search for ways to resolve the conflict, they should consider what the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo have to teach about what can and cannot be achieved by outside intervention.
The past in the Balkans is hauntingly similar to the current situation in Syria. As in Bosnia and Kosovo, Syria’s ethnic groups lived together harmoniously for decades. In both cases, unexpected developments – the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of Yugoslavia in the Balkans, and the momentum of the Arab Spring uprisings in Syria – triggered dissent. And in each region, repression and reprisal destroyed the opportunity for peaceful change.