State Building and Post-Conflict Demilitarization: Military Downsizing in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 2002, conventional wisdom held that the consolidation of Bosnia’s three ethnically distinct armies into a single force under a unitary chain of command was an unrealistically ambitious goal for the foreseeable future. NATO’s Secretary-General agreed that year to remove defence reform as a precondition to Partnership for Peace (PfP) membership, a first step towards NATO accession. However, less than two years later defence reform was being implemented, albeit incrementally and begrudgingly, and those seemingly distant goals were near at hand. Scholars and policymakers quickly focused on the motives for this unlikely reform process and the institutions it would produce. However, since 2006, the year in which Bosnia’s armies and defence ministries formally united, the literature has gone silent on the topic of defence reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The fact that institutional defence reform had been achieved overshadowed discussions of its impact and long-term implications. This article attempts to fill this gap by addressing the following question: how has military downsizing been implemented within the scope of defence reform, and how has its implementation either supported or hindered broader state building agendas in BiH?

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