Peacemaker balanced force with intellect : D-DAY IN BOSNIA

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The Independent Online
Lieutenant General Rupert Smith, the British general who has commanded the UN in Bosnia for the past year, yesterday left Sarajevo, his mission accomplished with distinction. From commanding 20,000 UN troops in Bosnia, he moves on to command 17,000 British troops in Northern Ireland. Peace had come to Bosnia, and it owed a lot more to Lt-Gen Smith than he would admit.

Lt-Gen Smith's philosophy in the Gulf and Bosnian wars mirrored that of Clausewitz: "the maximum use of violence is in no way incompatible with the simultaneous use of the intellect." Unlike his predecessor in Bosnia, Sir Michael Rose, Lt-Gen Smith never went to university. He went from Sandhurst into the Parachute Regiment, known for its philosophy of violence and aggression, combined with cunning. But he approached his subject with rare "clarity of vision", one UN official told Reuter on Tuesday

His account of the way his division attacked in the Gulf war was terrifying in its focus. "I was manning equipment, not equipping men. Men were a liability - casualties waiting to happen." He used a First World War analogy: the enemy forces were to be broken up, becoming "easily digestible" for his armoured brigades.

Unlike Gen Rose, he never courted the media openly. In the Gulf and Bosnia he avoided going "on the record", but instead cultivated an understanding with the media, trusting them with knowledge equivalent to that of his junior officers. It was an approach that worked.

Lt-Gen Smith's clarity of vision probably owed much to his role in developing the British Army's intellectual approach to operations. He was instrumental in setting up the Higher Command and Staff Course, to teach potential generals how to fight big battles, an area where the British trailed behind the Americans and Russians.

When he arrived in Bosnia last January, Lt-Gen Smith realised that the UN's position, with lightly armed or unarmed forces scattered widely, was inconsistent with any attempt to be more robust. "He put the choice starkly: either withdraw peace-keepers or change the UN mandate ... so force can be used to attain the mission's goals", the official said.

The UN special envoy, Yasushi Akashi, and the UN Commander in all former Yugoslavia, Gen Bernard Janvier, opposed some of his recommendations. In May, Nato launched small-scale air attacks on Bosnian Serb targets. The Serbs grabbed UN peace-keepers as hostages, in reprisal.

After the Bosnian Serbs overran the Muslim enclaves in Srebrenica and Zepa in July, Lt-Gen Smith got all the peacekeepers out of danger and prepared for the Serb "provocation". That came with the market massacre in Sarajevo in August after which the Serbs were "hammered", the UN official said.

Lt-Gen Smith could now move to "peace enforcement". The Nato air strikes that followed not only disabled Bosnian Serb air defences but crippled their command and control, destroying their advantage and swinging events in favour of the Croats and Muslims. The Bosnian Serb forces broke. In the end Lt-Gen Smith achieved peace, appropriately, through military victory.

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