In July 1995 the "safe area" of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia fell to Bosnian Serb forces, despite the presence of Dutch peacekeeping troops. Some 20,000 women and children were deported. Several thousand Muslim men, both soldiers and civilians, were killed in cold blood by the Bosnian Serb army. Honig and Both's presentation of these enormously complex and frustrating events serves as a general indictment of all the circumstances surrounding the tragedy. The authors are Dutch specialists in war and defense studies, and their account dwells heavily on the military and political considerations, including the role of Dutch combat forces, the only UN forces serving in that area. This meticulous and honest reconstruction of events leaves no party unblemished, from the warring armies to UN officials. (Dutch soldiers, for instance, were held hostage by both Bosnian Army and Bosnian Serb forces.) Sharp accusations are leveled at the Serbian leadership itself, whom the authors consider guilty of pursuing genocide as "part of a deliberate strategy." If there is a clear villain in this story, it is General Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serb army. If there is a hero, it is certainly General Phillippe Morillon, of the UN forces, who valiantly attempted to save Srebrenica by personal initiative. Above all, Srebrenica questions the morality of the international community's policies in Bosnia. "Was it right," the authors ask, "to have opposed ethnic cleansing and instituted `safe areas' in eastern Bosnia, if one was unwilling to put one's life at risk to protect the people in those areas?"
Srebrenica is a penetrating and thoughtful response to this vexing and complex question.