Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo

Author(s): Peter Andreas

Social Sciences | No Category

The 1992-1995 battle for Sarajevo was the longest siege in modern history. It was also the most internationalized, attracting a vast contingent of aid workers, UN soldiers, journalists, smugglers, and embargo-busters. The city took center stage under an intense global media spotlight, becoming the most visible face of post-Cold War conflict and humanitarian intervention. However, some critical activities took place backstage, away from the cameras, including extensive clandestine trading across the siege lines, theft and diversion of aid, and complicity in the black market by peacekeeping forces. In Blue Helmets and Black Markets, Peter Andreas traces the interaction between these formal front-stage and informal backstage activities, arguing that this created and sustained a criminalized war economy and prolonged the conflict in a manner that served various interests on all sides. Although the vast majority of Sarajevans struggled for daily survival and lived in a state of terror, the siege was highly rewarding for some key local and international players.
This situation also left a powerful legacy for postwar reconstruction: new elites emerged via war profiteering and an illicit economy flourished partly based on the smuggling networks built up during wartime. Andreas shows how and why the internationalization of the siege changed the repertoires of siege-craft and siege defenses and altered the strategic calculations of both the besiegers and the besieged. The Sarajevo experience dramatically illustrates that just as changes in weapons technologies transformed siege warfare through the ages, so too has the arrival of CNN, NGOs, satellite phones, UN peacekeepers, and aid convoys. Drawing on interviews, reportage, diaries, memoirs, and other sources, Andreas documents the business of survival in wartime Sarajevo and the limits, contradictions, and unintended consequences of international intervention. Concluding with a comparison of the battle for Sarajevo with the sieges of Leningrad, Grozny, and Srebrenica, and, more recently, Falluja, Blue Helmets and Black Markets is a major contribution to our understanding of contemporary urban warfare, war economies, and the political repercussions of humanitarian action.


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"In this provocative study, Andreas examines the unexpected consequences of humanitarian intervention... Drawing on extensive interviews, diaries, and memoirs of participants, and newspaper accounts, among other sources, Andreas argues that the internationalization of the siege paradoxically prolonged the conflict. Humanitarian assistance the international community provided to the people of Sarajevo became incorporated into the criminalized war economy that flourished in the besieged city... The study also reveals the much more complex social dynamics that emerged and flourished during the conflict. In particular, far from severing ties between ethnic groups, the war economy sustained informal contacts and cross-ethnic collaboration in the midst of conflict. Andreas argues that the example of Sarajevo strongly suggests that uncovering the hidden dynamics of war economies is important because their legacies outlast a conflict's end and continue to shape postconflict reconstruction. Highly recommended."-Choice "Blue Helmets and Black Markets provides a template for analyzing international interventions, suggesting that looking beyond the standard actors and actions yields some significant insights."-International Studies Review "Andreas does not deny the suffering or the heroism of those caught in the siege of Sarajevo or the deadly earnestness of those who maintained it. But he wants to make this savage tale whole by exposing corruption's part in exploiting and sustaining the violence. Andreas, with prose as lean as his analysis is rich, avoids moral judgments and focuses instead on the two-sided aspects of this sort of war: the illicit commerce between the warring parties, the profiteering by politicians struggling to save a community, the indulgences of outside agencies sent to help the victims."-Foreign Affairs "This bold and provocative book is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the dilemma of humanitarian assistance in war. Peter Andreas describes a flawed international humanitarian relief effort that helped perpetuate the longest siege in modern history, in a manner that enriched criminals and war profiteers. Only by understanding why and how such things could happen can we hope to prevent them from happening again."-Richard Holbrooke "Blue Helmets and Black Markets is absolutely fascinating. It is a focused, balanced, original, well-researched bottom-up perspective on what really happened during the siege of Sarajevo. Sanctimonious and widely accepted cliches are overturned on nearly every page."-John Mueller, Ohio State University "In this pioneering book, Peter Andreas tells the true underlying story of the four-year siege of Sarajevo. Peopled by war profiteers, smugglers, gangsters, common criminals, greedy nationalist politicians, and most surprisingly the endemically corrupt international peacekeeping forces, his account captures the seamy underbelly of the Sarajevo siege, all without losing sight of the suffering of the city's innocent victims. He argues convincingly that the feeble peacekeeping mission helped prolong the siege and in many ways added to the misery of the encircled city's inhabitants. This work will disabuse every reader of the notion that resurgent urban warfare in our time is only about ethnic conflict."-Robert J. Donia, author of Sarajevo: A Biography "Blue Helmets and Black Markets shows that trade, illicit or not, plays a fundamental role in contemporary wars. Daytime heroes become nighttime villains. UN officials, aid workers, journalists, Mafioso thugs, petty bureaucrats, war criminals, and shopkeepers all take advantage of their positions in the interest of greed as well as good. The brilliance of this book is that it does not attempt to draw a bright line distinction between the two. Peter Andreas has written a book where nuggets of insight are as casually dropped as mortar shells on the streets of wartime Sarajevo."-John Fawcett, former director of the International Rescue Committee Sarajevo/Bosnia office "We know that some profit from war and that some of these profits help finance war, but Peter Andreas pulls back the curtain to reveal how the political economy in complex emergencies is sustained by the very international actors who are charged with trying to limit the suffering. A fascinating and depressing story well told."-Michael Barnett, University of Minnesota "Blue Helmets and Black Markets is a must-read for those who wonder whether international intervention and humanitarian aid have a future. It offers the most informative analysis of the unintended consequences of humanitarian aid, arms embargoes, and military intervention. Peter Andreas dissects international intervention in the siege of Sarajevo and lays out in plain sight the inner workings of its political economy. This is a masterful book that ranks as a major contribution to the study of civil wars and sets the standard for the study of armed humanitarian intervention."-William Reno, Northwestern University

Peter Andreas is John Hay Professor of International Studies at Brown University. He is the author of Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo and Border Games and coeditor of Sex, Drugs, and Body Counts, all from Cornell. He is also the author of Smuggler Nation and coauthor of Policing the Globe and Drug War Politics.

General Fields

  • : 9781501704338
  • : Cornell University Press
  • : Cornell University Press
  • : March 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Peter Andreas
  • : Paperback
  • : 224