Journal of Strategic Studies (online first)
The Bosnian ‘safe areas’ established in the 1990s failed abysmally at civilian protection; indeed, by generating moral hazard, they may have worsened the humanitarian situation. Drawing on declassified documents as well as other primary sources, this article makes the case that US, British, and French support for the safe areas can be understood as an instance of mutual alliance entanglement. The United States and its principal European allies had serious doubts that the safe areas could effectively protect civilians. Nevertheless, the Western powers agreed to support the safe areas diplomatically and by means of a limited NATO airpower commitment. The expectation was that this would allow them to signal alliance unity after a period of transatlantic discord and showcase their ability for joint action. The article sheds new light on the origins of the Bosnian safe areas and illuminates how alliance pressures might pull NATO members toward ill-conceived military interventions.