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

by Peter Andreas Cornell University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 224 pages
AU$45.99 NZ$47.82
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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.





Preface1. The Longest SiegeSarajevo on Center StageThe Cast of CharactersFront Stage and Backstage: Formal and Informal RolesConflict NarrativesCriminalized Conflict NarrativesPreview2. Imposing the SiegeThe Road to Siege WarfareThe Start of the Siege and the Criminally Aided DefenseThe International Response3. Sustaining the SiegeDiverting and Manipulating Humanitarian AidExploiting the Privileges of Mobility and AccessThe UN-Controlled Airport as Smuggling HubTunneling under the Siege: Lifeline and Profit CenterTrading with the EnemyThe Media and Its Dependence on the Black MarketThe Money Letter Smuggling SystemThe Smugglers' Markets and Cigarettes as Currency4. The Siege WithinCriminal Defenders as PredatorsPolitical Corruption, Abuse, and OpportunismObstructing Access to Water5. Lifting the SiegeFront Stage:Triggering NATO Air StrikesBackstage: Shifting the Military Balance by Evading the UN Arms Embargo6. AftermathThe Criminalized Aftermath of WarThe Criminalized New EliteSarajevo as Transit Point for Migrant SmugglingSex Trafficking and PeacekeepingThe Arizona Market: Peace through Illicit Trade?7. ExtensionsSrebrenicaLeningradGroznyFallujaConclusionsRevisiting SarajevoLessons from SarajevoNotesIndex

"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 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.