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USS George Washington in the Adriatic Sea

Operations in the Former Yugoslavia

The 1990s ushered in a new world order, with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union seemingly imminent. By the end of 1991, the United States was the sole global power. This seismic shift challenged the U.S. armed forces as they were frequently called on to address regional conflicts and disasters. Often, the United States struggled to find a balance between military force and diplomatic efforts. Facing this new reality, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recognized a need to clearly delineate between large-scale combat operations and specific military operations other than war (MOOTW). The MOOTW doctrine described specific types of operations from varying levels of direct combat— including air strikes, maritime intercept operations, and the enforcement of exclusion zones—to peace operations and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, all with the overarching goal of deterring war, resolving conflict, promoting peace, and supporting civil authorities.[1] Officials believed that by enacting MOOTW, the United States could take the necessary steps to limit the possibility of American troops fighting in a large-scale war.


One implementation of MOOTW occurred following the collapse of Yugoslavia and the subsequent brutal wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina (informally known as Bosnia) and Kosovo.


For nearly a decade, U.S. armed forces, including the Navy, were deployed to the region to enforce United Nations (UN) resolutions attempting to bring the war and ethnic cleansing to an end through humanitarian assistance, naval embargos, economic sanctions, no-fly zones, and the establishment of safety zones. Eventually, when all diplomatic measures failed, the Navy, along with the other branches of the U.S. military, worked with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to strike Bosnian Serb and Serb military targets and force them to the negotiating table to stop the wars that had claimed the lives of more than one hundred thousand people and displaced more than three million civilians.




[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Doctrine for Military Operations Other than War, JP 3-07 (Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1995).