The Problem of Newly Formed Volunteer Forces

Neither the HVO nor the ABiH had been in existence for more than a year when the Muslim-Croat conflict in central Bosnia erupted in January, 1993. All of the institutions and norms of both armies were still in the formative stage, and there had been insufficient time to work out suitable regulations and standards—much less to impart them effectively to all personnel. A good deal of time is required to achieve consensus on institutional processes and norms and to insure that all members of the organization know the rules, accept them as valid, and act accordingly. That time was simply not available to either the HVO or the ABiH.

Another factor serving to degrade command and control in both the HVO and the ABiH was that both armies were composed predominantly of part-time "citizen" soldiers, who in effect served pretty much when and even where they pleased. Most units were composed of comrades from the same village, lower-level leaders were often elected, and command authority had to be earned. Consequently, as Brigadier Slavko Marin, the operations officer at HQ, OZCB, has pointed out, many of the lower-level HVO commanders in central Bosnia were not fully respected by their subordinates, their peers, or their superiors.2 Moreover, particularly in the HVO, the part-time soldiers mixed civilian and military duties. When they were not on the frontlines against the Serbs, they were in their home villages pursuing their normal occupations, and the lack of barracks exacerbated the lack of discipline. The HVO soldiers in central Bosnia were also prone to select for themselves the unit in which they wished to serve, requiring the commander of the HVO Viteska Brigade, for example, to issue a specific order forbidding "transfers from one unit to another on one's own initiative."3 Although common around the world, such part-time and "voluntary" military service under the command of one's friends and neighbors is not conducive to the acceptance of strict discipline and accountability.

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