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The Rationality of Serb Leaders in the Bosnian War


  • Mario Ferrero


This paper asks whether Bosnian Serb leaders’ choice to carry out a secession war in 1992–1995 was rational from the point of view of their stated goal of ethnic cleansing. We construct two indexes, one of ethnic purity and another of ethnic Serb concentration, and apply them to a counterfactual estimate of the outcome of ‘peaceful’ ethnic cleansing – what could have been achieved by population exchange based on pre-war territorial Serb power without war – in comparison to the actual outcome of the war. We find that the gross benefits of the chosen strategy of secession and war far exceed anything that could be achieved by the peaceful alternative. A conjectural assessment of perceived costs suggests that also net benefits were maximized by the war strategy. The implication for international deterrence policy is that credible judicial prosecution and punishment is the best way to alter the prospective perpetrators’ calculus.

Suggested Citation

  • Mario Ferrero, 2017. "The Rationality of Serb Leaders in the Bosnian War," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(1), pages 53-64, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:defpea:v:28:y:2017:i:1:p:53-64
    DOI: 10.1080/10242694.2015.1016294

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ferrero Mario, 2013. "You Shall Not Overkill: Substitution Between Means of Group Removal," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 19(3), pages 333-342, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ferrero, Mario, 2013. "Extermination as a substitute for assimilation or deportation: an economic approach," POLIS Working Papers 174, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.

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