"................. the separatist realities of the Croats of Bosnia - they carry Croatian passports, use Croatian money and vote in Croatian elections - were ratified by the Dayton agreement last year; ............."

From .................NEW REPUBLIC .............OCTOBER 7, 1996 page 9

"Existing Leaders of Ethnic Groups Win Bosnian Vote,"

announced the headline in The New York Times. Surprise !

For the American government, the up sides are everywhere. John Kornblum, the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, crowed about the fact that "hundreds of people now have some kind of democratic mandate.... I am absolutely convinced that a lot of this anger and hatred will be rounded off and fade away as there are more civilian and economic links." Never mind that anger and hatred are not usually the objects of rounding off and fading away in the Balkans.

Anthony Lake was celebrating the elections even before they were held. They are a happy measure of progress, he insisted in 'The New York Times'. "One year ago war was raging in Bosnia, the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War II. Today, there is peace. Marketplaces are full of life, not death. Playgrounds belong to children, not to snipers." This is true; and it is also true that the intervention of the Clinton administration made the difference. Still, modesty is all that becomes the National Security Adviser. Like his president, he came too late to those marketplaces and those playgrounds. He is presiding over a change in their fortunes only because he, like his president, will preside over anything.

Were the elections free and fair? By the standards of the democratization professionals, they seem to have been more or less free and fair, though the media in Bosnia appears to have been impeded from above, and there were reports of some irregularities. In these elections, the representatives of the Muslim, Serb and Croat communities of Bosnia appear to have won, each of them, about 80 percent of the votes of their communities. And so the three-headed, two-year presidency will be led by Alija Izetbegovic, a Bosnian Muslim, and he will share it with Momcilo Krajisnik, a Bosnian Serb who reports to Radovan Karadzic in Pale, and Kresimir Zubak, a Bosnian Croat. The war criminal of Pale, remember, was banned from this election in another one of Richard Holbrooke's noisy, hollow miracles. But Karadzicism was not banned. It carried the day.

Bosnia will now be ruled by a presidency that is shared by three people and three parties who are, politically and philosophically, enemies of sharing. This government is a union of separatists. The separatist aspirations of the Serbs of Bosnia were openly proclaimed in Krajisnik's campaign; the separatist realities of the Croats of Bosnia - they carry Croatian passports, use Croatian money and vote in Croatian elections - were ratified by the Dayton agreement last year; and the separatist inclinations of Izetbegovic are difficult to deny, though he denies them. He calls for a multiethnic country with monoethnic rule.

There is a lesson in the incoherence of Izetbegovic's ideal. What has occurred in postwar Bosnia, and what the Bosnian election has grimly exposed, is a collision between the requirements of democracy and the requirements of pluralism. A society in which everybody, or almost everybody, is the same with respect to ethnicity or religion can be a democratic society, if there are civil liberties for all those same individuals and all those same individuals have the right to vote. Anyway, there is no such thing as perfect homogeneity; people who do not differ about identity may differ about taxation and health care and foreign affairs and all the other particulars of policy. And yet a democratic society that is ethnically or religiously homogeneous is a weak democracy; and this is certainly the case if its homogeneity is a matter of pride. Something there is in democracy that doesn't love a wall.

Heterogeneity is more in the democratic spirit. Of course, there is also no such thing as perfect heterogeneity; people who differ about identity may not differ about taxation and the rest. But some differences matter more than others, and democracy must not flinch from the differences that matter. As it has flinched in Bosnia.

"Some kind of democratic mandate," indeed. An election in which like votes always and only for like is not an occasion for celebration. The Bosnian elections were free, but they were not precisely fair. They will not establish a more democratic heterogeneity. They will establish only a less bloody homogeneity. This is not a small thing in those parts. But Bosnia will almost certainly collapse into its tribes; and the possibility that the collapse will take the form of another war, another genocidal war, justifies the presence of our troops. This is no time for champagne, except for the cleansers.