Another Good Deed Punished

There's a rabbit called Tilly in the raspberry patch these days, but we don't mind.

There's a rabbit called Tilly in the raspberry patch these days, but we don't mind. She doesn't care for the fruit or leaves of the plant but is instead attracted to the shelter afforded by the sprawling canes; and her rattling around down there helps keep the birds at bay. We appreciate the favor, but we earned it. Tilly's favorite spot earlier in the season was snug up against the marigolds we planted around our tomatoes. Marigolds repel many an insect that can harm a vegetable garden and, apparently, that can get into a rabbit's fur. Tilly's smart, for a rabbit. So we helped Tilly itch less in July, and now she's helping us gather more raspberries in October. Ain't nature wonderful?


Too bad politics don't always work out that way. The United States and its NATO allies, accompanied by a veritable parade of well-meaning non-governmental organizations, established what amounted to an international protectorate over Bosnia after the wars of 1992-95. That protectorate's initial goals were to stop the war, establish minimum conditions for normal life, and make sure that none of the foreign soldiers and social workers there got killed. The protectorate's larger ambition, clearly led by the United States, was to build a multiethnic democracy in Bosnia. Everyone seemed to understand before very long that if the protectorate was ever to proclaim victory and close up shop, the "Bosniak" Muslims, Croats and Serbs of the Bosnia-Herzegovina state created at Dayton would have to achieve a self-sustaining social peace. Western tutelage, money, example and inspiration were going to be the ways to create such a social peace, and one of the benchmarks of progress to NATO's triumphal exit was going to be democratic elections that demonstrated the three publics' overwhelming rejection of the criminally inclined, primitively nationalist politicians that created their hell of a war to start with. That rejection, in turn, was going to justify the allied effort and ratify it as a working model for future humanitarian interventions. The West was going to plant marigolds, in other words, and the rabbit was going to shake some canes.

Well, a few days ago something not so funny happened on the way to the exit ramp. The peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina spoke at the polls on October 5th, and all three communities were united, perhaps for the first time in many years, in telling their Western lords and princes, and their NGO pages as well, that they prefer platforms and now a second generation of ethno-nationalist politicians that can barely (if at all) be distinguished from the war parties of half a dozen years ago. Some gratitude.

While the official results will be known only on October 22, preliminary tabulations show the nationalist candidates from all three groups have emerged as clear winners at all levels. The executive branch is headed by a three-member ethnically-determined collective presidency. Results show that Sulejman Tihic of the hard-line Muslim-only party founded by Alija Izetbegovic, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), leads his relatively pro-Western opponent, Haris Silajdzic, of the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina, 38 to 35 percent; that Dragan Covic of the Bosnian branch of the party founded by Franjo Tudjman, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), leads with 62 percent of the vote, over 30 percentage points ahead of his closest rival; and that Mirko Sarovic, the candidate of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) founded by Radovan Karadzic, the fugitive former Bosnian Serb leader indicted by The Hague tribunal for war crimes and genocide, polled nearly 40 percent, about 15 percent higher than his closest rival. The election for the president of the Republic of Srpska was won by Dragan Cavic of the SDS, who carried more than 40 percent of the votes, close to double that of his closest rival, Milan Jelic of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, who polled a disappointing 24 percent.

Nationalists also made strong gains at the legislative level. Dayton made Bosnia into a two-entity federation, the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republic of Srpska. The Federation elects 28 out of the 42 representatives, Srpska the rest. The only four parties to pass the threshold in the Federation were SDA (31.98 percent), HDZ (16.64 percent), Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina (16.29 percent), and the SDP (16.18 percent). In Srpska, the results were similar, with the SDS leading the way, capturing 37 percent of the vote; together with other strongly nationalist parties, they will hold a majority of the seats allotted to Srpska. Of the four parties that passed the threshold level of the provincial parliamentary election in the Federation, the SDA took 32 percent of the vote, the HDZ about 17 percent, the former governing pro-Western SDP 16 percent, and the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina a little over 15 percent. On the Srpska side, the SDS led the pack, polling at about 34 percent, with their more moderate colleagues, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and the Party of Democratic Progress of the Serb Republic (PDP) trailing behind, carrying 24 and 12 percent, respectively.