THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2019 39 party elections, the first since before the Second World War. I observed most of them, and the experience was among the most moving in my Foreign Service career. No one who has ever had the opportunity to witness people standing with patient enthusiasm in long lines to vote for the first time in their lives, when it would actually make a difference, could ever doubt the power of democracy as an ideal. The victory of ethnically oriented parties in most of these Yugoslav republican elections was an unfortunate result of decades of communist rule drying up virtually every other option. As one of my Croatian friends somewhat shamefacedly told me: “The new communists are actually an attractive option, but after half a century of them in charge I just can’t bring myself to support them in our first democratic election.” The promise of democracy was inspiring, but competing ethnic visions among the victors in different republics plunged much of Yugoslavia into years of bloody ethnic conflict. Belated outside intervention and a sense of mutual exhaustion with the bloodletting eventually brought a sometimes-troubled peace. All of the former Yugoslav republics have assumed the trappings of democracy, but it remains a fragile implant. As in many other areas the forms of democracy—elections, political parties and the rule of law—risk being subverted by corruption and creeping authoritarianism. Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is legitimate ground for disagreement on what needs to be done to overcome the current time of troubles in many democratic systems. But surely an important element is to understand and recommit ourselves to belief in the inspirational power of democracy that we observed in 1989. n All of the former Yugoslav republics have assumed the trappings of democracy, but it remains a fragile implant.