Romania's Revolution

POCKETS of Ceausescu loyalists are still sniping in parts of Romania, but the new coalition government in Bucharest is moving swiftly to restore order. It deservedly has broad international support. The announcement of free elections in Romania this May by the Council of National Salvation is welcome. In the meantime, Romania will need all the help it can get - from humanitarian aid (clothes, food, energy) to technical expertise on economic and political recovery. Both Warsaw Pact countries and NATO allies can join in this effort.

But, as with the Romanian revolution itself, most of the effort must be internal. The country does not have a significant democratic history, and the next months may prove awkward as political alliances shift. The coalition government - made up of dissidents, students, artists, and military figures - is still sketchy and fragile. It needs to avoid infighting, as it decides how power is to be exercised and how former officials are to be dealt with.

The role of the Romanian military, which emerged as a leading force in the Ceausescu ouster, is unclear. The National Salvation Council needs to work against the kind of social chaos that down the road could lead to military rule. An estimated 15,000 Romanians are already dying each year from the hunger and other hardships caused by Ceausescu's policies.

Most importantly, the National Council must move Romania as quickly as possible past the grief and outrage that now pervade it. For this reason (along with due process), the quick execution of Ceausescu and his wife and accomplice Elena, was unfortunate. A formal trial, with a comprehensive unveiling of facts, crimes, finances, and so on, could have been a rallying time for the people - a clearing of the air, a precedent for open communication.

That said, the rest of the world must marvel at the courage of the Romanian people. In some ways, their new freedom, which no one predicted, is the sweetest in Eastern Europe this year. The price they paid was certainly the dearest.

The Romanians have put dictators of every type and size on notice: It is not acceptable to openly or secretly control a people. Ceausescu ruled in the name of a grand, nationalistic cause. Yet as the money ran out, it became clear to the people, through their suffering, that his interests were in himself and what dissident scholar Vladimir Tismaneanu calls his ``surreal world.''

Against all odds and accepted wisdom, the Romanian people showed that such a world can end in the twinkling of an eye.

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