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Re some of the above:

Ace, welcome to the club, none of us claims the gold for intelligence; we're all doing the best we can and I don't think any of us wants to see our boys coming home in body bags, especially the fathers among us.

Clinton did tell the country why we (NATO, led by us)are going to blast Milosevic until he lets up, but without ground troops. And he told us why, to stop the ethnic cleansing. A lot of people want to stop the atrocities, but not a lot of us want to fight on the ground. Americans, not being dopes, never want to fight on the ground, in Asia or in Europe. But that's what we usually wind up doing.

Clinton may be nobody's paragon of virtue, but he did lead the NATO posse to stop M's turning a whole province into refugees. We gave him fair warning. I was listening to Richard Holbrooke, our top civilian over there describing how he spent about three hours with M after Rambouillet telling him what was going to happen unless he agreed to allow peacekeepers come in and protect the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. M wouldn't budge. "Do you know what's going to happen then?" Holbrooke asked. "You're going to bomb us," M replied. Holbrooke said he was satisfied M understood. Three days later the bombing started.

Not only did Clinton say why we were going in, but he told us how, with air power. That's what caused immediate concern among military people who know that air power is a necessary prelude to ground forces, because air alone seems to strengthen the resolve of those being blasted, and as some wit said, "No soldier ever surrendered to an airplane." Sen. John McCain (R/Ariz, & announced presidential candidate) is leading the Republicans, who are split over winning even if it means ground forces, and those who don't want us anywhere near the place in any way, shape or form, isolationists,if you will. Pat Buchanan, another presidential candidate is the leading spokesman for this point of view.

Clinton, interestingly enough, is the only one of the above who is ineligible to run again; he's term-limited out. So he's a lame duck of the worst sort. His aim, I understand, is to see Al Gore elected in is place. I have no idea what that is apt to bring if Gore wins.

Clinton's problem, and this may be why he was so firm in stating "he has no intention" of using ground forces in Yugoslavia, is that he knows the country isn't prepared to back him on ground forces even if he wanted to use them to kick butt and win.

In this sense, he's in a position like FDR's before Pearl Harbor. FDR could screw around with Lend Lease, which was our fig-leaf for providing Britain with all the guns, ships, & supplies we could send over while still pretending to be neutral. After Pearl Harbor, FDR wasted so little time that some people ever since have argued he set the thing up. I think he smelled the war coming and as soon as public opinion crystallized over Pearl Harbor and young men rushed to the induction centers to save the country, he could declare war on Japan, which by this time the whole country realized was the only proper thing to do. Then the isolationists, and defeatists, and Nazi sympathizers (some put Charles Lindbergh in some or all of these categories) looked very bad and were little heard from again. Isolationism became discredited. We were now part of the world as never before; we couldn't hide behind the two oceans, as they were no real protection. After the war when our allies were bled white, and Germany was flattened, we were the only guy left standing after the fight, which never touched our shores to any real degree. So we used our Marshall Plan to restore Germany, France, and the rest of war-torn Europe so it could get back on its feet. Better to have trading partners than bitter enemies; and that's how Germany became our ally, with a little help from Joe Stalin who kept the Germany divided even after the British, France, and the U.S. allowed their sectors to merge. Thus East and West Germany, which reunited ten years ago.

So Clinton is stuck. He has to tell us no ground troops, just as FDR had to keep us out of the war until Pearl Harbor. FDR didn't have allies holding him back. Churchill's Britain was angling to get us in. France would have loved it, but France got rolled up on day one.

Clinton chose his words carefully, as he pointed out. "No intentions" means no intentions right this minute. People can change their minds. He wasn't lying. You know how the guy is. He avoids perjury like the skilled lawyer he is. If he says no intentions, he ain't lying; he's just waiting. Watch, something will happen and you'll see the ground troops going in. "You were lying!" Clinton's detractors will say. "No I wasn't," he'll reply, circumstances changed and we had to use ground troops; I didn't make my mind 'til last nite when I signed the order." That's what I expect him to do and say. The order is probably sitting around waiting to be signed, but as long as it remains unsigned, you can't call the guy a liar and make it stick, at least not on this issue.

Not only doesn't Clinton have the U.S. united behind ground troops yet, he doesn't have NATO either. You can't get nineteen guys at the corner tavern to agree on what to drink, much less nineteen nations on war when none has been attacked. The price of their signing on to this campaign had to have been no ground troops. So Milosevic has that advantage going in and these bombs are so much character-builders for the Serbs, who really didn't need the encouragement, if you ask me.

You know how we operate. We do an eight month Desert Shield buildup, then we go in full bore with the likes of Schwartzkopf and his famous left end-around. Nothing left of the Iraqi sand devils. Got snow-plowed under a lot of sand. We killed more Americans than the Iraqis did, for God's sake.

I guess we didn't have time to mess around this time, just had to start bombing. We lose a few more servicemen and in we go. Who wants to hold the bets.

So we were told, Ace, by a guy who ain't running.

Now all of this doesn't make me feel wonderful. It may be that we do, in fact, draw the line before we get to ground troops in the Balkans, but you know us, we never draw lines around ourselves. Eisenhower, or was it MacArthur, said never get involved in a ground war in Asia. What did we do after the French got kicked out of Indo-China, hereafter known as Vietnam? Jumped in with both feet and got wiped. 58,000 lost; just ours. 3 million of theirs, but who's counting.

So this is risky business, and we're apparently in the business of taking risks. Nobody guttier, on our side, than Clinton. I mean, the way he bore up under getting roasted for years over his scandals too sickening to re-mention shows the guy's either gutty or a sociopath. Since Milosevic is the sociopath in this picture, I'm opting for gutty. I can't bear to think we've got two head cases.

As for the good folks who recommend staying home while the rest of the world goes to hell in a hand-basket, again, I sympathize, but I think we're way past that, operationally, and probably politically. But I'm not much of a politician; Clinton, however, is. He can count votes down to a gnat's hindquarters. Which is what you need in a politician. We want our presidents to pretend to lead while we pretend to follow. The guy gets too far ahead and he loses us. A. Lincoln had the same problem. Was trying to hold the country together, and was against slavery, for the most part, but he took his sweet time about when and where he cut loose the slaves. If he really cut 'em all loose early in the Civil War he would have lost a lot of support. And in politics, the name of the game is support.

Clinton doesn't have the country behind him, yet. Maybe he never will. But one good black eye from Milosevic on us and what choice do we have. Maybe that's why M held back on the SAMs for as long as he did. Maybe all he wants to do is to terrorize the Kosovars into fleeing using h i s ground forces so when we come in there'll be nothing left. That seems a pretty fair description of what his troops are doing from all the reports I've been hearing. In that sense he's already won, which may be the argument for staying the hell out on the ground.

Very complicated and fluid and lot's of wild cards, like Russia.

What surprises me is the apparent ignoring of the Colin Powell doctrine, used in Desert Shield/Storm. Don't go in without the country behind you (maybe Clinton is semi-following this part) and don't go in unless you are committed to winning. That means ground troops or forget it. Funny how you don't hear Powell weighing in on this campaign. Guess he's done with war. Wonder what Schwartzkopf thinks.

I have no doubt that our guys are well familiar with everything you need to know about making war in Balkans from the terrain, to the weather, to the logistics, to historical experience. Which is probably why we're holding back.

If we say we can't do it, that seems legitimate. But if we say we can and don't, then that's the Holocause all over again. And Allied Force is supposed to be trying to prevent that. I don't buy for a minute that we're the ones responsible for the refugee situation; I lay that one at Milosevic's feet.

So the situation is dynamic and developing as we chat. If there's a diplomatic breakthrough, great. If there isn't, this thing is going to make us long for the days of O.J. and Monica, when we weren't shooting at each other.

-rs




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