Jack of all tirades: The show ain't over yet

By Joshua London
web posted June 1999

Back when Germany invaded Russia the great George S. Kaufman remarked: "I think they're shooting without a script."

After 11 weeks of NATO bombing, it is Clinton's hastily improvised script that's been comprehensively shot through. We intervened to prevent a humanitarian disaster: we accelerated it. We intervened to prevent the crisis spreading and destabilizing neighboring countries: it spread. We intervened to "degrade" Milosevic's military capability: he did a wonderful job of degrading ours -- how many cruise missiles do we have left?

But repine not, the show ain't over yet. The script is still to be salvaged and refined, and worries over production costs have been neatly shelved.

American taxpayers should feel content in the knowledge that Bill Clinton has spent the last two months dropping this year's Republican tax cut on Yugoslavia night after night. He may well be spending next year's Republican tax cut on post-war reconstruction: rebuilding all the Serb bridges, railway lines, utility plants, children's wards and KLA-held villages destroyed by this year's Republican tax cut.

The White House script writers won't have too difficult a time with the current Kosovo peace agreement. Fortunately for them, American audiences no longer worry about continuity or plausibility.

The new script is simple: Bill Clinton stood up to war criminals; bravely stood fast against unpatriotic criticism and continued the bombing; faced down the evil Milosevic, and skillfully orchestrated the negotiations that resulted in peace, prosperity and that warm fuzzy feeling each and every refugee should be feeling. (Which is a good thing considering that winter is likely to overtake the refugees long before they have homes to shelter them from the cold).

And so the "happy ending" is back in the script. Never mind the fact that when Clinton began the bombing he had no contingency plan if Milosevic did not immediately accept the Rambouillet terms. Never mind that, by ruling out ground troops, Clinton gave Milosevic the time and space to expel 800 000 Kosovars and massacre thousands of others. Never mind that the world's foremost military power flew 31 000 sorties, expending 20 000 very costly bombs and missiles on a country with a third-rate military. Never mind that the current peace agreement does not embrace much of the Rambouillet accords, demands that were sacrosanct before the bombing began. Never mind that the KLA are not likely to disarm without Kosovo independence. Never mind that thousands of unexploded mines from NATO cluster bombs still litter the area. And never mind that peace, as of this writing, is little more than words on paper. Milosevic has reneged on agreements before and may yet again. The chances that this "peace" will be simply a transition point between ethnic cleansing and ethnic warfare are fairly, well, good.

Even if the Kosovo agreement ultimately goes through, U.S. troops will be employed as policemen for many years still, increasing the strain on an operational tempo that has, just in the last year, reduced our military recruiting and retention figures down below the desired levels.

Not that any of this currently presents problems for us. President Clinton and his scriptwriters made a point of editing these and other troubling bits right out of the script.

The other troubling bits are things like the Cox Commission report issued last month and the Rumsfeld Commission report issued last July. Both of which indicate that the global view is disheartening at best. Note: both were written with full access to intelligence sources, and both were issued with the unanimous endorsement of serious Republicans and Democrats who often disagree on policy.

The Cox report pointed out that China stole the design of small nuclear weapons, got help from US companies in developing guidance systems for aiming its missiles and, at least since 1996, with administration approval, has purchased 600 high-performance computers. Roughly translated, this means that China has the capability to build, test and deliver nuclear weapons throughout East Asia and, eventually, much of the United States.

The Rumsfeld report indicated that rogue states like Iran, North Korea and (in the not too distant future) Iraq could "inflict major destruction on the US" with missile attacks. As we currently have no way of monitoring their preparations, it is hard to determine just how quickly this threat can be mobilized-it is estimated to be within five years of their deciding to target us.(when ever that might be). At the moment, the United States can do nothing to defend against such attacks.

But it isn't all bad tidings. Luckily the principal cast of stars-Clinton, et al-should receive some measurable benefit from all this. Recall that, as the bombing of Kosovo continued with no apparent result, Clinton's job rating dropped to 53 percent and the war was creating a sense that things were out of control.

That vague but growing sense that things were out of control, and that the United States was facing new threats, surely contributed to Clinton's rather low foreign-policy ratings even before bombing began March 24. Without question, the numbers will steadily go up; though Clinton has no halo, his wings are in fine form.

So, "facts be damned", the script will once again indicate that everything is under control. That God's in heaven, and all is right with the world... I can't help but think that a little Prokofiev might provide an appropriate soundtrack to this farce.


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