War To Save Clinton?

He's Back in Bed— With the Republican Right

The war may save Clinton yet, by putting defense back on the front burner and reinventing the coalition with the Republican right that blew apart in Monicagate. Congressional economists estimate that the Yugoslav campaign is costing several hundred million dollars a week— already breaking the Pentagon's $280 billion budget, expected to grow by at least $10 billion over the next six years for missile defense alone. In addition, Congress is talking about using part of the budget surplus to pay for the war.

Best of all for Clinton, the war continues to keep the Chinese spy fiasco out of the headlines, although there has been some leakage around the edges. For example, press reports last week put national security adviser Sandy Berger on the hot seat, raising allegations that he had ignored warnings of possible espionage during his tenure. Then, on Monday, came Newsweek's report that Clinton's former CIA chief, John Deutch, has been under investigation by the Justice Department for, of all things, mishandling classified secrets by stashing files on his home computer.

On the Russian front, hopes remained high that Clinton's love affair with alchoholic bud Boris Yeltsin might still pay off in the Balkins— if the troubled Russian president can get it together long enough to budge Slobo to the peace table. Then Clinton could at least make the case that all the money spent propping up the teetering Kremlin goofball— who last week tossed off a statement warning that NATO should not "push" Moscow too hard on Yugoslavia, lest it lead to nuclear war— was worth the trouble.

Teetering bud Boris: Can they prop him up long enough to budge Slobo?
AP/Wide World
Teetering bud Boris: Can they prop him up long enough to budge Slobo?

Footnote: On Monday, two developments in Little Rock seemed to balance out for Clinton: Susan McDougal's vindication on obstruction of justice charges, followed by Judge Susan Webber Wright's finding the president in civil contempt for giving "intentionally false" testimony about Monica Lewsinsky in the Paula Jones case.

Tirana on the Hudson
Bronx's Engel Pushes for Ground Troops

Two New York congressman, Eliot Engel of the Bronx and Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan, are taking the lead in pushing for ground troops in Kosovo. Engel's district has the largest Albanian population in the city (25,000), and is home to the newspaper Illyria, published twice weekly in both English and Albanian with a circulation of 10,000— the largest Albanian journal in the U.S. This week, Engel will introduce legislation calling for $25 million in appropriations to arm the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). "I want to build up the KLA and let them have a presence on the ground," he said over the weekend.

Engel is cochair of the Albanian Issues Caucus with conservative Republican Peter King of Nassau County. "I don't think ethnic Albanians can ever be part of Serbia again," Engel said. "We need to take Kosovo. Milosevic is a war criminal and ought to be brought before the Hague."

The prospect of ground troops in Kosovo is a strategic nightmare. Of course, there are already a few special-ops units in Kosovo setting up escape-and-evasion networks for downed pilots. Such networks involve scouting parties sent in to cache radios and munitions at various points.

Conceivably, the long-awaited Apache choppers could support amplified special forces entry, which in turn could provide more accurate targeting of hidden Serb tanks and guns. In addition, they could be used to try to snatch key Serb commanders and paramilitary leaders, some of whom have been labeled war criminals. (Also, as reported on CBS on Monday, ground forces might cut a corridor into Kosovo through which food and water could be brought to refugees.)

Pushing the Serbs too far, however, could be risky. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that, backed into a corner, they might obtain and use nuke-tipped artillery shells or chemical munitions, especially if the battlefield were cleared of noncombatants (through a combination of ethnic cleansing and NATO bombing).

Another, though more distant possibility, is a NATO invasion from the north through its newest member, Hungary. NATO could take control of the Serb province of Vojvodina, a valuable breadbasket that has a sizeable minority population of Hungarians and Romanians. The fact that two key bridges over the Danube already have been cut would be a help. General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said over the weekend, "We haven't excluded using more than one point of entry or numerous points of entry in the area if, in fact, that was required."

Short of ground forces, some members of Congress are pushing Clinton to get negotiations going. Last week, Democrat Dennis Kucinich, whose Cleveland district contains substantial numbers of Serbs, Croats, and Albanians, asked Orthodox church leaders in Belgrade and Kosovo to take the lead in pushing for talks. Father Sava of the Decani monastery in Kosovo has repeatedly sought to mediate between Albanians and Serbs. In Belgrade, the Patriarch Pavle has reached out with ecumenical messages to Slovenians, Croats, and other groups in an attempt to override Milosevic's ultranationalism.

Also being discussed in Washington last week was the possibility of setting up a protectorate in Kosovo along the lines of post­World War II Berlin, with zones controlled by different powers. In that event, the Russian zone could provide a buffer between Serbs and NATO nations.

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