BILL IN KOSOVO, OR SOMALIA REDUX So it looks like we are going to war. It’ll be a small little war by 20th-century standards — hopefully — but a war nevertheless. It will probably last a long time though. It will be more like a permanent back ailment or migraine condition than a serious disease. In principle, I’m for it. Unlike the domestic arena, where I think government assertiveness is rarely warranted, I believe the U.S. can and should throw its weight around abroad when necessary.
There’s a problem though. While I’m all for America doing what it feels is right — in much the same way the British took it upon themselves to halt the slave trade — the Balkans are a messy place. But more to the point, the president is a profoundly messy president. Indeed, he tends to use the armed forces the way an indulged child plays with his toys. He pulls them from the shelf and spreads them all over the place without any idea about how to put them back. He tends to walk away without cleaning up.
If anybody needs a reminder on this front, I cannot recommend more highly the latest edition of PBS’s Frontline which aired last night and will surely be repeated. It was a documentary richly seasoned with first hand accounts of the incredible travesty of American involvement in Somalia in 1993. America’s best soldiers fought a terrible fire-fight for 17 hours in the streets of downtown Mogadishu. Eighteen men were killed and many more wounded. How it began can tell us a lot about how the president is likely to act in Kosovo. After all, we know that one can tell a great deal from the man’s patterns of behavior.
American troops had been sent to Somalia by President Bush, perhaps unadvisedly, to aid in the humanitarian effort. The Americans were greeted by all factions in Somalia as saviors. When President Clinton moved into the Oval Office, he was far too busy “focusing on the economy like a laser” to pay attention. So instead he said, let’s start some “burden sharing” with the U.N. Remember, spreading the responsibility in Bill Clinton’s America means spreading the blame.
The U.N. got into the business of “Nation-Building.” We and our partners in peace poured thousands of tons of food into Somalia. Unfortunately, in a primitive and savage culture like 1990s Mogadishu, food is currency. And the various warlords saw feeding the people as a threat to their power, especially Mohammed Farah Aidid. He decided to send the U.N., and especially the U.S., a message. So he killed a couple of dozen Pakistani peacekeepers. America, under the ever-Churchillian leadership of then-U.N. Secretary Madeleine Albright, forced a resolution through the Security Council calling for the arrest and capture of “those responsible.” That meant Aidid. The Army Rangers were sent in along with Delta Force and the CIA. The White House refused to let them do their jobs unobstructed. Ground forces and intelligence agents had to get bureaucratic permission for everything they did. So our elite force spent most of its time in Mogadishu antagonizing the local population with fruitless and intrusive hunt-and-peck missions.
Aidid set a trap. American forces were ambushed. Brave men fought for hours on end while other brave men tried to get to them. Eighteen men were killed, many more wounded.
Curiously though, the president had already launched a high-profile diplomatic mission, using former President Carter as an emissary. American troops were still being thrown into harm’s way daily in Mogadishu because the president simply wasn’t paying attention. Quite simply, nobody in Washington much cared what the ground forces were doing. So they followed their orders and continued the hunt for Aidid. But an obvious question arises: Why try to capture a man when the commander in chief is going to great lengths to negotiate with him?
This was the question Sgt. Joyce’s father wanted answered. He felt his son had died in vain. In a meeting between the president and families of the fallen soldiers, Mr. Joyce asked the president that question. President Clinton, who apparently had been enjoying his feel-their-pain session, was all of a sudden put in a tricky situation: he was being held responsible for something. Children hate that. So, what did he do? President Clinton wheeled on his national-security adviser Tony Lake and said indignantly, “You know, that’s exactly what I asked Tony Lake myself.”
Mr. Joyce took this as confirmation from the president of the United States that his son had died in vain.
Fast forward six years later. In a private meeting with the Italian Prime Minister, the Washington Post reports today, President Clinton was asked another good question, “What next?”
Post reporter Michael Dobbs writes that earlier this month Massiomo D’Alema asked the president, what would the United States do if Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic refused to back down and instead stepped up his military offensive against Kosovo Albanians?
Clinton, according to Italians in the room, was silent and unprepared. Rather than reply, he turned to his current national-security adviser Sandy Berger. Berger also hesitated, and then he responded, “We will continue bombing.”
This is a strategy? This a plan? This is Clinton’s version of the requisite concern for our troops we expect from a president? President Clinton has been extremely lucky so far when it comes to military adventures. He has launched sanitary cruise missiles from a safe distance at Iraq, the Sudan, and Bin Laden’s lair in Afghanistan. But sending pilots into Balkan skies is different, as we learned the last time we did it. A man was shot down and we reverted to using strong language rather than big sticks. Most nations with long memories know that the term “Balkan exit strategy” is a contradiction in terms.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go in. I have no problem using American blood and treasure to do what is right abroad. It would just be nice if we had the right man for the job.
WOMAN, THY NAME IS HYPOCRISY Last night Patricia Ireland was on Hardball with replacement host Mary Matalin. Matalin asked the president of NOW what she thought about Juanita Broaddrick’s allegations. She responded (I’m quoting from memory), “Well, I find her fairly credible. Personally, I can understand why a woman wouldn’t come forward 21 years ago; in Arkansas; making accusations against the attorney general. Especially when you consider that she did invite Bill Clinton up to her room, which has proved to be so deadly in court proceedings of this kind…on the other hand, we do know that Ken Starr is twisting arms…I do take offense at charges of hypocrisy.”
Well, I don’t mean to cause offense but…
“Women don’t make up rape” is the enduring mantra of the feminists — and the first part of her comments backs that up. But she still has to render to Caesar something. So she appropriates the first page from the White House playbook — attack Ken Starr. How is it exactly that Ken Starr was supposed to have forced Broaddrick to have made this allegation? How is it that he got people to corroborate her story? Broaddrick’s friends and colleagues weren’t subject to Starr’s pressure. And indeed, if Ken Starr did “twist” her arm, how come he didn’t use the Broaddrick allegations in his referral to Congress?
Ireland is trapped by her own moral prostitution. She can’t say a credible woman who has taken no money and has nothing to gain politically is lying about rape. She also can’t say that Bill Clinton — her political sugar daddy — is guilty of rape. So what does she do? Blame someone else. Clintonism is contagious.
THE SWEATIEST PIC, ROUND III Okay, day three of our trial heats on the sweatiest movie ever. Some of you have started writing me, asking me what I mean by “sweatiest.” Well, I mean the film with the most perspiration in it. To qualify, actors need to be svitz almost constantly — like Jerry Nadler in a chicken suit in August.
Today we consider:
The Jonah Poll
What is the sweatiest movie ever made? Round III The Rocky Movies The Die Hard Movies The Rambo Movies A Time to Kill Spartacus