What's in Albright's Attic?Dear, ohdear! I wonder what happened to Walter Isaacson's researchers. Could it be thatTime Warner and Ted Turner are turning into scrooges? Or is it simply a caseof Walter baby letting sleeping dogs lie to continue to enjoy access to Madeleine'sboudoir for as long as she remains secretary of state? Last week'sTime cover story on Madeleine Notsobright included many personal detailsexcept for the most embarrassing: A wealthy Austrian family has issued an ultimatumto Madeleine Albright and her relatives demanding they return "millionsof dollars' worth of war booty allegedly taken from their apartment in Pragueafter World War II," according to the May 6 Jewish Forward.Now before I go on, I have to declare an interest. The Austrian family thatis about to sue our Madeleine is known to me, and one of their brothers-in-lawis a very good friend. Also, my wife happens to be an Austrian, one of thoseAustrians who owned large parts of Czechoslovakia, as it happens. I am talkingabout the kind of Austrians Hitler was not very keen on, those with ancienttitles and castles in romantic settings. To a man they were all sent to theRussian front where most of them perished.
This isthe kind of family that is suing the first-ever woman and second Jew to holdthe high office of State. Philip Harmer is the present head of the well-to-dofamily of former Austrian industrialists and landowners. The Harmers claim thatMrs. Albright's father, Josef Korbel, "took up residence with his daughterMadeleine and the rest of his family in our Prague apartment at 11 HradsankeStreet..." in 1945. No one ever claimed that the Harmers had anything todo with the Nazis, but the anti-German/Austrian climate at the time was so virulentthe family had no option but to leave Prague (essentially a German city up tothe middle of the 19th century), their birthplace.
Shortlyafterward, Madeleine's daddy is believed to have expropriated the Harmers' paintings-2017th-century Dutch masters-antique furniture and silver. Korbel did this ina very, shall we say, Swiss manner. The treasures had been moved for safekeepingto a place owned by the Swiss embassy in Prague, where a Harmer great-aunt,Swiss by marriage, was living. When Korbel saw the bare patches on the wallof the apartment where the paintings had been hanging he "demanded thatthe housekeepers tell him where they were. He then went round to my great-aunt'sflat and removed them," says Harmer.
It getsworse. When Madeleine's father was posted to Belgrade as a Czech diplomat in1946, he took along his family as well as the Harmer family's treasures. Hethen shifted the paintings and silver to London in a diplomatic bag, escapingany examination by customs. The "loot" eventually arrived in America,and Harmer is convinced several of the artworks are in the homes of Mrs. Albright'syounger brother John Korbel, of Arlington, VA, and her sister Kathy. Harmerinitiated a cordial correspondence with the Korbels but his claims were rebuffed.
He now saysthat he has important evidence concerning the whereabouts of some of the artworks.It was supplied by journalist Michael Dobbs of The Washington Post, whois due to publish a biography of the Secretary of State. Dobbs interviewed Madeleine'sbrother at his home and was able to identify two of the paintings.
In fairness,Madeleine's family has yet to tell its side of the story, so even I, a Clintonand Notsobright hater, should give them the benefit of the doubt, at least forthe time being. What bothers me is that the people who are accusing the Korbelfamily of having looted their art are as honest as the day is long. The Harmersare neither hustlers nor opportunists-to the contrary.
What bothersme even more is that the American media has chosen to ignore the charges, somethingthe British press has not. The only American newspaper to publish them withoutcomment was The Jewish Forward, a significant fact.
"TopDrawer" has hardly been friendly to Madeleine, and we are ferociously opposedto "Meddling's War," but my "J'Accuse" has nothing to dowith it. It is fine to relish donning bomber jackets and waging war againsta small European nation; it is fine to lack foreign policy vision, which gotus into this mess, and contingency plans for getting us out of it; it is fineto lie and spin the facts and tell us that NATO had to attack the Serbs becauseMilosevic refused to negotiate over Kosovo. (There was no negotiation. Albrightdemanded Yugoslavia allow 30,000 NATO troops to occupy the country and to overseean independent Kosovo within three years.) It is even fine to pretend the depopulationof Kosovo began before the bombing.
What isnot fine is to be discovered to be dishonest and to have kept stolen property.Not when you occupy the chair of Henry Kissinger, Dean Acheson, John FosterDulles and George C. Marshall. And not when your government has been so activein seeking the return of property stolen from other European Jews not fortunateenough, like your father, to escape to the United States. Philip Harmer hadthis to say: "I cannot believe the Secretary of State of the United Statesand her brother and sister enjoy eating with my family's silver while surroundedby my family's paintings and furniture." I say if she had a scintilla ofshame or decency she would have resigned over this alone.
? Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia FEATURE The Lament of a Princess I must criticizethe Serbs. There are about one million of them in this country and they do nothave any effective lobby. Neither do they employ a powerful public relationsagency. Perhaps now after the destruction of Yugoslavia they will, for the firsttime, discover some form of unity. I am grateful for that.
I used tothink that, because the Albanians had a powerful and influential lobby in Washingtonand were long established in businesses in the States, the Serbs would followsuit. The Croatians hired a highly respected p.r. firm and learned, early on,the importance of good p.r. in this country.
The Serbsfor some reason or other never thought along these lines. Three years ago, forthe first time, there was a strong show of unity in Belgrade when everyone marchedfor six weeks, night and day. The people were euphoric in their love for oneanother and were excited that finally they could make a difference. Blue jeansand rock 'n' roll and McDonald's! They couldn't get enough of them. Now Americaand the West would notice them, come to their rescue and give the oppositionparties a chance against Milosevic's government machine.
But theydidn't. Nobody paid the slightest attention, and this huge effort just fadedinto the mists of an early spring morning. Who knows, perhaps different voicescould have brought about different circumstances. Small countries love and admirebig countries, but I learned, over the years, that big countries do not havefriends, they only have interests. The steel trap of Communism slammed shuton Yugoslavia soon after the Nazis invaded in 1941, and for 50 years they livedas a nation that never reached maturity, never developed along normal lines.
My father,Prince Paul, was the last democratic and constitutional leader, but he was thrownout of office in 1941 by some ambitious Serb generals, financed by Britain.Subsequently, the country was completely shattered by the German Luftwaffe andthen overrun by the Wehrmacht in 10 days. Meanwhile, Tito was waiting in theshadows and was able to gain control. It was not because of his efforts in fightingthe Nazis or his popularity, but because of behind-the-scenes machinations onthe part of the British Foreign Office and the Soviet Union. Strange bedfellows,one might think. But the British thought it was in their interest to pleaseStalin in this way, and did everything they could to help Tito gain power.
Anotherwave of terror took over after the Nazis left, and Tito's secret police werejust as strict as the KGB. All religions were forbidden and human rights wereobliterated. Families were torn apart, human dignity was wiped out and traditionsmocked. Vestiges of the past remained, and I know of people who crept into churchat 4 a.m. to get married by a priest. To this day, when I meet Serbs eitherhere or in Yugoslavia, they very often speak in whispers in case someone islistening-someone who could turn them in for being open and frank and for tellingthe truth.
The Serbshave always been fighters and defenders of their faith and territory, and itis hard for people like this to be pushed into a corner and given an ultimatum.They were invited by the Austrians to settle in parts of Croatia (then partof the Austro-Hungarian Empire) to protect the locals against any possible Turkishinvasion. In every legal sense their land belonged to them.
Then, fouryears ago, with the help of the West, hundreds of thousands of Serbs, who hadlived in Croatia for more than 400 years, were brutally and mercilessly evictedfrom their homes in a few days. The refugees were herded into camps in Serbia,where they now languish. Again nobody cared. Most farsighted people knew thatKosovo would be the next bonfire to happen after Dayton, so this could havebeen prevented. Earlier this century, the West could have backed an alternativein Germany, and millions of people could also have been saved. Now, the horrorsin Kosovo and in the rest of Yugoslavia are beyond description and the children,most of all, are suffering trauma, exile and famine. Some are on the run andsome, on the other hand, are stuck in Serbia because they come from mixed marriages.
NATO willsurely bomb other innocent victims by mistake, and nobody will ever tell ushow many have died. This is a no-win situation for everyone at this point. Manymore innocent civilians are now being killed in Yugoslavia by NATO planes. TheNATO countries are enraged at being defied, so they have to win or lose face.
The onepositive thing to come out of this horrible mess is that Serbs will finallybe united, and may, finally, have their own lobby in Washington-and retain adecent p.r. firm. Toby Young ARRIVISTE Mick Shagger I'm in alove triangle with Mick Jagger-again. Two weeks ago a girl I'd been pursuingfor a couple of months finally kissed me in a bar. In addition to being a sexy,dark-skinned beauty, she's difficult, complicated and something of a handful.In other words, totally irresistible. I couldn't believe my luck and, as itturned out, I was right. A couple of days later she gave me the bad news: Shewas involved with another man. He was a bit of a playboy, apparently, but allhis friends assured her he was completely besotted. In fact, they'd never seenhim like this with anyone before. So she was flying to London to spend sometime with him. Maybe, if things didn't work out, she'd call me.
I foundout the following day it was Jagger.
This isthe second time I've lost a woman to the 55-year-old Rolling Stone and, frankly,I'm getting a little tired of it. To lose one woman to Mick Jagger may be regardedas a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.
To tellthe truth, the first time it happened I felt rather flattered. The woman inquestion was a gorgeous Chilean girl known-inevitably-as the Red Hot Chile Pepper.Okay, I didn't like being dumped for a married father-of-six but it did meanI was only two degrees of separation from some of the most beautiful women inthe world. It was like a rite of passage. I might have lost the game but I wasplaying in the big leagues now.
The secondtime around, it's not so much fun. Thirty years ago, when Mick Jagger was stillthe Satanic Prince of the counterculture, I might have understood. But he'sa grandfather now, for heaven's sakes. What do women see in him? With his spindlylittle legs, oversized head and enormous, Negroid lips he looks like a badlydrawn caricature. He has the face of a mummified horse.
He alsoexhibits all the "bad" masculine traits that feminists have trainedus to deplore. The girl I like has just flown to London to be with him, even though the Brazilian model who's carrying his love child has just flown to NewYork. The term "love rat" doesn't begin to do him justice. He's theBill Clinton of Rock 'n' Roll.
Yet womenfind him absolutely irresistible. What's going on?
Part ofit, no doubt, is his considerable wealth. In addition to his estate in Richmond,he owns houses in the Loire Valley, the Hollywood hills, Mustique and New York.According to the London Sunday Times, which produces an annual list ofthe 1000 richest people in Britain, he's worth £150 million. That kind of moneyis guaranteed to impress even the most jaded supermodel.
There'salso his image to contend with. Somehow, in spite of being the most commerciallyminded rock 'n' roll figure since Colonel Tom Parker, Jagger has managed tocling to his cool reputation. No one could seriously describe him as a rebel,but some small, vestigial part of him remains untamed. As a result, he's aswelcome in the Bowery as he is in the stately homes of England.
Above all,there's his sexuality. Jagger's hallmark as a performer has always been hispansexual eroticism. He has the louche manner of a jailhouse slut, the poutingcoquettishness of a sex kitten, yet he's always been unmistakably heterosexual.He's able to incorporate aspects of feminine sexuality into his persona withoutseeming homosexual; he's camp without being a sissy. For some reason, womenare powerless to resist this combination.
All thisis complemented, of course, by his allegedly superhuman powers as a lover. You'dassume that his years of substance abuse would have taken their toll on hisvirility. Not a bit of it, apparently. When I asked his most recent conquestwhat on Earth she saw in him, she told me he was the best lay she'd ever had.
"He'sgot the most incredible stamina," she panted. "We're talking fivetimes a night."
"Hemust be on Viagra," I replied confidently.
"Absolutelynot," she said. "The only things he takes are vitamins." Whateverthose vitamins are, I'd like to get hold of some.
I shouldpoint out here that I only have this woman's say so for any of this. It's possiblethat she was making it all up to spare my feelings. After all, if you're goingto be passed over by a woman, it might as well be for the world's most notoriousshagger. I would have felt a lot worse if she'd told me she was rejecting mefor Harold Evans.
However,I'm inclined to believe she's telling the truth. Given the kind of life sheleads, their paths would certainly overlap and, from what I know of him, she'svery much his type. She's well-born, independently wealthy and a member of thejet set. The chances of her selling her story to the tabloids are pretty remote.
So, Jerry,if you're reading this, I'd call your divorce lawyer without delay. At thisvery moment, he's probably shacked up at Brown's Hotel with my friend, throwingmoney away on baubles and champagne. Do I have to draw you a diagram? If I wereyou, I'd start proceedings straightaway and screw the bastard for as much asyou can get.
? Jim Holt THE TIRED HEDONIST Talk of the Town Ais a verysubjective thing. Ya know wad ahm sayin? Take Noo Yawkese. It strikes my ear,accustomed to the gentler accents of the Virginia piedmont where I grew up,like an ice pick. H.L. Mencken felt the same way. Mencken deemed locutions like"toity-toid and toid" vulgar and repellent. But to George BernardShaw, the ubiquitous oi sound of Noo Yawkese was aural balm, "the ultimatein sophistication in human speech."
The oddthing about New York is that, unlike London or Paris, it has no upper-classaccent of its own. The Gotham aristocracy-I use the term loosel -have traditionallyborrowed the diction of the New England Brahmins, broadening their a's to absurdlengths: Baaah Haabah. Who has the most refined version of this accent? Someyears ago, New York initially nominated William F. Buckley Jr., but thengave the laurels to George Plimpton for his upper-class honk, on the groundsthat Mr. Buckley "goes a bit far." This prompted a letter from Buckleyaverring that it is not he but Mr. Plimpton who "goes a bit far."I have no idea what they were talking about.
Other patricianNew York figures, like Michael M. Thomas, deliver their vowels in a manner thatis suggestive less of honking than of barking (although this may be due to Mr.Thomas' slightly canine physiognomy). Still others, like Ronald Lauder, talklike truck drivers.
My own nominationfor Best Gotham Accent-Male and Best Gotham Accent-Female would go to the directorMike Nichols and the city commissioner/socialite Amanda Burden. Nichols' accentmanages to be patrician without having a trace of that awful New England broadness;his syllables are nimbly delivered, and his phonemes ooze irony and droll resignation.(If I were giving elocution lessons, I think I would use those Mike Nichols-ElaineMay comedy recordings from the early 60s.) Burden's accent is dulcet and unaffectedlyurbane, and-thanks to her mother, the great beauty Babe Paley-in no way indebtedto the Boston Brahmins. And the Best Low-Class New York Accent? That would haveto go to Tweety Bird.
As for theEnglish accents, they can be found in greater abundance and variety in New Yorkthan in England itself. The classic Bloomsbury accent, for example, has gonecompletely extinct in London, but an impressive specimen of it is still preservedin Manhattan in the possession of Inigo Thomas, an editor at George.
Some Englishmenwho seek their fortunes in America find that their home accents grow richerand fruitier on these shores. Others try to shed their accents and speak American-usuallywith disastrous results. The former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivanhad a perfectly nice suburban London accent when he first came to the UnitedStates; but he wanted to become a fully assimilated Yank and now the poor guy'sweirdly diphthongized vowels seem to be permanently stuck somewhere in the middleof the Atlantic Ocean, where they ought to be allowed to sink.
Englishaccents may confer prestige in New York, but are they sexy? New York men I havecanvassed say they find an English accent on a woman's lips a slight eroticplus. New York women apparently feel the same way about English men (AnthonyHaden-Guest excepted), though none of them report fantasies of being ravishedby a BBC announcer. Oddly, gay men in New York have told me that their lustinvariably shrivels in the face of an English accent. I have no data for lesbians.
When I cameto New York from Virginia some decades ago, I had a slight Southern drawl; whenI said pen, it tended to sound like "pin," and my thing could be mistakenfor "thang." I wondered whether I would also pick up elements of NooYawkese. Would I go to woik, have cawfee and head to the terlet? Nothing ofthe sort happened. I have ended up with one of those bland Mid-Atlantic accentsthat is entirely ungraced by regional color, and I doubt any would-be ProfessorHiggins could tell where I hail from.
The reasonis that nobody really talks Noo Yawkese anymore-no one, that is, outside ofa few vestigial white working-class neighborhoods and the ranks of New York'sFoinest (i.e., the police). Noo Yawkese was an Irish-Italian-Jewish-German creation.Blacks have never spoken it, and the newer immigrants to the city, especiallyHispanics and Chinese, have an incompatible set of phonemes. And, because ofits negative prestige, it is not a dialect that travels.
This city'ssole linguistic gift to the rest of the world, I'm afraid, may well turn outto be that miserable little ejaculation, Yo! Trying to put a good face on it,The New York Times once called yo "the most welcoming syllablein all spoken speech." Where did yo come from? Some linguists have observedthat in Spanish yo means "I," which would make the expression a rawform of ego-assertion. Others claim it is a shortening of the Southern Italianimmigrant's greeting Guaglione! (guahl-YO-nay), which translates moreor less as Dude! But I prefer to believe that yo is an underclass inversionof an altogether more civilized and good-humored New York interjection: Oy!
? Anthony Lejeune THE LONDON DESK Untied Kingdom Imagine,if you can, a president of the United States who, knowing that there were elementsin the South and in California who disliked Washington, tried to soothe themby setting up regional assemblies in Atlanta and Los Angeles; assemblies inwhich, old memories being stirred, there will soon be calls for independence.Imagine that, at the same time, the president abolished the Senate, becauseits politics were usually not his. Meanwhile, he plans to subsume the UnitedStates into a Pan-American union, ruled by bureaucrats in Mexico City and witha parliament in Rio. For good measure, he sells off half the contents of FortKnox, partly because he regards gold as old-fashioned stuff, partly to preparethe dollar for swallowing up by the People's Peso.
A few eyebrowswould be raised? The ghosts of Lincoln and Davy Crockett invoked?And yetPrime Minister Tony Blair is doing not dissimilar things in Britain againsta background of only quite mild dissent.
The reasonhe can do it, of course, is that Britain famously has no written constitution.Schoolchildren used to be taught that this lack-that Britain had no need ofsuch scraps of paper-was a matter for pride. But it was assumed in those daysthat most Britons regarded their historic institutions with affection and respect-or,at the very least, knew that if something ain't broke, you shouldn't fix it.
The firstScottish and Welsh regional elections have just been held, with inconclusiveresults rendered more complex by a system of proportional representation. TheLabor Party did well but not very well, the Scottish and Welsh nationalistsdid reasonably well but not as well as they'd hoped and the conservatives didmarginally better than at the last disastrous general election; thus enablingall parties, as usual, to preen a little.
The mostobvious short-term winner is apathy; the turn-outs were very low-which ratherundermines the notion that the Scots and Welsh were seething with desire fora separate political entity. The long-term winners are politicians and bureaucratswho will now multiply like bugs in June, at the taxpayers' expense. Unresolvedquestions about the relationship of the new assemblies to Westminster, and aboutwho is subsidizing whom, will cause increasing friction and possible demands(of which Blair quite approves) for separate English regional assemblies. Whereuponthe busy political class will be busier, and more affluent, than ever.
It mightseem paradoxical that the Blair government should encourage local nationalismsin this way while seeking to merge the British nation as a whole into the supranationalismof Europe. But then the Europe of the future is not to be a Europe des patries,as Gen. de Gaulle envisioned, but a federal Europe with regions, into whichScotland and Wales, and other parts of what used to be the United Kingdom, couldfit readily enough, each hoping to collect an appropriate subsidy.
The politicalclass, not the electorate, has been, all along, the driving force behind Britain'sentry into Europe. The voters were told originally that they were going intoa harmless, obviously beneficial, Common Market, which would entail no lossof sovereignty. This was transformed, without a by-your-leave, into the EuropeanEconomic Community, then the European Community and now the European Union.And it's too late, too economically dangerous, the voters are told, to pullout now. We must go on, says Blair, into "the heart of Europe."
As for theHouse of Lords, whose hereditary members Blair is in the process of expelling,there was absolutely no popular demand for change. On the contrary, as the reputationof the Commons has declined, the reputation of the Lords, where serious questionsare debated courteously, has flourished. The latest instance was a government-sponsoredbill to bring the legal age of consent for homosexual activities down to 16.A huge majority in the country regards this proposal with distaste, as a pedophiles'charter. The Commons obediently nodded it through. Only the Lords are standing,while they can, against it.
What sortof upper house does Blair want? An elected senate? Unacceptable, because itwould challenge the dictatorial power of the Commons. An appointed assembly,a bunch of placemen, crawlers, cronies, local bosses and fashionable thinkers?Probably. A mishmash of the two? Possibly. But Blair never stopped to say. Aswith his "progressives' war" in Kosovo, it was taking newsworthy actionagainst the enemy-the hereditaries-not the outcome, which excited him.
Like Clinton,he had the good fortune to inherit from his opponents a thriving economy andthe good sense not to wreck it with economic measures too flagrantly ideological.The electorate thus remains free to enjoy substantial prosperity, careless ofthe seismic constitutional changes being wrought in its name. During the 60san embittered commentator said that Britain was sinking, giggling, into thesea. This is not true today. The British have become too cynical, too disillusioned,too resigned. They are not giggling. But they would rather discuss the mysteriousmurder of Jill Dando, a favorite tv presenter, than the future of Europe orthe structure of Parliament; which is a perfectly sensible choice if CaesarBlair could be trusted to think wisely about the things that are Caesar's.
Augustusdid indeed transform the constitution of ancient Rome, while persuading thepeople that he wasn't really changing anything important, just putting thingsright. And it turned out rather well. I didn't know Augustus, but I feel confidentin saying: "Mr. Blair, you're no Caesar Augustus."
? Scott McConnell THE CONFORMIST Clinton's War Crimes "If we haveto use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation.We stand tall. We see further into the future." So said Secretary of StateMadeleine Albright, The New York Times, Feb. 22, 1998. It may beunfair to single out Albright, then contemplating bombs over Baghdad, not Belgrade.Her qualities of mind permeate the entire Clinton administration, and are expressedwith equal zeal in the neoconservative Weekly Standard and the liberalNew Republic. As the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia enters its ninthweek it is worth asking where this attitude has led the United States.
Clintonapologized for bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, though it was instructiveto see the Beltway press warriors rail against Beijing's "orchestrated"anti-American demonstrations. Chinese-Americans I know contrasted the demoswith Clinton's response after two American embassies were bombed last summer:He fired off volleys of cruise missiles into the Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.Two weeks ago Washington finally acknowledged that one target it destroyed,a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, had no connection to Osama bin Laden, theaccused terrorist Clinton wanted to punish. Another intelligence booboo, andwhat a shame for the people who worked there.
At any rate,we have apologized to the Chinese. The same day the U.S. bombed their embassy,NATO planes hit a marketplace and a hospital in the city of Nis, in southernSerbia, with antipersonnel cluster bombs, killing 15 and wounding 70. No apologieswere tendered.
But as bombingfrom 15,000 feet, firing cruise missiles from afar and hectoring nations whofail to appreciate that we understand better than they how to manage their internalaffairs have become the hallmarks of the Clinton foreign policy, they have begunto attract more critical attention.
In a stunningcolumn in the May 7 London Times, Simon Jenkins surveyed the damage NATOstrikes have done to historic sites in Serbia and Kosovo. Gen. Wesley Clark'sbombers have destroyed the Banovina Palace in the city center of Novi Sad, thefinest work of art deco architecture in the Balkans. They have battered theold city of Pec, destroying a picturesque grouping of old markets and Turkishfortified houses dating from the Ottoman period. They have ruined the old tradecenter in nearby Djakovica and damaged the 16th-century Hadum Mosque there.They have destroyed the medieval Vrsac Tower near the Romanian border, and the18th-century Tabacki Bridge. NATO planes have bombed repeatedly around the renownedmedieval church of Gracanica near Pristina, its walls covered with 14th- and15th-century frescoes. Deep fissures are now reported in the frescoes, whichare detaching from the walls.
In Belgrade,the 16th-century Rakovica monastery has taken a hit through its roof; in Kursumlija,Clinton's bombs have struck the churches of the Virgin and St. Nicholas, datingfrom the 12th century, as well as St. Procopius' ninth-century church in Prokuplje.As Jenkins points out, these sites date from the earliest years of Christianityin Eastern Europe. NATO's response to the Serb refusal to give up its Kosovoprovince has been to wage a civilizational war, to try to demoralize an enemyby obliterating a cultural heritage.
One canonly marvel at what must go on in the minds of Clinton, Albright, Gen. Clarkand the others: What-in this age of Littleton and The Jerry Springer Show-makesthem so certain that America "stands taller" and "sees further"?Who do they think they are?
An importantdissent from the bombing campaign comes from Mary Robinson, the brilliant formerpresident of Ireland who now heads the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.Embarking on a tour of the embattled Balkan states, Robinson iterated once againher view that NATO's readiness to accept large-scale civilian deaths as "collateraldamage" was wrong. She stressed that both NATO and Serbia were responsiblefor extensive human rights abuses, and both could be examined for potentialwar crimes guilt by the World Court. A Canadian-led group of lawyers has takenup the challenge and filed a formal complaint against Clinton, Albright andcompany along these lines.
What a deliciousthought! Clinton on the dock in the Hague, trying to explain what gave him theright to hand Belgrade a diktat at Rambouillet and then destroy Yugoslavia whenthe Serbs wouldn't sign. A far healthier exercise than the silly Monica hunt.Sadly, Clinton and Albright won't pay the price for their reckless policies,which are sowing a harvest of deepening resentment toward the United Statesfrom Khartoum to Bangkok, from Belgrade to Beijing. That cost will likely beborne by ordinary Americans in the years to come.
? Sam Schulman HAMLET Faintheart Whetheror not you support this war, two facts have been clear from the beginning: Winningit requires ground troops; and a ground war will never happen-and could neverhave happened. The cavalry will not arrive for the ethnic Albanians. Clintonis now the sole holdout, against the Joint Chiefs, against Tony Blair, evenagainst the French and Germans. Why? Could it be that the entire operation isbeing put at risk because of one man's lack of valor? I once hearda British historian in a radio discussion say that what saved Britain from defeatin 1940 was the personal physical courage of Winston Churchill. I've rememberedit for 25 years because it seemed so remarkably trivial. But now I can understandwhat he meant. Churchill is one of Clinton's heroes, and in the first yearsof Clinton's administration, he was fond of saying that he lamented having nogreat world-historical challenge to meet. Should it be a surprise that, havingcreated a challenge worthy of Churchill by his own ineptitude and inattention,Clinton should flunk it?
Churchill'sbravery was public: He fought and reported from the Boer wars; he constantlydemanded to go to the front in World War I; he repeatedly took stands in variousgovernments he served in that risked-and sometimes resulted in-consignment topolitical oblivion; he took full responsibility for his mistakes, as he didwith Gallipoli.
Clinton'sphysical cowardice is more subtle. I've thought for years that he had a Machiavelliandesire to disguise his conscientious opposition to the war in Vietnam so asnot to make political waves-but I've concluded that I have probably been wrong.Recent books about Clinton have shown his tepid and unimpassioned oppositionto the war. I am corrected: It's far more likely that Clinton was simply afraidthat being drafted would put him in physical danger.
Other evidence?The only violence he has ever personally committed has been against at leastone woman of a lower social class than his wife. It's a cliche that such menaxiomatically must be cowards-but unfortunately not always true. Still, muchof Clinton's success with women came with the full trappings of office: Howwould he have done without the uniformed and armed men who accompanied him whenhe paid court to ladies in Arkansas?
But it'sthe way he wages war that clinches it. European critics like to call NATO strategycowardly. It is. Our pilots take off from bases in Missouri, fly for 15 hoursto drop bombs on targets they cannot see and get back in time to see their kidsplay sports. By appealing to soccer moms Clinton hung onto office in 1996; nowhe's staked the outcome of his Yugoslavian misadventure on soccer bombs. He'snot afraid of failure; he's not afraid of the collapse of NATO, of a renascentRussia gathering in its former Slavic client states; he's not afraid completelyto undermine and embarrass his NATO allies. These are merely dishonorable outcomes.I think he fears something more serious.
Why shouldhe worry about committing ground troops to the conflict? No one expects a presidentto lead an army into battle. And the deaths of American soldiers would not placehis job at risk-thanks to the 22nd Amendment, our president must leave officein 2001 in any case.
I thinkthat what has created President Clinton's unwonted resoluteness in the faceof overwhelming opposition to his policy of non-invasion is fear. The only policythat might win the war he started would place him in danger of violence he wouldprefer not to face: assassination. Imagine the file cabinets at the Secret Servicebulging with threats from Vietnam-era veterans against a man they regard asa draft dodger, a traitor, a coward and worse. Like most threats, most-evenall of them-are probably empty. But I think the only explanation for Clinton'sstubborn willingness to oversee the complete collapse of his Yugoslavian adventuremust be that, should he commit ground troops to dangers that he himself wasunwilling to face, and should there be casualties, he believes a yet-unknownRambo out there will lock and load.
Once again,Mr. Clinton is electioneering rather than leading. Now he has targeted the nation'ssmallest electoral segment: crazed, violent, armed veterans. He's sacrificinghis war aims to get them to sit on their hands. It's not just foxy ladies Clintonlikes to embrace. He clings to office despite dishonor, to marriage despitehumiliation. Such a man will cling to life with the same tenacity, allowingthe utter humiliation of NATO and the collapse of the security system of theWest in order not to have to risk an unpleasant death. No wonder he was so upsetat Yitzhak Rabin's funeral. "Never again," he must have whisperedto himself.
Heroismis a bit out of date. We have had a mysterious spate of physical cowards inpublic life. Colin Powell decided not to run for president because he wantedto die with his boots off (nobly blaming his wife). Our President's curiouswillingness utterly to wreck a uniquely favorable global balance of power, aninterval of peace that took decades of sacrifice to bring about-is a reminderthat choosing heroes for leaders may not be such a quaint idea.
? George Szamuely THE BUNKER Pox Americana Pax Americanawas over even more quickly than the "Thousand Year Reich." The UnitedStates had its chance and blew it. It is not the burning of embassies, the worldwidedenunciations of American arrogance and bullying or the reemergence of Russiaand its rapprochement with China that signals the end of our Cold War victory.Most ominous of all is the growing ridicule of America's once-feared militaryprowess: Complete national humiliation looms. Now it's time to decide "wholost the world."
Let us resolvenever again to listen to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Henry Kissinger,William Kristol, Larry Eagleburger, Brent Scowcroft and the rest of our illustriousforeign policy elite. Our idiotic onslaught on Yugoslavia cannot be attributedsolely to Clinton's smelly little political calculations or to Madeleine Albright'scretinism. A fiasco like this has been in the works for a long time.
Our foreignpolicy elite has made this war. For years its self-anointed members have beenlooking for a fight that would pit America's virtue and unrivaled military strengthagainst some rogue state-at once vicious and feeble. The fight would not onlybe morally uplifting but entirely cost-free. A few buttons here, a few keysthere and the missiles would bring the villain du jour to his senses.
The trickwas to find the right candidate. Haiti? Too hot. Iran? Too difficult. China?Too powerful. Cuba? Too many friends in Hollywood. North Korea? Too dangerous.Iraq? Been there; done that. Rwanda? Even hotter than Haiti.
By 1992the elite consensus had settled on Yugoslavia. It was just the right size, andsince it was European and Christian Orthodox it would help to enhance our elite'smulticultural credentials. Year after year the Anthony Lewises and the WilliamKristols would call for the bombing of Milosevic, and year after year theirstockings were empty. To be sure, the United States was not entirely inactive.In 1995, in addition to bombing the Serbs of Bosnia, it lent a hand to the Croatsin their ethnic cleansing of Krajina. More than 150,000 Serbs were driven fromthe land where their ancestors had lived for centuries. But with the appointmentof Madeleine Albright, it would be only a matter of time before the bombs fell.
Nothingillustrates better the moral vacuity, the frivolity and the intellectual shallownessof this elite than its silence about-and even enthusiastic collusion with-theexpulsion of the Serbs from Krajina. Apart from the inhumanity of the policy,where was our national interest? Where was the strategic advantage?
But contradictionsare nothing new to these people. Remember last summer's declaration of war againstterrorism? We chased Osama bin Laden out of Afghanistan and tried to bomb himin a Sudanese aspirin factory, but we wink at his role in the training and armingof the Kosovo Liberation Army. Ignoring these contradictions, our policy elitetrot dutifully into the studios of NewsHour, Nightline and Crossfireand mouth all the familiar platitudes and cliches about the supposed wickednessof the Serbs, about "genocide," about America's morality. Not oneof these "experts" recognizes that the doctrine that people have tobe killed in order to be saved will have an eerily familiar ring to a peoplenewly liberated from Communism.
Considerthe svelte and elegant Larry Eagleburger. As a former U.S. ambassador he knewperfectly well that Yugoslavia was a federation comprising six distinct nations,not six distinct republics. He knew perfectly well that the moment one of these"republics" seceded and attempted to set itself up as a nation-stateit would come into conflict with its Serb minority who wished to continue tobe citizens of Yugoslavia. He knew perfectly well that the Croats and the BosnianMuslims were Nazi allies in World War II. He knew perfectly well that the murderoustreatment meted out to the Serbs in the Ustashe State of Croatia was so horrifyingthat even the Nazis were shocked. A word of explanation from him could havemade a difference. Instead Larry Eagleburger was happy to go along with theill-informed conventional view that blamed the Serbs and Milosevic for everything.
Considerthe intellectual and urbane Henry Kissinger. A refugee from Hitler, he standscoolly by as the media misapply words like "genocide" and "Holocaust."Now he is on the box expressing indignation he does not really feel about Kosovo.Before the bombing he argued that the worst outcome in the Balkans would bethe establishment of a quasi-independent state of Kosovo. But now he demandsthat the United States do whatever was necessary to ensure the "victory"he once deplored. Had Kissinger issued a skeptical statement at the beginning,it could have made a difference-but might have threatened his status as thedean of the foreign policy elite.
And thenthe chorus: Jeane Kirkpatrick, William Kristol and Brent Scowcroft all loudlycalling for ground troops. They are intelligent enough to realize the aftermathof a U.S. victory. In order to maintain such a Carthaginian peace, the U.S.will have to establish innumerable little protectorates. Serbia would be one,Kosovo another, also Montenegro. So would Vojvodina, or Hungarians may seizeit. Bulgaria wants eastern Macedonia. The Romanians and the Croatians want partsof Serbia.
Now we cansee why our foreign policy elite is so enthusiastic about fighting the Serbs.As a result, they can create tiny pseudo-states that will forever be Americandependencies-like Guam in the Balkans.