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June 6 1999

A modest proposal ... invite the US to leave Nato


Any American President who muses aloud and often about his place in
history while his ovoid form is still contained by the sacred and, yes,
profane Oval Office itself is in deep trouble mentally. Imagine: 'Alex,
what will history really say of me?' 'That you're the father of your
country.' 'But suppose the country turns out a little bastard?' 'Stop
whining, George. You can't lose.' 'You're just saying that. And why have
you said nothing about my new teeth?'

This sounds improbable because those who are effective in office as first
magistrate have other things to worry about than how best to spin Clio. 
To be the first impeached President upon an essentially silly charge ought
to be quite enough for Clinton, but he lusts for a face on Mount Rushmore.
How did the others get there? They won wars or bought Louisiana. So,
partly to divert attention from the impeachment and partly to join the big
guys on the cliff, he has chosen, as did Kennedy before him, war as a
means to everlasting glory.

Aided by Albright, Berger and Cohen, he has, under the guise of Nato, set
out to bomb the recalcitrant Milosevic into submission, causing more
destruction in the process than the Serbian warlord could ever have done. 
The ground war was discussed mainly as a bluff to terrify the bad Serb
into surrender. Had it become a reality, it would probably have meant
reinstituting the draft in the United States (this would have dissolved
the republic - or what's left of it - overnight) since the Nato lads,
always excepting Britain's proud football enthusiasts, are not keen to
fight in someone else's civil war.

When I grew up in Washington in the days of the New Deal, the city was
known as the 'whispering gallery'. Everything was almost immediately known
to those interested. Hence, the attempts of secretive Presidents such as
Johnson to change plans at the last minute to confound the leakers. So
let me now pass on today's whispers, with the understanding that no
Observer reader will repeat anything.

First, and most obvious, Madeleine Albright is considered the worst
secretary of state since Edward Stettinius. The typing pool's loss has not
been diplomacy's gain. Like a fool, she went to Rambouillet and presented
the Serbs with an Hitlerian ultimatum no sovereign country could have
accepted as it involved a near-total occupation of Serbia, free TV time
and so on. She was left with an omelette on her pretty face.

Second, the US military high command furiously disapproves of the weird
conduct of a war where Americans fly too high to be at risk or to bomb

Third, plans have been made - in the interest of a swift compromise with
Evil? - for the US to rebuild every single bridge blown up, as well as
restore parts of the damaged Serbian infrastructure.

If I were Blair, I'd seek a fourth way out. Invite the US to leave Nato,
an organisation which has neither goal nor proper function but does cost a
lot. Invite the US to leave the United Nations unless it pays its dues and
responds to charges brought against it at the International Court of the
Hague. We Americans need time to rebuild our country after a half century
of war. Europe needs a Declaration of Independence from the US. Shudder
at the thrilling words: we, the people of Europe, are gathered here in
Islington in order to form a more - as well as a less - perfect union... 


OBSERVER (London), June 6, 1999


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