Jewish World Review March 30, 1999 /13 Nissan 5759
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
One by one, the senators were called on to make their decision. Some followed their party, others their conscience. Some weighed strategy, others morality. But all went on record, and can be held accountable for their decision as this drama is played out.
Not a single senator abstained. Not one took refuge in the sort of equivocal statement that allows politicians to dodge a critical issue. Not one twisted and turned, waffled and weaved. Agree or disagree, each took a stand. For that, all can be respected.
Not one senator took refuge in the kind of foggy rhetoric that blurs responsibility. For example: "I agree with the people in the minority on the resolution -- that we should give sanctions more time and maybe even explore a full-scale embargo ... before we go to war (but) I guess I would have voted with the majority if it was a close vote.`
You figure that one out. It's the circuitous "position'' Bill Clinton took when, still governor of a small Southern state, he was asked in January of '91 whether he was for or against using force in the Persian Gulf. Asked point blank to say which side he would have supported, to quote the AP, "Clinton declined to say how he would have voted.'' He made it clear only that he was for, against, and neutral, maybe.
Given orders like that now, American pilots would still be sitting on the tarmac. Or maybe flying in endless circles. To quote a headline from January of '91: "Clinton Waffles on War Decision.'' Only later, after victory was secured, did he rally to the winning side. Call it retroactive leadership. Let it never be said that Bill Clinton would abandon his countrymen in their hour of triumph.
Let us now praise the U.S. Senate. It did not play games with war or peace. It voted -- 58 to 41 -- to support the president, the Atlantic alliance, American commitments and a cast of mind and soul that has been loosely referred to as Western civilization. Those in the minority took their stand with the country's old isolationist instincts, with America's traditional wariness of entangling alliances, with their doubts about this president and this dangerous, open-ended course. They, too, had their reasons.
But when the roll was called up yonder, none flinched, none evaded. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Clarity is not easily come by in this dissembling decade, aka the Age of Clinton.
Addressing the nation Wednesday night, Bill Clinton was still editing history. Offering a hopeful precedent, he spoke of how the fighting in Bosnia had finally been stopped by a show of force. There was no need to go into detail: The carnage in that poor, vivisected country was allowed to go on for four years, for bloody month after month, massacre after massacre, because a rudderless West wouldn't do anything but dilly-dally. And Bill Clinton was the equivocator-in-chief.
This week, when he spoke about Kosovo, the president's words were convincing, and would have been even more so from another speaker. Because it's hard to separate the speech from the speaker. The two tend to merge into one, indivisible whole -- like integrity, like character, like a sense of honor.
Another disconcerting note: Even while speaking nobly of this military campaign as a "moral imperative,'' Bill Clinton was tying one arm behind his back. "I do not intend,'' he pledged, "to use American troops in Kosovo to fight a war.'' Even if he doesn't, why tell the enemy? Why not keep 'em guessing, perhaps even a little fearful? Why not give 'em a bloody good reason to make peace before the Yanks arrive in full force?
And why the inevitable Clinton clause, "I do not intend,'' instead of the simple vow, "I will not''? Is this president still putting political viability ahead of all else by making a commitment that really isn't? Can he still be waffling after all these years? Maybe it's force of habit.
But now the decision has been made. American forces are in action together with those of
our allies. When it comes to supporting this new policy in the Balkans with unswerving
determination, here's hoping that the president convinced the American people -- and Bill
03/26/99: Short bursts