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Jewish World Review May 23, 2000 /18 Iyar, 5760

Paul Greenberg

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The New World Disorder -- THE NEW WORLD DISORDER continues to unfold, brought to you by the same international cast -- Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, Kofi Annan -- that has starred in one bloody farce after another.

Murder, mayhem, misery, whatever your favorite entertainment, tune in to the U.N. By now, it's produced a long string of hits, all worthy of four-star ratings from the Marquis de Sade.

Sticking to a familiar script, Kofi Annan, the U.N.'s ditherer-general, blames the West because the woefully inadequate force he put together in Sierra Leone has proved woefully inadequate. It seem to have been taken hostage, which should not have come as a surprise. The same thing once happened to the woefully inadequate force Kofi Annan once supervised in vivisected Bosnia.

The man is proving uneducable, but huffy. There is no crisis he can't aggravate, or blame on others.

The most evident results of the U.N.'s peacekeeping efforts in Sierra Leone have been mass amputations. In Bosnia, the massacres went on for years while the West mostly watched. In Kosovo, we saw the forced exodus of a whole people, hurried along by murder and rapine. The common denominator in all these sorry episodes, besides evil, has been the world's refusal to face it.

Instead the U.N.'s feckless secretary-general rolls out a lot of excuses and recriminations, along with a few troops who soon make superb hostages. The savages of both dark continents, Africa and Europe, can smell weakness, and they respond predictably. This has always been the result -- from Chamberlain to Clinton -- when the West is led by high-sounding ditherers.

How wasted time flies: It has been a decade since the Wall fell in Berlin and the bright dream of a new world order of liberty and security was proclaimed. What ever happened to it?

The decisive Gulf War of 1991 is now only a dim victory. It has been succeeded by half-measures, quarter-measures, and now almost no measures at all. The pattern of neglect and apathy is broken, as in Bosnia and Kosovo, only after the marauders are given every encouragement. Yes, the U.N. has produced a plenitude of resolutions -- but shown precious little resolution.

George Bush's (and the West's) bright victory in the Persian Gulf seems part of a whole different era now. Compare that shining hour to this murky one. Note what happened to Wesley Clark, the general who wanted to bring the unpleasantness in Kosovo to a swift and decisive conclusion by dispatching land forces. He was not only overruled but relieved of his command early. That is how America now treats its heroes.

You can tell the direction of a country by the wafflers it chooses to honor, and the leaders it snubs.

Only an effective series of regional alliances encouraged and supported by the Western powers -- John Foster Dulles' much-derided dream back in the 1950s -- can halt the world's slow slide into sporadic anarchy. In the meantime, Slobodan Milosevic remains at large and his epigones in the world's shadowy corners multiply -- from East Timor to Sierra Leone.

With the end of the 20th Century, the most murderous in man's technologically advanced history, the clock was turned back to those halcyon days before the First World War, and the species was given a second chance. But now we proceed to duplicate the same mistakes that led to 1914, treating each crisis as a separate, disparate, disjointed crisis to be given a lick and a diplomatic promise, and patched up too late with too little.

Then we move blithely on to the next horror, unaware of the whirlwind we're sowing. A mortar barrage on market day in Sarajevo is met with the same indifference as the assassination of a grand duke there a century earlier. What can all that have to do with us? We'll get around to it eventually.

Europe's powers have never pulled their weight in preserving the peace, which may explain why that continent has been the cradle of world wars. And now Congress is playing with the idea of cutting off support to American troops in Kosovo -- always a bad idea wherever American troops are engaged. (Happily, George W. Bush may have put the kibosh on this wrong-headed notion by passing the word to those Republicans still within the reach of reason.)

As for Sierra Leone, it will be addressed at some point, long after the horrors there might have been deterred. The vaunted power and diplomatic know-how of the United States of America is now otherwise engaged -- in returning a 6-year-old to Fidel Castro's Cuba. Or lobbying for more trade with the world's remaining evil empire, Communist China. Or maybe in just drifting.

Have you noticed? There seems to be an inverse ratio between the number of speeches our leaders deliver and the number of massacres encouraged. The more words, the more wars. The foreign-policy cliches of Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton ... long ago melded into one mind-glazing same.

Remember all the fine words Bill Clinton uttered during his much-publicized tour of Africa? As events in Sierra Leone testify, they were only fine words. What's the point of apologizing for failing to prevent the horrors in Rwanda if we're not going to prevent them in Sierra Leone?

But the news from that terrified country, like word of earlier outrages in Bosnia and Kosovo, scarcely disturbs the great American sleep. Only now and then, as we continue to drift downstream toward the heart of darkness, do we hear occasional screams, and the still soft, rushing sound of the cataract ahead.

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©2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate