Branding me a “leftist,” a hostile e-mailer summarily stripped me of
my conservative credentials for failure to assert in a column about
Kosovo that Clinton’s sole motive to intervene was to divert attention
from and deter investigation of the China scandals. Though I believe
Clinton is morally capable of wagging the dog and may have even done so
a few times recently, I don’t believe this is his motivation with
Operation Allied Force.
No, his life-long history of escaping full accountability for his
actions, culminating in his impeachment trial acquittal, has surely
given him a feeling of invulnerability.
Though Clinton has paid lip service to launching this offensive in
furtherance of certain indescribable national interests, his primary
stated purpose in ordering the United States to lead the NATO
intervention in Serbia was humanitarian: to end ethnic cleansing of
Kosovar Albanians by the Serbs.
The Washington Post reported, though, that weeks prior to the NATO
air campaign, CIA Director George Tenet warned that NATO bombing would
likely accelerate ethnic cleansing. U.S. military leaders simultaneously
advised Clinton that if Milosevic indeed launched such an assault in
response to the bombing, air power alone would be insufficient to stop
it. Clinton, however, was determined not to introduce ground troops.
“For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers”
(Proverbs 24:6). So what could possibly be so important to Clinton that
he would ignore his advisers and engage in such a high-risk strategy?
Almost everyone agrees that from the time he started breathing, Bill
Clinton had aspirations to become president of the United States. But
just being president would not be enough for Clinton, since in this
country presidents are not monarchs either in terms of their power or
their tenure in office. So the drive for power must ultimately give way
to something more enduring. The only thing that will endure for Clinton,
as with other presidents, is his record, for better or worse. Bill
Clinton is a man in pursuit of a legacy.
Before his impeachment, Clinton must have been confident that he was
well on his way to enshrinement in the presidential hall of fame. The
major short-term benchmark of presidential performance, the economy, has
been humming along on autopilot growth mode, despite his best efforts to
smother that growth with the largest tax increase in history in 1993.
And even though he has undermined, depleted, misused and grossly
overused the military, he has largely escaped accountability so far for
his rudderless foreign policy.
While he denies any shame for his impeachment, he would have to be
bereft of all five senses not to realize that many people don’t agree
with his self-assessment and that his coveted legacy is in serious
jeopardy. He has already publicly lamented his feelings that
circumstances during his presidency have not afforded him an “FDR
opportunity” to truly shine in foreign policy in his quest for
presidential greatness. But for the “Republican-fomented” scandals, he
surely believes he had locked up a position in the presidential top 10.
As this quintessential politician surveyed the landscape for that one
Hail Mary play to pull his presidential chestnuts out of the fire, he
focused on the only area dramatic enough to do it: foreign policy
generally and a righteous war, specifically. Clinton apparently figured
that his only possible ticket to lasting greatness was to put on his
commander in chief hat in a real and just war.
Clinton’s desperate lust for a legacy must have also caused him to
miscalculate Milosevic’s resolve to withstand an air attack. He was
counting on him capitulating after a vigorous round of bombing, like he
supposedly did in Bosnia. He ignored Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s
assessment that Milosevic only backed down because at the time of the
bombing Croat and Muslim ground forces were pushing him back into
In addition to his propensity for scandals, Clinton shares another
attribute with Richard Nixon: his penchant for self-destruction.
Clinton’s Achilles’ heel has always been his quest for instant
gratification (including public approval), oftentimes at great risk. A
few examples that we’re aware of are: his alleged rape of Juanita
Broaddrick while climbing the ladder of state politics; his activities
with Monica; and now, his decision to launch a military attack destined
to fail because of his unwillingness to sacrifice the narcotic of public
approval by sending in ground troops.
How ironic, yet how just, that by his insatiable craving of
short-term gratification Clinton has voluntarily forfeited his
presidential legacy and, at this point, any hope of restoring it.
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