Here is how some press commentators view President Clinton's stewardship of Nato action in Kosovo.

IT IS being reported in Washington that he could have obtained a Kosovo peace treaty last October ... Unfortunately for Europe, Clinton was then embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, fighting for his domestic political survival ... He thus entered this crisis at best unprepared, at worst ignorant of what public reaction would be ... He has governed for seven years by opinion polls, taking only those courses pollsters said would make him more popular. They told him America would not tolerate a ground war. They were wrong and now he is in a quagmire. The changed public mood which seems prepared to accept more than a few casualties to fulfil their desire for Milosevic's defeat requires Clinton to argue toughly for that outcome. But he doesn't have that kind of courage. Americans may have begun to develop the will for a fully fledged war but nobody should expect Clinton to lead them any further down that path. He dodged the Vietnam draft and those instincts of self-preservation are still his guiding light.

Daniel Jeffreys

Daily Mail

MR CLINTON is a sentimentalist who exactly fits Oscar Wilde's definition of the word - "one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it". The first American president from the Sixties generation, he was a draft dodger who nevertheless could wax eloquent and angry over Vietnam. Before he leaves office he wants to cleanse a tarnished reputation by proving himself a decisive and successful war leader. Knowing, better than most,the power television has to manipulate emotions, he enlisted TV coverage of suffering in the Balkans to back his decision that Nato had to take a firm hand.

Christopher Hudson Evening Standard

DOES MR Clinton have the stomach for a ground war? Of course he does. He has the stomach for anything popular. His countrymen were not interested in the Balkans last month, so he spent no time talking about it. In his speech announcing hostilities, Mr Clinton commented that Americans could not find the tiny province on a map and had not heard of it until they switched on CNN. This is true, and it is a shameful admission by the President, for it concedes that he neglected to lead the country of which he is, notionally, the leader. He did not inform his people about his casus belli until he was on the brink of battle. Violence arrived in a spasm typical of his presidency, which is dotted with overnight emergencies that have, in truth, taken months or years to gestate. They arrive unheralded, because the commander-in-chief prefers twiddling away his time on poll- tested domestic micro-policies such as the promotion of school uniforms.

Hugo Gurdon

Daily Telegraph

GREAT TIMES, he realised, made for great presidencies: Lincoln rose to the moral challenge of slavery, Roosevelt to the challenge of fascism. Now, after a turbulent six years in office, Clinton finally has his moment. If he seizes it, sending in the men and women who can save Kosovo from catastrophe, he might bury the Vietnam syndrome once and for all - and earn, at last, the place in history he covets so dearly.

Jonathan Freedland Guardian

PRESIDENT CLINTON of all people should know how easy it is for a leader to be "degraded" and emerge even stronger: if you can take the, ah, blows and survive, you win. Better yet, if you can persuade your enemies to splash out several billion dollars degrading you every few months, you'll eventually put them out of business. It's one thing to take a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but not if the best that can be claimed afterwards is that the sledgehammer has significantly degraded the nut's shell ... He insisted Nato was targeting only President Milosevic's military capability, not ordinary Serbs - a differentiation received with derision in Belgrade ... But you can't blame Mr Clinton for his confusion. Somewhere in his deepest psyche he still believes that "ordinary Americans" don't serve in the army - they skip to Canada or Oxford, and leave the war games to those weirdos who get a kick out of it.

Mark Steyn


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