Today's Papers

Ground Round

The Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times each lead with the official emergence within NATO, however slight, of the topic of ground warfare against Yugoslavia–the alliance’s decision to conduct a basic review of possible ground deployment plans. Each paper emphasizes a different factor in this development. The WP stresses that the review came from the NATO secretary general, Javier Solana. The NYT attributes it to pressure on the U.S. from Britain and France. The LAT acknowledges the nudge from Britain’s PM Tony Blair, whom it calls NATO’s “most outspoken hawk,” but overall tells the story of a U.S. decision. The papers agree that any actual commitment of ground forces is still many steps away. USA Today off-leads the story–likewise speaking of a U.S. decision, noting that the review is advocated by Gen. Wesley Clark–but leads instead with the Colorado school shootings. The paper also runs two other shooting pieces on its front. And serves up a related “Snapshot”–which reports that according to a recent poll, 39 percent of Americans aged 12-24 have worried that a classmate was potentially violent. All the papers give the tragedy huge amounts of coverage, coming at it from all the usual angles, including whether or not it should be given huge amounts of coverage.

The WP and LAT say that the initial NATO assessment of a ground invasion, formulated last summer, concluded that it would take as many as 200,000 troops to take control of all of Serbia. Question: What were the casualty estimates? The papers should be asking. The Post points out that by making his review decision public, Solana has apparently ensured that the question of ground troops will be much discussed at this week’s 50th NATO summit in Washington. (Although the NYT reports that the topic will not be on the meeting’s formal agenda.) And, observes the Post, the White House, in arranging for Solana to give the Post a phone interview, was making certain that it was clear the decision was Solana’s and not Washington’s. (But actually it doesn’t really prove that–maybe the Clinton administration decided first and then asked Solana to serve as a fig leaf.)

The NYT captures the tepid language the U.S. government is serving up around the issue of ground troops, quoting a White House official saying, “The U.S. would certainly support as a prudent measure any updating of the assessments of the use of ground troops in a permissive and nonpermissive environment.” A bit of a drop-off from “Lafayette, we are here!”

Another war development, covered by everybody, is Al Gore’s announcement that the administration will open the mainland U.S.’s doors to 20,000 Kosovar refugees. The welcome mat will primarily be, he said, for those with close family ties to America. Although Gore said this would be temporary, the WP says administration officials admit it would be hard to compel refugees to leave.

The Wall Street Journal and LAT report that the European Union is set to ban the sale or shipment of oil to Yugoslavia. The Journal reports that the U.S. is pressing for a naval blockade to support the ban.

The LAT’s man on the ground in Kosovo, Paul Watson, fresh off reporting facts about last week’s refugee convoy bombing that impugned the initial NATO “it wasn’t us” stance, today writes that four Serbian refugees were killed when NATO warplanes hit the camp where they’ve lived since Serbs were expelled from Croatia in 1995.

The NYT and WP follow up on a story broken by the NYT yesterday–that a new U.S. intelligence assessment has concluded China probably stole information on smaller nuclear warhead technology. The Times says that so far, Beijing has not deployed any nukes that use the stolen technology. The Chinese nuclear arsenal is still deficient in significant ways, says the paper, and so it is addressing these deficiencies by among other things…spying.

The NYT is reporting that President Clinton “has all but decided” not to appeal the civil contempt ruling he got hit with recently. In fact, the paper cites senior Clinton advisors as sources for saying that Clinton and his lawyers were relieved that the judge who handed down the ruling did not seek harsher sanctions than lawyer’s fees and her own travel costs, such as citing him for criminal contempt or initiating a perjury investigation.

The WP reports that Slobodan Milosevic told a Houston TV station that the three American soldiers captured a few weeks ago are being treated well and that their treatment was in accord with the Geneva Convention. (USAT includes a similar report.) The Post and USAT report however that no Red Cross representatives have been allowed to check on the men yet. The papers don’t say but isn’t Red Cross access guaranteed under the Geneva Convention?

The NYT lead editorial points out that in the wake of the Colorado shootings, there will no doubt be calls for tighter controls on guns, Hollywood and the Internet. And the editorial certainly sees merit in the case of guns, but goes on to eloquently say this is not enough: “[I]t is not what you keep from a child that will save him, nor what town you move him to. It is what you put into him in the first place.” And this comment reminds Today’s Papers of something that has not been mentioned in the response to the tragedy, but should be, by the president and by opinion leaders–national service. Just about the best remedy for bored, disaffected kids who focus too much on divisive, cliquish behavior is real productive, satisfying work done alongside all kinds of kids.