Today's Papers

Offensive Diplomacy and Rhetorical War

War developments lead all papers. The Washington Post reports that the Clinton administration launched “a new rhetorical offensive,” accusing Yugoslav forces of systematic rape and murder. The Los Angeles Times lead says the stepped-up rhetoric is a pre-emptive strike to defuse a Serb diplomatic offensive aimed at weakening the will of the NATO coalition. The New York Times lead focuses on the delay in the deployment of Apache helicopters.

Frustrated NATO and Pentagon officials now estimate that it may take a month to muster the Apaches. NATO’s supreme commander is anxious to deploy the gunships because the craft are capable of flying under the cloud cover that has frequently hampered air operations. Defense officials blame the delay on Albania’s underequipped airport and the bottleneck of relief flights. The LAT also fronts the story. The paper says the idle aircraft are “the most painful example yet of how the Clinton Administration’s political ambivalence, or a simple lack of planning, have kept NATO from doing all it can.”

According to the WP, administration officials are attempting to justify escalation, including the dispatch of more attack jets, by emphasizing reports that Yugoslav soldiers have been raping and killing young Kosovar women and perpetrating mass executions in 50 villages. The president accused Milosevic of blocking the escape routes of approximately 700,000 internally displaced people by sealing border crossings. The paper says that mass starvation is a mounting concern. The LAT lead claims that Clinton is attempting to head off Milosevic’s diplomatic ploys by stating that NATO “will not settle for half-measures.” According to the NYT, Milosevic effectively used a Cypriot envoy as a propaganda pawn, turning the envoy’s failed mission to win the release of three captured American servicemen into an opportunity to showcase civilian damage caused by NATO bombings.

Both the Post and the NYT front the “temporary tempest” caused by President Yeltsin’s remarks, which seemed to threaten military action and missile retargeting. The Post notes that the episode highlighted “the continuing diplomatic challenge” of containing Russian pique and distinguishing public rhetoric deployed for domestic political purposes from genuine Russian wrath. The Times plays up the diplomatic peril, asserting that it might become increasingly difficult for Yeltsin to stay abreast of the wave of anti-Western feeling with mere words. The paper reports that the U.S. has quietly warned Russia against providing military and intelligence assistance to Yugoslavia.

A bipartisan delegation sounded the drumbeat for ground forces by sending Clinton a letter urging him to send in troops. The WP fronts the advocacy of the nine key Congress members. Hawks and doves are poised to descend on the Capitol for the resumption of Congress on Tuesday. The Post notes that the Congress is likely to focus on contradictory measures calling for: arming the KLA, refusing to fund ground troops without congressional authorization, emergency funding for the military, declaring war, and calling for the withdrawal of troops.

The LAT and the NYT front a federal judge’s decision, ordering the government to pay $909 million to a California savings and loan for losses incurred due to regulations toughened under the Bush administration. Over 120 similar cases have been filed. Experts say that if the reasoning behind the breach of contract suit is upheld, taxpayers could end up footing the bill for between $30 billion and $50 billion in damages. The NYT notes that one plaintiff is exercising his legal rights from prison, where he is serving an 11-year sentence for racketeering and fraud in a case which cost the taxpayers $1.7 billion. No papers note that the tougher regulations at issue were an attempt to end the “regulatory forbearance” of the 1980s. “Regulatory forbearance” was widely blamed for the savings and loan debacle, which cost taxpayers $165 billion-$250 billion.

The NYT and the LAT front stories on the depth of Chinese Premier Zhu’s disappointment at not having reached a deal to bring China into the World Trade Organization. The LAT reports Zhu blamed the poisonous anti-China climate in Washington for the failure and complained that Clinton “did not have enough courage” to sign an accord in the face of congressional opposition. The NYT says that Clinton aides hoped for an agreement which would bolster Zhu, whom they see as China’s best bet for reform. All papers say the conditional Chinese commitments, which included unprecedented market openings, are now unlikely to materialize.

The Japanese are feeling the pinch of market forces, according to the NYT. Despite Japan’s attempts to protect its market with import bans, the price of pet beetles has plummeted. While once a nice beetle sold for a few thousand dollars, now you can get one for a mere 300. Though beetles aren’t the commodity they once were, they retain their status as a favored pet. This is due to their charming and diverse personalities, according to the insect salesman at Tobu Department Store.