Today's Papers

Cease Flier Agreement?

Everybody leads with Slobodan Milosevic’s apparent acceptance Thursday of a peace plan under which: his forces are to begin an immediate withdrawal from Kosovo with only a token force to ultimately remain, the 850,000 displaced Kosovar Albanians will return to their homes, a U.N./NATO peacekeeping force (to include Russian soldiers) of just under 50,000 troops (including 7,000 Americans) will be stationed in Kosovo, and the KLA rebels will be demilitarized. The key word is “apparent,” and President Clinton is widely quoted as expressing caution, saying that until there is a verifiable Serb withdrawal from Kosovo, NATO’s military campaign would continue. And indeed, allied bombers struck Kosovo last night. The papers’ headlines effectively communicate all this with one exception: The Washington Post’s subhead reads: “Airstrikes’ End to Await Compliance,” which but for an apostrophe sounds like the precise opposite of what’s really going on.

The New York Times states that there is still confusion over the command structure and makeup of the agreement’s peacekeeping force. The Russians are insisting, the paper notes, that its troops not be under NATO command and have not yet agreed to supply troops. The Wall Street Journal points out there is something else in UN leadership for the cash-strapped Russians–their soldiers could then be paid out of UN funds. The Los Angeles Times points out that more than Russian sensibilities hang on the issue of whether it’s NATO or the UN in charge–the Serbs emphasize that it doesn’t view UN troops as “foreign” forces, a fig-leaf that lets them rationalize having been cross-haired by thousands and thousands of bombs instead of last March just accepting the Rambouillet agreement, with its imposition of a NATO force. The Times, Post and Journal also point out that the Serbs get something else out of the new agreement that Rambouillet didn’t offer–the former doesn’t raise the possibility of Kosovo’s eventual autonomy. The Times states that a real obstacle to implementation may precisely be the KLA’s unwillingness to give up its ambitions for regional independence.

The NYT notes that there was no official statement about the agreement from Milosevic. And the LAT says his status as a war criminal never came up in the talks leading up to it. The Journal explains his decision to cave thus: “his overwhelming desire to hang on to power.” And the coverage arrives at a thumbnail picture of the losses he suffered in his power base: 5,000 army and police deaths and 10,000 casualties.

The papers feature plenty of tick-tocks covering the path both sides took to the agreement. The WP’s Howard Kurtz does a survey of the war’s punditry and wonders if the outcome will chasten all those cable Clausewitzs. “Not a chance,” he concludes. But the Post’s Stephen S. Rosenfeld starts off his war wash-up column saying that he and lots of other commentators sold President Clinton’s war strategy short–although Rosenfeld can’t bring himself to write the phrase, “I was wrong.”

The LAT fronts a Dept. of Justice study it finds surprising: Despite a rash of racially tinged episodes with cops in recent years, L.A.’s blacks voice overwhelming satisfaction with the local police, practically up to the same level expressed by whites–82 percent to 89 percent. The result reminds Today’s Papers of an LAT poll, conducted right after the city’s Rodney King verdict riots, showing that blacks overwhelmingly disapproved of the looting–this while the paper was laboring to depict the event as a heartfelt “uprising.” And TP hopes that the LAT can henceforth remember that the races don’t differ all that much regarding crime issues.