Today's Papers

NATO: Yugo, Right Now

Everybody leads with the signing yesterday by NATO and Yugoslav military commanders of a peace deal that: sets up the end of the 11-week air war, the pull-out from Kosovo of all Serb military forces (with token elements to eventually return), the interposition of a 50,000-strong NATO peacekeeping force, and the repatriation of nearly a million Kosovar refugees. The sense of the coverage is that the Serb pullout and the resultant allied bombing halt could begin today. Everybody banners the story across the top front except the New York Times, whose more measured play seems a bit wiser given the roller coaster of the past week. And of the other papers, only the Los Angeles Times’ headline mentions the end of the war, but even it doesn’t flatly say that it’s over, but merely attributes this view to a Yugoslav general. This cautious approach is, the coverage makes clear, the mood inside NATO and the White House. “It’s not what he says,” the NYT quotes one NATO official as saying about Slobodan Milosevic. “It’s not what he signs. It’s what he does.”

Except for granting the Yugoslavs a few more days to get out, the final agreement is virtually identical to the one they punted on several hundred dead Serb soldiers ago. And, it should be noted–despite the insistences of U.S. officials cited in the Wall Street Journal–the question of U.N. role and the issue of whether and how Russian forces will figure into the peacekeeping presence remain unresolved.

Earlier this week, this space noted that none of the papers seemed sensitive to the significance of the similarity between the Yugoslav approach to the negotiations and that used by the Iraqis in their dealings with weapons inspectors: namely, that the haggling might not be a principled objection but rather a dilatory tactic to give the Serbs a chance to hide things they didn’t want NATO to find. And now comes the NYT with an inside story that suggests precisely this. The Pentagon says U.S. spy satellite photos seem to show that Serbian forces recently dug up bodies to hide evidence of a massacre in Kosovo. According to the story, the pictures are scientific confirmation of refugee testimony.

A curious personality angle to the war’s endgame utterly escapes notice. Until a week or so ago, NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark was a fixture of the story. He was quoted often and his desires to have more air and ground assets than was originally contemplated at the war’s inception prompted and framed much of the discussion in the papers about the proper conduct of the operation. But right now, the only NATO general you can find in the papers–and boy, can you find him–is British Gen. Mike Jackson. So the question is, Where is Wesley Clark? Staying in the background for the good of the negotiations? In the Clinton doghouse? The papers don’t say.

Everybody covers President Clinton’s criticism of the House Republican gun-control bill as being “ghost-written” by the NRA. And everybody runs inside stories reporting that Clinton has waded into the racial profiling controversy, terming it “morally indefensible” and “the opposite of good police work,” and ordering federal law enforcement agencies to collect data on the race and ethnicity of those they question, search, and arrest to determine whether people are being subject to these police actions because of their race. The stories generally reflect Clinton’s belief that an empirical study of this sort would be dispositive, and they also connect profiling with the sort of race-tinged brutality exhibited in New York City’s Louima and Diallo cases. But neither of these stances seems obviously right. A study that showed that a disproportionate number of blacks are stopped by police doesn’t by itself prove racism. Wouldn’t you also have to subtract from consideration stops that lead to convictions? Plus, if that conviction rate were higher than that produced by stops of other races and ethnic groups, wouldn’t that suggest that the cops were on to something? (Probably on to something sociological that’s connected to race.) The problem is that being racially sensitive isn’t the same as being racially prejudiced. White cops who stop white people who drive through an all-black neighborhood, because they suspect that their presence there is best explained by illicit activity, are noticing whiteness, but they’re not self-hating, and their belief about what’s suspicious entails absolutely nothing about the physical abuse of suspects.

USA Today fronts a stunning new study, conducted at the University of Texas, on the growth of the Internet economy, which it calculates as having produced $301 billion in revenue last year and 1.2 million jobs. To put this in perspective, USAT observes that this makes the Net nearly as fertile as the U.S. auto industry. The paper quotes an MIT expert as saying that the Net economy is now doubling in size every nine months. The story runs inside elsewhere.

Habeas corpses: The NYT reports that more than 80 years after being murdered by Bolsheviks probably on orders from Lenin, four members of the Romanov dynasty have been cleared of any wrongdoing by Russia’s chief law enforcement officer.

Gail Collins, of the NYT’s editorial board, impresses with a smart signed rumination about electoral carpetbagging, prompted by Hillary Clinton’s presumptive New York Senate run. Collins notes several precedents for HRC’s adventure. John McCain was so new to Arizona when he first ran for office there that he kept getting lost on his way to his rallies. President Bush claimed three different home states. And then there’s James Shields, who in the 19th century was elected to the Senate from Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri in succession. The truth is, concludes Collins, almost nobody in New York knows the whole state well, and the way you learn about it is by running for office.

Both the Washington Post and USAT report that former President George Bush made a parachute jump yesterday from 12,500 feet and landed at his presidential library to celebrate his upcoming 75th birthday. The Post story doesn’t mention the first presidential campaign appearances of his son George W. Bush this weekend. The USAT story does mention it, but doesn’t hint that there might have been any coordination between the two events, so both stories seem naive. Today’s Papers is glad everything worked and is impressed by the elder Bush’s joie de vivre, but still would love to see the George W. campaign memo covering what to say if Dad had augured in.