Today's Papers

Suspended Capitulation

The suspension of withdrawal talks, set to resume today, leads all papers. The Los Angeles Times says the delay “renewed skepticism that Yugoslavia is serious about full-scale capitulation.” The Washington Post says progress stalled because the five-member Yugoslav delegation lacked the authority to agree on specifics.

The New York Times provides specifics: The Serbs arrived two hours late because of their concerns that the ethnic Albanian restaurant in Macedonia where the meeting took place was not sufficiently neutral ground. The Serbs eventually sat down at a U-shaped table across from British Gen. Jackson, the future head of the projected peacekeeping force. The envisioned agreement is a revision of an annex to the accords Milosevic rejected in February. It requires all Serb organizations with military capabilities to leave within 24 hours of signing and the removal of all air defense systems. The paper mentions that since the pact is a military agreement, the signature of indicted war crimes suspect Slobodan Milosevic is not required.

The LAT and WP note that the KLA and Serb forces continued to fight near the Albanian border. Yugoslavs lobbed a bomb into an Albanian town teeming with refugees.

The NYT claims that the Russians postponed a meeting with the G-8 foreign ministers and did not send an observer to the talks because they are angered by the continued bombing. But the Post reports that the rules of engagement were tightened yesterday. Pilots are now allowed to fire only if they witness Yugoslav forces attacking or massing to attack civilians. Continued air patrols are a mere show of force. All but one plane launched from Aviano Air Base in Italy returned without firing.

To maintain the peace, the West must rebuild, de-mine and demilitarize Kosovo, while caring for its inhabitants, according to the Post. Containing enflamed ethnic hatreds might prove most difficult. Refugees seem reluctant to forgive the injuries they have suffered and dream of an independent Kosovo.

The NYT and the WP front behind-the-scenes reports on how the deal was done. According to the Post, the political solution was helped along by the threat of ground troops and Yeltsin’s desire to settle Kosovo before begging for financial support from the West at the upcoming meeting of the G-8. The Times provides great color: Primakov’s mid-air U-turn was a ploy to placate the Russians. He knew before take-off. The embassy debacle was a turning point–the alliance agreed to intensify bombing to avoid the slow bleed of public support. Over muffins, envoy Chernomyrdin proposed to Gore that he and someone trusted by both NATO and Milosevic mediate as a team (the Post says the epiphany took place in a Chernomyrdin-Clinton tete-a-tete). Albright advocated Athtisaari and then set about trying to restrain potential meddlers–like Kofi Annan and Jesse Jackson–who might act out of what she termed “envoy envy.”

The Post fronts an article on what a peace deal portends. Albright believes the intervention will bring about a Europe that is “united and free and democratic.” Small nations reevaluate how they will deal with ethnic minorities. Policymakers might be more likely to eschew the Powell Doctrine and wage limited war, with limited ends. But the alliance will be chastened from engaging in a Kosovo II because the politics of intervention were costly and the peacekeeping will likely be long-term, according to another Post article.

The Times’ “Week in Review” provides a one-sided assessment of whether the ostensible capitulation will deter dictators from wreaking mayhem in the future. NATO intervention is confined to Europe, it wasn’t worth the armaments, and tyrants might go nuclear to ward off global policing. This pessimistic piece brushes over the possibility that the intervention might alter the calculus on “ethnic cleansing.” It ignores the deterrence of Milosevic’s dreams for a Greater Serbia. The article overlooks that future do-gooders might be emboldened by the tactics of the campaign, which appears to have bent the will of the Serbs through air power coercion at the cost of zero alliance casualties and two lost aircraft.

The “Week in Review” dismisses the myth that colossal punitive damage awards are commonplace and liability claims are increasing exponentially. A study of courts found that 0.0047 percent of cases end in punitive damage awards (Today’s Papers can only assume the NYT is referring to civil cases). Liability suits declined by 9 percent since 1986. How this decline in suits filed is affected by the (perhaps mythical) boom in the aggregation of claims through class actions goes unaddressed.

Rodin, Burghers of Calais, [YOUR NAME HERE]: The NYT reports that you may now adopt not only needy orphans, highway miles, Central Park benches, and New Jersey train stations; you can also now call a Brooklyn Museum of Art masterpiece your own for as little as $250 (plaque included).