The Smell of a Deal

The Smell of a Deal

The Smell of a Deal

What the foreign papers are saying.
May 4 1999 3:30 AM

The Smell of a Deal

Click here for Slate's complete Kosovo coverage.

The new flurry of efforts to broker a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis alarmed the British conservative newspapers Monday. The Times, the Daily Telegraph, and the Financial Times all urged President Clinton to stand firm and intensify the war. "The smell of a deal is in the air," said the Telegraph, disapprovingly. In an editorial headlined "Dealing with the devil," the paper reminded Clinton that NATO's peace conditions "run counter to everything that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic stands for." "Having foolishly tied his hands behind his back by eschewing ground action, Mr. Clinton may be looking for an easy way out," it warned. "It is up to his allies, in particular Tony Blair, to stiffen his resolve that NATO's demands be met in full. ... The current whirl of diplomatic activity calls for especial vigilance on the West's part."

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An editorial in the Times said it was time for the "listening President" to speak with a firmer voice. "The strong US public support for NATO's intervention could weaken in the face of indecisiveness," it said. "If Mr. Clinton is to avoid a groundswell of get out, he must show that he is prepared to go in with whatever force it takes, and stay in until the only guns in Kosovo belong to NATO and all the Kosovans, like the three [American] servicemen, can go home again." The Financial Times said that the only way out for Milosevic was to accept NATO's conditions in full. "He must do so clearly, addressing NATO leaders directly," it said. "Nothing less will do."

The liberal British newspapers, the Guardian and the Independent, carried no war editorials Monday, but the Guardian ran one in praise of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose triumph in getting the three servicemen released has been greeted with cynicism by the U.S. political establishment. Saying it was time for such cynicism to stop, the paper claimed, that for all his "media grandstanding" and his repeated failure to see major projects through, "he remains an inspiration for millions of Americans, not least in motivating them to vote." "Moreover, he continues to advocate the integrationist ideal of his mentor Martin Luther King," it said. The picture of him linking arms with the white and Hispanic soldiers "will exert great power in the United States, and Jesse Jackson should be applauded for making it happen," it added.

The Independent ran a bitter commentary by its veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk comparing the attention paid to the release of the three soldiers in Belgrade to that of the deaths of 60 civilians in a NATO bomb attack that destroyed a bus last Saturday. Noting that NATO's only comment on the latter event was the passive phrase, "it is regretted," Fisk said NATO wants us to believe that it has reserved its sorrow for the Albanian refugees expelled from Kosovo. But personally he didn't believe "that NATO feels this sense of outrage as strongly as it claims." He compared NATO's attitude to that of a person who crosses a city street to help an innocent civilian who is being attacked. "What NATO has done--faced with the atrocities of Kosovo--has been to stay on the other side of the road, to make a note of the criminal's address, and to throw stones through the window of his home later that night," he wrote. "Not a single NATO life has been lost in five weeks of war in the Balkans--because we do not regard the catastrophe of the Kosovo Albanians as worth a single NATO life. It's as simple as that."

In an interview with the French Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said Moscow would be willing to send troops under U.N. command to enforce a peace accord in Kosovo. Once again, he called the NATO bombing campaign "a tragic mistake" and said: "There are no good chess players among the leaders of NATO. ... Before moving a pawn, you have to assess all the possible strategies of your adversary." In an editorial Monday, Le Figaro of Paris said that, by contrast, Milosevic has shown great talent as a chess player. By moving the war to the terrain of American public opinion with his release of the three soldiers, he was attempting a final maneuver. "Having been put in check, the king can always castle," the paper explained. "He knows he has lost the game, but he still isn't naked." By freeing the hostages, Milosevic has opened a crack in the door on the eve of the meeting between Clinton and Russian mediator Viktor Chernomyrdin. "He knows he is in check, but he wants to avoid check-mate," Le Figaro said. Libération, in its main front-page headline, called the release of the soldiers "a diplomatic ambush by Milosevic."

In La Repubblica of Rome Monday, one of its correspondents in Belgrade reported that Politika, the most widely read newspaper of the Yugoslav capital, has maintained its circulation during the war despite being despised as a Milosevic mouthpiece. This was entirely due to its daily five pages of death announcements, the correspondent, Biljana Sbrljanovic, wrote, although the number of these announcements has not grown since the NATO bombing started. For the Serbs, these illustrated death notices were "more important than death itself, because if Politika doesn't publish your photograph, it is as if you haven't died." The regime is now censoring the death announcements in order to conceal the number and the identities of the victims of NATO's bombs, she wrote; but Sunday one notice slipped past the censors: a young woman employee of the bombed Belgrade TV station whose body had only just been found. The announcement said, enigmatically, that she had been "a victim of the assassins who came from the sky and of those who came from the ground."

In Japan Monday, the Asahi Evening News marked Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's visit to the United States by publishing a Gallup Poll, commissioned by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, showing that a record 61 percent of Americans consider Japan to be a trustworthy partner. The poll, conducted annually since 1960, also found that, for the first time since the question was first asked in 1997, more than half of Americans said the alliance is very important to U.S. national security. However, a Harris Poll conducted in March for Asahi Shimbun showed that 49 percent of Americans thought U.S. forces were in Japan in order to prevent the country from becoming a military threat, the paper said.

In Israel, Ha'aretz reported prominently Monday that students studying criminology at Bar-Ilan University were being required to read a textbook describing homosexuals as "criminals." The book, The Making of a Criminal by Bar-Ilan Professor Moshe Adar, asserted: "An honest person tends to see others as being honest as well; the evil person sees evilness in others. The homosexual tends to blame his victim for seducing him. ... The cheating merchant will worry that all the other merchants are cheats and liars. The thief will accuse everyone of thievery." The book was listed as required reading for two courses, Criminology and Introduction to Psychopathology, the paper said. Third-year social science students at Bar-Ilan said they would be tested on it in about two weeks. University spokesman David Weinberg said Adar was "considered an expert in his field, and has an international reputation," and that the university was standing by him.

Several British papers carried a report Monday that Britain's largest supermarket chain has asked fruit growers to supply it with smaller melons after research indicated that housewives subconsciously compared them to the size of their breasts. According to the Daily Telegraph, the Tesco chain has been told by a psychologist "that the current preference for smaller busts--epitomized by the model Kate Moss and the actress Gwyneth Paltrow--was the reason why the traditional big, fleshy melons were remaining unsold."