NATO has emerged victorious from the war in Yugoslavia, and the real power within NATO, the United States and its Armed Forces, has given the world a salutary demonstration of its ability to enforce peace and security in Europe. This, say Mr. Clinton’s pundits, was America’s finest hour since the end of World War II.

Perhaps they are right. However, there is disturbing evidence that the pundits are wrong, as they usually are, on both points: U.S./NATO has not brought peace to Kosovo, and the principal effect of the NATO bombing campaign against civilian targets in the heart of Europe has been to convince the Europeans that the United States is the latest in a series of imperialist powers who have attempted to dominate the continent: Jacobin and Napoleonic France, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin and Brezhnev’s Soviet Union.

News of the escalating violence in Kosovo has seeped even into the state controlled media of the United States, although every few dozen Serbs murdered are usually described as “revenge killings”—as if Serb attacks on Albanians had nothing to do with over a hundred years of Albanian violence and ethnic cleansing. Nearly all of the 350,000 non-Albanians of Kosovo—including Jews, Gypsies, and Muslims—have fled, and “ironically” many of these non-Albanian Muslims have moved into the Serb capital, Belgrade, where they are living unmolested. KFOR Gen. Sir Mike Jackson quickly became exasperated by the behavior of the “victimized” Albanians and has denounced KLA violence in no uncertain terms, and Col. David Hackworth points out that, since the NATO victory, “more Serb civilians have been slaughtered than ethnic Albanians were before the NATO air campaign began.” Hackworth has also revealed that NATO’s air war left Yugoslavia’s military capability virtually intact.

Even Bob Dole—the senator from Tirana whose list of $1,000-plus contributors is apparently crowded with: Albanian names—has called upon his terrorist/ heroin-trafficking buddies to go easy. “The news is filled,” Dole confessed in USA Today, “with ominous reports of power grabs, town-hall occupations, murderous reprisals, black marketeering, extortion, violent intimidation of Albanians and Serbs alike, and property confiscations by self-appointed Albanian ‘commissars’ reputedly acting with the knowledge or approval of Hakim Thaci and others among your leaders.” It is not the violence and injustice that disturb the ex-senator—that goes without saving—but the risk of losing “support on several fronts.”

Senator Dole built his lucrative career by counting on the ignorance and apathy of American voters, few of whom will lose sleep over the rights and wrongs of tribal wars in the Balkans, even when American credibility is at stake. For American businessmen, however. Western Europe is another matter. While the U.S. Air Force was reducing Belgrade and Novi Sad to rubble. Chronicles editors made speech after speech and gave countless interviews in which we warned our fellow citizens not to be deceived by public statements made by politicians in the N.ATO “alliance.” Italians, Greeks, and Hungarians were terrified by this exhibition of naked and immoral force, and Germany and France had stepped up discussions for a European defense force, independent of NATO and the United States. “Pooh pooh” was the general response.

Now even Henry Kissinger is catching on. Writing in the Los Angeles Times—consistently the best and most independent liberal paper in the United States—Kissinger wonders: “Did Kosovo mark the end of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or at least as we have known it?” Dr. Kissinger is frankly puzzled: “The first joint operation of the alliance, carried out with extraordinary political cohesion and blessed both with apparent success and low allied casualties, has evoked vehement calls for greater European independence.” In fact, this past June, the 15 leaders of the European Union committed themselves to the principle of a separate military force that will act independently of both NATO and the United States.

Kissinger goes on to obfuscate the situation by talking about the European force as a tool for reducing European resentments of U.S. power, and he complains about the short-sightedness of European leaders who treat foreign policy as an extension of domestic policy. (How unlike their American counterparts!) The obvious fact, however, eludes him: Many Europeans are scared stiff of the United States, which has been transformed from their protective big brother into the biggest bully in the neighborhood.

The Italians, at least, get the picture. For years, the Italian parties were pawns of their American and Soviet sponsors, and in early September, four retired generals were charged with treason for their part in covering up the 1980 crash of an Italian airliner that may have been shot down by a NATO plane (guess whose) in pursuit of a Libyan jet.

Enough is apparently enough. President Ciampi, celebrating the great NATO victory, told a group of 127 Italian ambassadors that Italy has recovered its pride. Neither NATO nor the United Nations by itself can guarantee the peace of Europe, and a restricted group of major countries all have a part to play. In altre parole, Uncle Sam had better watch his step when even the Italian government is recovering its military pride. The war for Clinton’s legacy may turn out to be the worst foreign policy blunder in American history.