The “Imperial Presidency” was a charge the Republicans used to make against FDR, JFK, and LBJ, and a few of them have begun to use similar language against Mr. Clinton’s personal crusade against Bosnian Christians. Asked by Dan Rather if there was a problem of “perception” in a draft-dodger sending men into a combat zone, the Commander-in-Chief, as his followers like to call him, replied simply: “I am the President.”
This is a curious concept, that of the Commander-in-Chief. It used to mean only that, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, the civilian President bore ultimate responsibility for military decisions. Today, we hear more and more that the President is “our” Commander-in-Chief, as if the title gave him military authority over the entire nation. “We have to support the Commander-in-Chief,” say Mr. Clinton’s Republican opponents. Since when? If the President violates the Constitution and rules like a military dictator, we are told that we must support his decisions, so long as there are American troops in the field. With the world situation as it is, this temporary dictatorship could easily become permanent. With all this talk of a new set of Nuremberg trials, it is strange that no one seems to remember the doctrine that came out of those trials: that no subordinate could exculpate his own crimes on the grounds of “following orders.”
Yugoslavia is far from the only European country in which the Clinton administration is practicing imperialism. In Greece, the newspapers are reporting that the Germans, with the support of the United States, have already picked Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou’s successor. The nakedness of the interference only fuels Greek anxieties over Macedonia and Epeiros, where there is a vocal Albanian minority. On the other side of Greece, the Muslims in Thrace are demanding recognition for their “Islamic State of Western Thrace,” and their demands are reinforced by the Turkish government, which insists upon referring to these citizens of Greece as “Turks.” Some Greek newspapers have also reported that NATO had planned maneuvers, or at least “map exercises,” to protect Thracian Muslims during an imaginary uprising. The exercise included an exchange of populations—popularly known in genocidal Muslim circles as “ethnic cleansing”—and partial autonomy for Thrace. NATO officials denied the accusation, but by then Greek Christians had taken to the streets, carrying signs saying “No More Yugoslavias.”
Perhaps the Greeks are only imagining things, although with Mr. Clinton on record, threatening the Serbs if they invade Kosovo (which is Serbian territory), they have a right to be afraid. Besides, Papandreou is still alive, and we have so far only conspired to pick his successor. Clinton has gone much farther in Poland, where ex-communist Alexander Kwasmewski received American assistance in his successful campaign to unseat President Lech Walesa.
According to a report in Gazeta Polska, two of Mr. Kwasniewski’s advisors were the guests of honor of the American government. Zbigniew Siemiatovvski and Ireneusz Skubis, both officials in parties (the Polish Peasant Party in the former case, the Alliance of the Democratic Left in the latter) that have succeeded the Communist Party, were sent official invitations to take part in an extensive training program designed to teach political operatives how to manage a presidential campaign in the American style. The people in charge were apparently Bill Clinton’s own campaign managers. The course included instructions on what kind of makeup to apply and what sort of background to emphasize to the Polish voters.
The invitations, issued by the American ambassador in Warsaw, Nicholas Rey, were sent only to Kwasniewski campaign workers. No other parties were asked to participate. Ambassador Rey was not available for comment, but reporters from the Catholic radio station “Plus” were able to reach Senator Jesse Helms, who said that the Republican Party, to his knowledge, was not aware of the extensive training being provided to ex-communists in Poland, and he promised to look into the matter.
Not so long ago Lech Walesa was a hero to many Americans, but more recently American journalists have been unanimous in criticizing his character and performance. How much of the case against Walesa is true, and how many of the charges are fictions concocted by the administration, remains uncertain. What is clear, however, is that Walesa’s one great sin, at least in the eyes of the U.S. State Department, is his patriotism. For good or ill, he stood up for his own national interest and did not allow the United States to take over his country. This opens up a broad field for speculation. Is John Major still our man in Britain? Is Jacques Chirac’s bullying stance on Bosnia due to his friendship with the United States or the need to patch things up with the Germans? Above all, are we getting ready to dump our number-one stooge, Boris Yeltsin, and if so, who is the designated successor? Mr. Gorbachev is waiting in the wings, but the American press is very interested in several nonentities who have no support outside of pro-American intellectuals. Imagine how much fun they must have, those cases of arrested development that staff the State Department bureaucracy, playing at empire as if they were grown-ups who could grow beards and father children.