Steve Chapman

Being praised for your diplomatic sophistication by Madeleine Albright is like being complimented on your sense of humor by John Kerry. Albright is the renowned diplomat who helped the Clinton administration blunder its way into an 11-week aerial war in Kosovo. Albright was confident that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would cave at the first whiff of gunpowder, and was shocked when he didn't.

That misjudgment had disastrous consequences. The Serbs responded not by capitulating but by greatly escalating their war on Kosovo's ethnic Albanians. Some 10,000 of them died, and more than a million were forced from their homes. If the war was a success, it was a very mixed one. The same could be said about Bosnia and Haiti, where the results fell far short of our intentions.

Like Iraq, the Kosovo war demonstrated the folly of taking military action without preparing for the worst. Both also showed the dangers of unchecked hubris.

But those are not lessons Clinton has necessarily absorbed. When she ran for the Senate in 2000, she mocked Republicans (such as Caspar Weinberger and Colin Powell) who think "we should intervene with force only when we face splendid little wars that we surely can win, preferably by overwhelming force in a relatively short period of time." On the contrary, she said, we "should not ever shy away from the hard task if it is the right one."

As Michael Crowley of The New Republic has noted, she had another reason for supporting Bush on Iraq. "I'm a strong believer in executive authority," she said in 2003. "I wish that, when my husband was president, people in Congress had been more willing to recognize presidential authority."

There you have it. A Hillary Clinton presidency promises to unite Madeleine Albright's zeal for using bombs in pursuit of liberal ideals with Dick Cheney's vision of the president as emperor. Won't that be fun?

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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