KOSOVO | 1999-03-27

Every Democratic Administration since World War II has gone out of office with a foreign policy crisis. Harry Truman was involved in the hopeless, draining Korean War when his Administration ended in January of 1953.

The Truman Administration got us into the Korean War in 1950. Then the Democrats do what they've always done since World War II. After getting us into the war, they refused to fight the war seriously, so the Korean War bogged down into bloody hopelessness. The Democrats were thrown out of office in 1952, losing the White House and BOTH Houses of Congress. It was left to Truman's Republican successor, Dwight Eisenhower, to bring the Korean War to an end.

The Democrats got the White House back in 1961. The Democratic Administrations of Kennedy and Johnson got us into the Vietnam War in the early 1960's. Once again, liberal Democrats got us into a war with the Communists and then refused to fight it seriously. Vietnam, like Korea, became an exercise in bloody hopelessness.

So in 1968, the Republican Richard Nixon won the presidential election and Republicans took over the White House again.

It was not until 1977 that the Democrats took the White House back under Jimmy Carter. Carter promptly got the United States into another foreign policy disaster.

In 1979, Iranians seized the United States Embassy and took its staff hostage. They held on to them until January, 1981, when another Republican, Ronald Reagan, took over the presidency.

Since World War II, we have had three Democratic Administrations, and each of them went out of office in a major foreign policy crisis.

Since I lived through the history I have just recited, I have been waiting for Clinton to get himself into a foreign policy disaster he couldn't get out of. Haiti should have been the catastrophe, but Jimmy Carter pulled that out of the fire for him. If Clinton had actually got into a serious war with Saddam, it would probably have proved a hopeless draw. But Saddam kept backing down.

Clinton keeps getting into ridiculous situations, but he keeps lucking out of them. Being an American watching Clinton's foreign policy is a lot like riding with a wild drunk at the wheel. Like a drunk driver, any time he sees something really dangerous, he swings around and heads for it.

As I have pointed out before, the two places all sane men avoid getting into are the Middle East and the Balkans. Kosovo is right smack dab in the middle of the Balkans, and Clinton wants to get American troops in there so bad he can TASTE it!

Normally, I would freely predict that our present move to get troops on the ground in Kosovo would be a sure disaster in the making. But I am afraid to bet against the Clinton luck. And, frankly, I am praying that he has a LOT of luck this time.

As I said before, the Kosovo situation has brought us closer to a nuclear confrontation than we have been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (Please see "Observation", March 6). What makes this situation particularly dangerous is that, in contrast to our attitude in 1962, we are not taking the Russians seriously today. Russia feels our contempt, and our contempt is a major provocation to them.

The Russians may end up going to war over our treatment of their fellow Slavs in Serbia. They have made it very, very clear that they are totally on the Serbian side, against the US. Add to this fact that many Russians feel they have little to lose today, and the fact that we are making their attitude worse by not taking them seriously.

Further, the Russians don't have the same central control over their missiles that they had under the Soviet Union. Add to this the fact that the man with his hand on the nuclear trigger is a terminally ill alcoholic with little control over his subordinates, even on the rare occasions when he is in good enough condition to exercise it.

So what happens if some Russian does launch a nuclear missile? Aren't their nuclear forces out of date? Wouldn't we just shoot such a missile down?

No, we would not. We have no defenses against any kind of nuclear missile.

If a maverick Russian sends a nuclear missile our way, it will hit its target. All ten megatons of it will explode in the United States.

What would happen next is anybody's guess.

So I am hoping our drunk-driving president has luck once again.

Granted, if there were another Democratic foreign policy disaster it would once again elect a Republican president, as Democratic foreign policy disasters have already done three times since World War II.

But I am not willing to hope for a possible nuclear war to get Dole or Bush elected.