Spinning the mission as a NATO commitment may make it easier to secure congressional acquiescence, but it carries its own risk: "Without public opinion and Congress strongly behind such a decision, this could get dicey," says Thompson. "If, God forbid, some American troops are killed in Week 2, the administration will have a real problem." And the folks in Kosovo aren't exactly gun-shy.
Can the Clinton administration sneak 4,000 U.S. troops past Congress and into Kosovo? Defense Secretary Cohen cited NATO commitments Wednesday, telling Congress the U.S. might send a "relatively small" contingent of ground troops to join a three-year peacekeeping operation. With the Serbs agreeing Thursday to join the ethnic-Albanians at Paris peace talks on Saturday, U.S. legislators are unlikely to stand in Clinton's way. But they're unimpressed by his approach to peacekeeping commitments: "Senator John McCain warned last week that he was sick and tired of being presented with a fait accompli," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "The administration discusses troop deployment with our European allies and with the press before it's actually discussed with Congress."