The NATO Operation: Where’s Congress?

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With American forces committed to the biggest NATO military operation in the alliance’s history, and with the wisdom and effectiveness of NATO’s air-strike strategy increasingly in doubt, one might ask: Where is Congress in all this? The answer: out of town. To the great relief of most members, Congress is enjoying a two week pre-planned recess. “This has conveniently allowed both parties to hide under the covers for now,” says TIME congressional correspondent Jay Carney. “Democrats in particular are quietly crossing their fingers and hoping matters will turn out for the best before they return to Washington.” On the eve of their recess, the members of both chambers did approve resolutions backing the military action -- but that was mostly to support the troops and gloss over their trepidation before heading out.

“Republicans are especially uneasy,” says Carney. “They have grave doubts about whether the administration entered the conflict with a fully thought-out military plan.” Their post-WWII inclination has been to support military intervention abroad -- and they certainly have no sympathy for Milosevic -- but their confidence in the President is at an all-time low. “Though there is an expanding circle of military and political experts inside Washington that is pressing the need to consider the introduction of ground troops in Yugoslavia,” says Carney, “there is no traction for this either in Congress or within the administration.” The fear of a quagmire like the Vietnam conflict haunts the nation’s capital. And so for now the only thing emanating from Capitol Hill is silence -- and prayers from the scattered members that the situation will settle down fast.