Is America Getting Ready for Ground Troops?

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President Clinton already fought -- and lost -- this war by the polls when he promised that the U.S. wouldn't send in ground troops, giving Milosevic the go-ahead to cleanse Kosovo while the bombs fell. Now, just in time for the Kosovars' postmortem, the public may be warming up to the idea without him. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 55 percent of the American public, along with most of Congress and the foreign-policy community, now support sending U.S. troops into Kosovo.

However, TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson warns that when it comes to war, 55 percent isn't a majority. "When those troops' boots touch foreign soil, public support goes down by the day," he says. "Even faster if something goes wrong -- in which case it's all on Clinton's head. If public support is the issue, he's got to say 'Come back when it's 85 percent.'" The adminstration still insists that U.S. troops will enter only in the event of an ill-defined "permissive environment." It's a military term, but under commander-in-chief Clinton, of course, "permissive environment" might only mean 85 percent.

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