Today, Somalia ... . . .Tomorrow, why not Bosnia?

The success of Bush's mission could put pressure on Clinton to intervene elsewhere.

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NATO's own planners have drafted preliminary contingency plans for air patrols to back up the no-fly order -- and further military actions like air strikes on Serbian artillery. British diplomats claim the U.S. has even floated the idea of contributing 100,000 troops to a Western force that could be deployed to prevent the Serbs from moving next into the former Yugoslav segments of Kosovo and Macedonia.

Military officers in Washington deny that, and most still argue that putting ground troops into the Balkans is unthinkable. One senior Defense official, however, refuses to be absolute in his denial. If Serbs march into the province of Kosovo, which has an Albanian majority, in an attempt at "ethnic cleansing," says the official, "all bets are off." There is contingency planning to handle that, he confirms, just as there is for almost any possible crisis. But he admits that "a prudent military leadership cannot ignore the possibility this will blow up."

EVEN IF THE EXPLOsion does not occur, U.S. planners, like those at NATO, are putting together blueprints for what one of them calls "air power to compel behavior." Such plans would provide a way to make Serbia suffer for its aggression in Bosnia by bombing Serbia's power plants, fuel dumps, railway lines and bridges, the kind of infrastructure war the U.S. used to soften up Iraq. Cheney touched on this possible course at the NATO meeting last week. "The Secretary is not proposing going ahead with this stuff," says one of his aides, "but he wants NATO to know our thoughts."

Leaders of Clinton's foreign policy team feel no lack of confidence or preparation. Every morning Clinton receives the same CIA briefing Bush does. Although the two Presidents have talked only once directly about Somalia, Scowcroft's calls to Berger are frequent. There is no give and take in these calls, no mutual formulation of policy, no horse trading. "It's a process of information exchange rather than consultation," says a Clinton official. Meanwhile, Little Rock has small groups at work in each of the national security departments, preparing memos and outlining issues. "They're talking to people and weighing options," says a State Department official.

When he takes command, Clinton has indicated, he will not shrink from using American power and influence abroad. It may well be that although the outgoing Administration has saddled him with foreign ventures he might prefer not to have just now, he does not disapprove of any of the steps Bush either has taken in Somalia or seems about to take in Bosnia. If the President-elect objected seriously to them, he could say so -- and possibly force Bush to draw back. But whether Clinton does so or not, he no longer suggests that domestic and economic affairs will be able to command all, or almost all, of his attention as President.

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