Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Clark's Incident at the Pristina Airport

I received a e-mail criticizing this post, which said that Wes Clark has probably been ruled out as a VP pick:

I can’t believe you dismissed Wes Clark and printed that silly World War III rumor. Yes, I know some British chap supposedly said that to him, but who cares? Gen. Clark was ordered to secure that airport.
The importance of the Pristina incident may have been exaggerated, but it was certainly not "silly." And this is factually incorrect: Clark wasn't ordered to do anything. As Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, he ordered a British general to confront Russian troops who had taken an airport in Kosovo. The British general refused, judging that to do so would risk a major blowup with Moscow. See what appears to me a balanced account here.

Just to be clear: as I said in the original post, I like Wes Clark a lot. But in an election, his key strength--on national security--would easily be undermined by the scores of retired generals the Republican would find to voice their doubts about him. Obama is a cautious politician, and he's not going to pick someone with such a glaring vulnerability.

This is not a new idea of mine. Back in 2003, when I took the job with Dean, Clark's entrance to the race was imminent, and many believed he would easily emerge as the front-runner. I took a close look at Clark and judged that his lack of experience as a candidate, his many enemies inside the Pentagon, and the Pristina incident were all serious obstacles to his candidacy.

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