- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark is surrounded by Clinton loyalists in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination — an alliance that would have been hard to predict just four years ago.

As Mr. Clark commanded the air war on Serbia in 1999, some of President Clinton’s top national security aides barely spoke to him. His term as supreme allied commander of NATO ended abruptly when then-Defense Secretary William S. Cohen replaced him with Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston.

A military source close to the situation later said Mr. Clark’s huge ego and “know-it-all” style prompted the replacement. A stunned Mr. Clark had expected to serve at least three more months, with perhaps a year’s extension.

Mr. Clark, who yesterday announced his candidacy, put all of the kiss-and-tell stuff in his 2001 book, “Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo and the Future of Combat.”

He writes of frosty relations with Clinton aides when he attended — uninvited — NATO’s midwar 50th-anniversary celebration in Washington. He spotted Mr. Cohen, Gen. Henry Shelton, the Joint Chiefs chairman, and others. “As I approached, two or three of the team glanced at me,” Mr. Clark writes. “‘Stay away’ was the clear message from the body language. It was jarring.”

After holding a news conference during which he admitted Slobodan Milosevic had some success in sending reinforcements to Kosovo, Mr. Clark writes of receiving a phone call from Gen. Shelton, who said: “Wes, at the White House meeting today there was a lot of discussion about your press conference. The secretary of defense asked me to give you some verbatim guidance, so here it is: Get your … face off the TV.”

Mr. Clark also writes that before the war began, “I hadn’t discussed overall strategy with Secretary Cohen or the president at all.”

Of his early retirement, he said, “Pentagon spokesmen claimed that giving Ralston my job was the only way they could persuade him to stay on active duty. Ralston called me the next morning to say he had nothing to do with this. Whatever the motives, it was done.”

But the bad blood apparently did not spill over into his relationship with Mr. Clinton, who, like Mr. Clark, is Arkansas-raised and a Rhodes scholar. Before the president left office, he bestowed Mr. Clark with the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Among the Bill Clinton-Al Gore aides grouped around Mr. Clark are former spokesman Mark Fabiani; Ron Klain, a Gore campaign strategist; Skip Rutherford, a Clinton fund-raiser; and Bruce Lindsey, a Clinton confidante. Also in his camp are Clinton advisers Eli Segal and Mickey Kantor.

While advocating a strong defense, Mr. Clark also wants an activist federal government on the domestic front. During a reception for his memoir, he told a reporter he could not understand any agenda that did not include government-provided universal health care.

Mr. Clark’s political affiliation was apparent earlier this year when he hosted a forum at Georgetown University, billed as a discussion on foreign policy, that proved to be two hours of intense Bush-bashing by Mr. Clark’s invited panelists.

Mr. Clark was the commander who won NATO’s first war, a 78-day air campaign to force Mr. Milosovic to withdraw his troops.

The war plan proved to be deeply flawed. NATO’s 19 members, and the White House, micromanaged target selection. There were not enough allied aircraft available when the time came to ramp up air strikes. Mr. Clark’s plan to put Apache attack helicopters in Albania, on the Kosovo border, ended in failure. Still, NATO eventually achieved victory, directly resulting in Mr. Milosovic’s removal from power.

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