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RELUCTANT ALLIES HAVE A POINT



Published: Sun, February 16, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



RELUCTANT ALLIES HAVE A POINT

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld think they see an axis of drivel in the moves by France, Germany and Russia to delay war with Iraq. But there is a lesson for Mr. Bush: Important allies don't want to be bullied into war.

Last weekend, Mr. Rumsfeld dressed down Europeans for "20th century thinking." In Mr. Rumsfeld's lexicon, that means Munich-style appeasement -- an exaggerated and overused analogy. It was Mr. Rumsfeld's latest demonstration of how to win friends and influence enemies in the "old Europe" -- a group of countries that just happens to include some of our best friends.

Then, this week, America reacted furiously to efforts by France, Germany and Belgium to block the dispatch of AWACS planes and Patriot missiles to the defense of Turkey. The rift is one of the most significant in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The French and Germans saw the deployment of the defensive weapons as capitulation to Mr. Bush's timetable for war on Iraq. They have a point, but they fought on the wrong battlefield. The place to make the point is the U.N. Security Council, not NATO, where solidarity is the watchword.

Free-thinking nations

The United States is angry that France and Germany have been working behind the scenes to come up with an alternative approach to disarming Iraq. But Mr. Bush should remember these are free-thinking nations, not puppet states. They are put off by the arrogant national body language that Mr. Bush has conveyed in his run-up to war.

It's as easy to ridicule the French as it is for the French to ridicule "le cowboy" in the White House. But France's advocacy of strengthened weapons inspections makes more sense than launching a war this spring. Tripling the number of inspectors and backing them up with U.N. forces could improve the inspections process.

Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary-general, offered good advice last weekend: The nations of the Security Council should remain united. As frustrated as Mr. Bush may be with our allies, he should move ahead on a timetable that the Security Council can agree upon.

TURNING STARS INTO DUST

Los Angeles Times: Isn't this fun, ruining the childhood of a basketball prodigy for entertainment's sake? Poor kid plays well, makes good. And we get to watch. LeBron James won't even be drafted into the pros until May, just before he's finished high school. At 17, the Ohio boy got a national magazine cover. At 18, national TV and newspaper exposure. His mom, who lives in public housing, got a loan without collateral to buy him a $52,000-plus Hummer with three TVs. Prime-time TV schedules are rejiggered to sell beer and trucks around his talent. Pretty soon, society is likely to witness the downfall of another celebrity who got too rich too quick and then tut-tut while seeking the next falling star.

Phony entourage

Big surprise that James isn't complaining about limos, banks of cameras, his phony entourage, athletic shoes embroidered with "King James," a legal system weighting justice scales in favor of playing time over punishment for accepting gifts. American star-making is a disgusting, predatory process with fervent propagators and willing victims, all because the public is curious.

James may be a phenomenal player, a nice guy, swell student, class joker, all that. But he's a kid. He should be worried about pimples and proms. He scored 52 points against mortal teens. But if ESPN and 200 media members weren't there, would it really matter? James hasn't done anything worth a penny of a $30-million shoe endorsement. It's all impatient potential.

If he's so great, there's time to prove it. Someone needs to ground this kid now for his own good -- and maybe ours. Maybe not his mom, a kid herself at LeBron's birth. Not his father, who's been absent. What about his private school, $t. Vincent-$t. Mary, which has done OK from this sudden celebrity? His coach? A lawyer? A real friend? Someone? Anyone?

What are we teaching this youngster -- and millions of others silently watching? The judge who restored his high school eligibility will be popular. His mother will get a house. Some shoe company gets a new Michael Jordan. The NBA sells shirts and tickets. TV snags viewers. We get entertained. It all fits snugly. But maybe we, as a free society of individuals, need to go to our rooms one by one and think awhile about our need to follow, to fawn, to cheer, to pander, to bask and to shake our heads about all those other shallow people who do exactly the same.




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