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press reaction

The Oregonian, Portland Ellen Gray

"... Channel surfing through the dreck that passes for news in prime time these days, it's hard not to think the networks are looking to Jerry Springer for ideas. ...

Tonight's 'Give War a Chance' shows what a news hour in primetime can offer: the opportunity to put ongoing events into some kind of perspective, to use individuals to tell a story that's far bigger than those individuals and to do it without cheesy re-creations or other tabloid-show techniques.

'Give War a Chance' traces the journey of two men whose world views were shaped by their very different experiences in Southeast Asia and who now find themselves on opposite sides regarding U.S. involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo."

Boston Globe John Koch

"... Rich in detail and depressing implication, 'Give War a Chance' portrays America's Serbian policy as a war behind a war, a struggle between an underprepared administration of ad hoc hawks and a self-consciously cautious military chastened by Vietnam. The civilian bombers for peace are carrying the day, as we know from news headlines.

The picture this "Frontline" presents isn't pretty, but it's revealing, exposing the dynamics of why we're in (or, more precisely, over) Serbia and how we got there. It also instructs us in a more general way about the often messy and adversarial behind-the-scenes business of hammering out policy and prosecuting a war."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Bill Steigerwald

"... As this latest in a long series of excellent 'Frontlines' makes painfully clear, America's political elite has not only not learned the hard, bloody lessons of Vietnam, they are knowingly defying them at this moment in the Balkans.

To show how the Vietnam generation holds two conflicting views about the proper use of American military power around the world 'Frontline' correspondent Peter J. Boyer focuses on the lives and experiences of two men whose formative years were spent in Vietnam and who would eventually confront each other over policy in the Balkans--diplomat Richard Holbrooke and retired NATO commander Leighton "Snuffy" Smith.

'Give War a Chance' which is produced for PBS by Michael Kirk, is a fast-moving, interesting mix of moral and political arguments, '60s rock music and graphic images from the Vietnam war and the mortared markets of Sarajevo.

Ideologically, the hour is tilted to the side of non-interventionism and is in no mood to say anything nice about the Clinton administration. And, for those who think that PBS and 'Frontline' are all-liberal all-the-time, Boyer et al. make little effort to hide the fact that they think more highly of practical military men like Smith than they do of the impulsive idealists like Holbrooke who order them into battles they cannot win."

Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale Tom Jicha

"'Another Vietnam' is America's bogeyman. Every time the armed forces find a need to lock and load, the cry goes up, 'Oh no, another Vietnam.'

This fear has served as a check on foreign adventurism--at least till this point. In a comprehensive but easily understood analysis of the situation, PBS' 'Frontline' presents an argument that the United States is on a direct path to another Vietnam in the Balkans.

Frontline chooses an interesting device to frame its report. A leopard might not be able to change its spots, but two key foreign policy figures, Richard Holbrooke and Leighton "Snuffy" Smith, have reversed roles as hawk and dove."

NY Daily News Eric Mink

"... Although the central theme is an intriguing and provocative one, the program falls far short in its attempt to illuminate it by exploring the conflict between two key American players.

... instead of quickly getting down to the nitty gritty of the diplomatic/military disputes over the Balkans, the production team devotes nearly the first half of its hour program to an unnecessarily detailed review of the Vietnam War.

It's one thing to establish the backgrounds and experiences that explain the current mind-sets of Holbrooke and Smith; it's another to pad the report with material that's already well known."

The New York Times Walter Goodman

"If you've been having trouble sorting out the arguments over American policy in the Balkans, 'Give War a Chance' should help. Although tonight's somewhat gruesomely titled edition of 'Frontline' oversimplifies matters by personifying policy disputes, it illuminates the contrasting mind-sets of political and military leaders on decisions that continue to perplex the nation."

Star Tribune, Minneapolis Noel Holston

"... This documentary is neither anti-Army nor pro-war. It's pro-realistic thinking.

Producers Michael Kirk and Rick Young and correspondent Peter Boyer set out to ascertain how President Clinton's administration, composed largely of Vietnam-era doves, has come to embrace a hawkish Balkans strategy disturbingly similar to what failed the United States in Southeast Asia: attempting to bomb the enemy to the negotiating table.

They find their answer in part by profiling the dovetailing careers of Richard Holbrooke, the diplomat who helped ... secure what in 1995 appeared to be a Bosnian peace settlement, and Adm. Leighton (Snuffy) Smith, commander of all NATO forces in southern Europe until he retired prematurely in 1996 after clashing with Holbrooke.

... Although "Give War a Chance" displays 'Frontline's' usual devotion to giving both sides their say, it's easy enough to detect which way the producers' sentiments tilt. It's not just the disdain with which Boyer pronounces "compassion warriors." It's Smith. ... He comes across as a no-bull guy who has seen close-up the folly of war waged without clear goals and recognition of the possible consequences.

"Give War a Chance' is a valuable contribution to the national dialogue on the country's role as globocop."

Wall Street Journal Dorothy Rabinowitz

" ... 'Give War a Chance'... focuses on two quite different products of the '60s generation. Each ended up in Vietnam--one as a foreign service officer, the other as a combatant. As a result of this experience one of them would come into conflict with the other over the managment of another war decades later--namely the one in the Balkans...

... The foreign service officer--Richard Holbrooke--would go on to preside over the Bosnian peace accords in the '90s and to hold the post of U.N. ambassador. The Vietnam combatant--Leighton "Snuffy" Smith--a war hero, would go on to become a four-star admiral and commander of NATO forces in Bosnia.

... these are two antagonists perfectly suited to one another, evenly matched, neither suffering from an excess of humility. "Frontline' has done well to bring them--and all that they represent--before us."

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