George F. Will

When Acting As Rome . . .

WHEN ACTING AS ROME, DO AS THE ROMANS DID. If the United States, pursuing a Pax Americana, puts military forces on the ground in Kosovo, it should make clear that it does not have a ""timetable'' for an ""exit strategy.'' They are products of longings rather than logic and they telegraph tentativeness born of reluctance.

Al Gore Has A New Worry

IT IS BACK TO THE 1950S FOR LIBERALISM. ITS NEXT PALADIN, Al Gore, is alarmed about suburban ""sprawl.'' That issue is the political equivalent of a 45 rpm record of The Platters' ""The Great Pretender,'' or a stroll down memory lane in white-and-black saddle shoes with red rubber soles.

The Primacy Of Culture

PROGRESS HAS BECOME PUZZLING. WHEN HISTORY WAS thought to be cyclical, progress seemed impossible. However, a few centuries ago there was an outbreak of cheerfulness: progress seemed not only possible but inevitable.

Vapors And Serenity

IT WAS LARGELY A YEAR OF CONTENTMENT--BY THE standards of this blood-soaked and ideologically intoxicated century, a year of serenity. Yet it also was a year of living lachrymosely.

A Gi Bill For Mothers

ALTHOUGH HIS CULTURED DESPISERS ARE LOATH TO admit it, and he was probably ambivalent about it, Richard Nixon skimmed more cream off the American professoriate than most presidents have done, pack- ing his administration with, among others, Henry Kissinger and Pat Moynihan (Harvard), James Schlesinger (University of Virginia), George Shultz (University of Chicago) and Arthur Burns (Columbia).

Saddam And Sobriety

IMMEDIATELY AFTER IRAQ INVADED KUWAIT IN 1990, JIMMY Goldsmith, the Anglo-French billionaire, telephoned an American friend, a former statesman, and speculated that Saddam had made two miscalculations.

Deregulating Politics

WHEN EARL LONG WAS LOUISIANA'S GOVERNOR, he did not think highly of the state's attorney general: ""If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a lawbook.'' Nowadays if you want, as sensible people do, to discredit the drive for campaign-finance reform, give the reformers ample opportunities to put forth their arguments.

Echoes Of The Gi Bill

IT IS SOMETIMES CALLED THE MOST IMPORTANT LAW EVER passed by Congress--quite a claim, considering the radiating consequences of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, the 1935 Social Security Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and others.

The Popcorn Board Lives!

AUTUMN, SEASON OF MISTS AND MELLOW FRUITFULness, is upon the nation's capital, the frost is on the pumpkin and the vice president, lynx-eyed on behalf of the public weal, is laying siege to the citadel of our complacency by lecturing a covey of television weather forecasters to be on the lookout for global warming.

Purists Vs. Impurists

THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES PLAYED A NIGHT GAME AT home two Sundays ago, and on the following Monday and Tuesday they played day-night doubleheaders (separate admissions for each game)--five games in 50 hours.

A Week Of Sheer Fakery

WITHIN HOURS OF THE DEATH OF PRINCESS Diana, two unfailing fountains of banalities and bromides had been heard from. President Clinton, whose gift for self-absorption has a kind of grandeur, interrupted his vacation to deliver a bulletin on his inner life, making a statement in which he talked about his feelings and his wife's feelings and, oh yes, the Princess.

A Two-Bit, And Fine, Idea

TREASURY SECRETARY ROBERT RUBIN CLEARLY NEEDS a vacation. He frets that if, as seems likely, states are given the right to choose images for the backs of quarters, Congress must forbid ""frivolous or inappropriate designs.'' Why?

European Fudging

THE SYMBOL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION HAS AN ELEgant simplicity. It is 12 gold stars--one for each of the original member nations (members now number 15) in a circle on a deep blue background.

Marx In A J. Press Suit

HUSBANDING HIS STOCK OF POLITICAL CAPITAL AND his reservoirs of political courage for expenditure during his third term, President Clinton has declined to do the sensible thing.

Consensus And Ladders

A JOKE PERENNIALLY PERTINENT IN WASHINGTON: AN economist and a normal person fall into a deep pit with sides too steep to climb. The normal person exclaims, "We're trapped!" The economist replies, "Don't worry, we'll simply assume a ladder." A budget deal is coming.

Presidential Moisture

WHAT? CAN IT BE TRUE? OUR PRESIDENT HAS not yet wept publicly this week? Well, the week has a way to go. His propensity for tearing up is not merely an eccentricity.

Alomar In Context

ROBERTO ALOMAR BECAME A SWITCH HITTER AT THE age of 7 because his father, a major leaguer (he roomed with Henry Aaron), said that would help Roberto to be "an everyday player." Today Alomar, baseball's best second baseman, is giving new meaning to the phrase "everyday player." The Orioles' 1996 season was ended in mid-October by the Yankees (with an assist from an umpire's blown call on a catch by a kid in the fight-field seats).

Louisiana Larceny?

MARK SEIFERT MOVES ASIDE HIS BREAKFAST plate, puts a small tape player on the table in the dining room of Washington's Four Seasons Hotel and presses a button.

Political Unitarianism

WALK, WITH EYES AVERTED, PAST THE ERUPTION of metal that passes for art and dominates the huge atrium of the Hart Office Building. Enter the first-floor office with the portrait of Hubert Humphrey, the office of Minnesota's Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone.

Heirlooms, Not Hedonism

WHAT? YOU SAY YOU HAVE NOT YET BOUGHT A Patek Philippe wristwatch? Yes, of course, no law says you have to do the right thing for your descendants. But, really, buying such a watch, even though it is a bit pricey, is not crass.

Save Us From The Purists

SINCE THE APPLE INCIDENT IN EDEN, THE HUMAN RACE has been disappointing. Hence term limits for Congress may become one of the few exceptions to the rule that when Americans want something, and want it intensely and protractedly, they get it.

Orwell, Call Your Office

OH, SO THAT IS WHAT THE FUROR WAS ALL ABOUT. Last autumn Democrats spent nobody knows quite how many scores of millions of dollars, raised from no one knows precisely how many Indonesian connections and Buddhist temple ""community outreach events,'' to run ads warning elderly Americans about Republican extremism.

Tale Of Two Countries

BEFORE THE BIG DECEMBER DANCE AT ST. LUKE HIGH school in Jersey City, N.J., Sister Peter, a woman of abundant faith but few illusions, advised newcomers to the staff, "Their dancing might get a little explicit, but there is nothing we can do about it--until it resembles foreplay.

1996 In Our Wee Galaxy

EVER SINCE COPERNICUS CAME TO HIS CONCLUSIONS about the heavens, the idea has been seepinginto the consciousness of our species that we are not, after all, the center of the universe.

Perfume And Vinegar

There' was a danger that Abram might become too well pleased with his own good fortune. Therefore God seasons the sweetness of wealth with vinegar. --JOHN CALVINTIME WAS, THE AMERICAN CHARACTER CONTAINED A strong Calvinist streak.