WHILE IT is understandable that President George W. Bush and
his secretary of defense are receiving plaudits for the relatively swift military
victory in Iraq, the fact of the matter is that most of the credit for the
successful military operation should go to the Clinton administration.
As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld noted, the battle plan that led to
the American success was that of General Tommy Franks, an Army officer appointed
to head the Central Command by the Clinton administration. More important,
the military forces that executed that plan so boldly and bravely were for
the most part recruited, trained, and equipped by the Clinton administration.
The first Bush defense budget went into effect on Oct. 1, 2002, and none of
the funds in that budget have yet had an impact on the quality of the men and
women in the armed services, their readiness for combat, or the weapons they
used to obliterate the Iraqi forces.
Given the way that Bush and his surrogates disparaged Clinton’s approach to
the military in his 2000 campaign, this is ironic. The president and his advisers
claimed that Clinton had diminished the armed forces’ fighting edge by turning
them into social workers and sending them too often on ”useless” nation-building
exercises. These same people also claimed that Clinton had so underfunded the
military that it was in a condition similar to that which existed on the eve
of Pearl Harbor.
Speaking as someone who served under Clinton for six years in
the Navy until I retired, I would say that the military succeeded in spite
of the Clinton years. We had planes
that were not mission capable because we didn’t have money for parts or pilots
couldn’t get their flight hours in because of lack of funding for AVGAS while
top ranking civilians in the Pentagon went out spending thousands of dollars
on meals. Because the number of ships had been so drastically reduced we were
going on more deployments and spending less and less time with our families.
During the declining years of Bush-41 years they were looking
for the peace dividend as the result of the victory in the cold war, so the
there but it greatly increased during the Clinton years. I don’t remember
one military program or weapons system that Clinton spearheaded to put through,
I don’t remember one speech encouraging the congress to fully support the military
in funding. Many of the people put in charge in the civilian side of the military
had no direct military experience and their policies showed it.
I also experienced
the social engineering that went on and the silliness of paperwork that we
to fill out. I actually had to sign a page 13 in my service record specifying
that I would obey the two man rule when going out on liberty. I was on the
first carrier outfitted to go to sea with a mixed crew. We were not allowed
to mention problems. We were not to talk to reporters about this implementation.
There were so many women being taken off the ship and flown back because they
were pregnant that our ship became a joke in the Norfolk papers. I remember
seeing one editorial cartoon where there was a stork flying over the flight
deck and the radioman says "Captain, the stork is asking permission to land."
They even started to strip the urinals out of heads on carriers in the name
of gender equality. There were also two physical standards, one for men and
one for women when in came to physical readiness testing, yet in a emergency
require every crewman to be able to lug out a P-250 dewatering pump or to carry
a shipmate up a vertical ladder if they were injured. But politically these
untouchable and there was no one we could complain to, the party line was be
quiet and bear it.
And why is it that the people who claim the military as Clinton’s
don’t also claim the FBI and CIA that blew so many chances in possibly preventing
9-11, but I guess I just answered my own question. I also think that President
Bush should have fired both of these directors, especially George Tenant. In
many ways the caliber of the people in the military does not rely on what political
party is currently in charge. I served under Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush
and Clinton and even with the vast differences in Presidents, it did not affect
the positive can-do attitude
of the people in the military. But the people in those leadership positions
does greatly affect the support given them.