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.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2000, Vice President Dick Cheney summed up the Bush team's sentiment toward what Clinton had done to the military: He went around the country telling the military and the nation that help and additional support were on the way for our troops.
Anyone examining the facts would know that these claims were bogus. The Clinton administration actually spent more money on defense than had the outgoing administration of the first President Bush. The smaller outlays during the first Bush administration were developed and approved by Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who were then serving as secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff respectively.
Clinton's last secretary of defense, William Cohen, turned over to Rumsfeld a defense budget that was higher in real terms than what James Schlesinger had bequeathed to Rumsfeld when he took over the Pentagon for the first time in 1975 at the height of the Cold War.
Not only did Clinton spend a large amount of money on the military; most of it was spent wisely. In the first Persian Gulf War, less than 10 percent of the bombs and missiles that were dropped on Iraq were smart weapons. That number jumped to 70 percent during this war because the Clinton administration ordered large quantities of upgraded munitions that made these "dumb" weapons smart. The Clinton administration also invested heavily in the technology that gave the on-scene commanders a much more vivid picture of the battlefield than a decade ago.
It was the Clinton administration that improved the accuracy of the Tomahawk cruise missile and upgraded the Patriot missile, which was so much more effective this time than the original Patriot in the first Persian Gulf War. The Clinton administration also kept the quality of our military personnel high by closing the gap between military and private sector compensation, a gap that the first Bush administration had allowed to grow, and improving retirement and health benefits for military retirees.
So if this latest military effort warrants a victory parade for the troops, let's insist that Clinton and his secretaries of defense are invited. They deserve it. And if the Bush administration wants to learn how to rebuild the nation of Iraq, they might ask their predecessors how to go about it.
Lawrence J. Korb, director of national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.