Clinton's arsenal, Bush's war...


    This is rather funny!

    Military and the presidency

    Should Clinton share the credit for the victory in Iraq?

    By Fred Kaplan

    May 5-At the April 26 White House Correspondents' Dinner, one gossip column reports, liberal comedian Al Franken went up to Paul Wolfowitz, the neoconservative deputy defense secretary and said, "Clinton's military did pretty well in Iraq, huh?" Wolfowitz responded by proposing that Franken perform an anatomically impossible act.

    THE EXCHANGE WAS no doubt conducted in the spirit of good-natured invective that pervades these events (and perhaps under the influence of other spirits as well). But it does raise a serious question: How much of the swift U.S. victory in Gulf War II can be credited to decisions made by George W. Bush-and how much to the legacy left by Bill Clinton?
    The short answer is that plenty of credit is due to both presidents-and plenty more to neither.

    Weapons systems and war strategies often take years, even decades, to evolve. After the allies won the first war against Iraq, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said he called up Caspar Weinberger "to thank him for all those $600 toilet seats he bought." (His reference was to the Pentagon-procurement scandals of the Reagan years, when Weinberger was secretary; the scandals so dominated the defense-budget debates of the era that many people were surprised that the U.S. military could fight, that its weapons worked.) Cheney's point was that he, President Bush, and their generals may have fashioned the war plan-but they executed it with inherited arsenals.
    Similarly, the wonder weapons of Gulf War II-the weapons that allowed for "a combination of precision, speed, and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before," as the second President Bush put it in his victory speech Thursday night onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln-were developed and built during the presidency of Bill Clinton.


    The most dramatic of these weapons was the Joint Defense Attack Munition, or JDAM (pronounced JAY-dam). JDAM is a kit, attached to a Global Positioning Satellite receiver, that can turn nearly any dumb bomb into a smart bomb. The pilot punches in the geographic coordinates of the target; the bomb receives signals from GPS satellites, which guide it to those coordinates; it explodes within 10 to 30 feet of the target. JDAM is a vast improvement over the earlier generation of laser-guided smart bombs. Lasers couldn't see targets well through rain, smoke, or dust, and a laser bomb cost $100,000 to $200,000 while a JDAM kit costs $18,000. So the military was able to buy a lot of them. In Gulf War II, JDAMs were vital for knocking out Iraqi tanks and artillery on the battlefield, and they made it possible to destroy urban targets without doing much damage to neighboring buildings or civilians.
    Yet the first JDAMs-or, as some of them were originally called, GAMs (for GPS-Aided Munitions)-were developed, produced, and used in the Clinton years. Congress accelerated the funding for the program in 1993. The first test, in which a B-2 bomber destroyed all 16 targets from a 40,000-foot altitude at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, took place in October 1996. Boeing delivered its first production model in June 1998. A small number were dropped on Serbian targets during the war for Kosovo in 1999. The Navy started putting them on F/A-18s in the fall of 2000.

    Another marvel of Gulf War II was the Predator drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle that loiters in the sky for 20 hours, takes video pictures of the ground below, and streams the imagery back to command headquarters. An advanced version of this drone also carries Hellfire air-to-ground missiles; it not only views the target but destroys it. This feat was most famously accomplished over Yemen on Nov. 4, 2002, when a drone-fired Hellfire destroyed a vehicle carrying six al-Qaida leaders. Drones were also used to dramatic effect in the Afghanistan war of October 2001 and no doubt (but to what degree we don't yet know) in Gulf War II. Certainly the combination of JDAMs and drones made it possible to find and destroy targets, including mobile targets, far more quickly and precisely than in any previous war.
    The Predator, too, originated in the Clinton years-its first test flight was in 1994. Predators flew more than 50 sorties over Kosovo (though a fair number of them crashed or were shot down). The Hellfire-armed drone came later-its first test occurred in February 2001-but, a couple of years earlier, by the end of the Kosovo conflict, Predators were carrying a laser, which they used to designate targets on the ground for laser-guided bombs. The longer-range, more-enduring Global Hawk drone, too, had its first flight under Clinton, in March 1998.
    Tactical Tomahawk, the GPS-guided version of the Tomahawk cruise missile-which, in Gulf War II, proved far more accurate and reliable than the earlier, terrain-contour-matching cruise missiles used in Desert Storm-was first funded in 1999.

    In one sense, then, Franken was right. In two other senses, though, he was either beside the point or plain wrong.
    First, presidents generally have little to do personally with big changes in military strategy or hardware. There are exceptions. John F. Kennedy ordered a buildup of non-nuclear forces in Europe and inculcated a romanticism for counterguerrilla warfare and the Green Berets. Richard Nixon built up the Safeguard anti-ballistic-missile system (but then negotiated it away by signing the ABM Treaty). The dream of ballistic-missile defenses also enticed Ronald Reagan and, now, George W. Bush, both of whom lavished such programs with unprecedented billions of dollars. Jimmy Carter poured money into the air-launched cruise missile as an alternative to the B-1 bomber, which he'd cancelled. (The Air Force outmaneuvered him, though: The Cruise Missile Carrier Aircraft, which Carter wanted built instead, turned out to be the B-1 in disguise; after Carter left office, the Air Force removed the mask and openly resumed the program.)

    In other words, the military generally goes about its business, and it is often a mere coincidence which president pays for researching, developing, or deploying a particular weapon. It is doubtful that Clinton knew what a Predator was, nor is it likely that Bush could have passed an exam on the topic before the war in Afghanistan made it famous. Contrary to many Republicans' claims, Bill Clinton did not weaken the U.S. military-far from it. On the other hand, as defense analyst William Arkin put it, "If Jesse Jackson had been president, we would still have JDAM."
    However, in another sense, Bush-or at least the Bush administration-does deserve credit for the victory. In the most basic consideration, Clinton probably would not have fought this war, at least not in the way it was fought. When Clinton confronted the Serbs over Kosovo, he firmly resisted using U.S. ground forces-beating back proposals even to threaten putting troops on the ground as a bargaining lever. He also directed that all U.S. pilots fly above 10,000 feet, well beyond the range of Serbian air-defense missiles. He wanted no American combat casualties-and he got none. It is impossible to say whether Clinton would have loosened his standards in a war with Iraq (assuming for a moment that he would have gone to war with Iraq). But it is a fair judgment that Clinton had little appetite for wars that would kill American soldiers. It is doubtful that he would have approved the sort of bold, swift, and unabashedly risky offensive that Bush approved for Gulf War II. It was to a large extent Clinton's arsenal. It was Bush's war.

    Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column for Slate.
  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   Furball
    Aw c'mon....nobody else thought this was a tad funny?
  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    I'll ask the question my Grandmas friend asked us:
    Funny "HA HA"
    Funny peculiar?
  5. by   curious
    Well, for the last part I don't know if Bush would have invaded Iraq the way we did if sept 11 had not happened. I think that event had a huge impact on how we view the world (and the public's tolerance for casualties of war). Hard to say what Clinton would have done in the same predicament.
  6. by   pickledpepperRN
    Clinton on 60 minutes seems to think this war was the right thing to do.
    Am I mistaken?
  7. by   Furball
    Clinton would have probably (note, probably not definitely) been criticized instantly by repubs for "wag the dog" if he were in Bush's shoes today.

    >stirring the pot<
  8. by   Mkue
    Clinton's arsenal and Bush's War, that is interesting
  9. by   Furball
    Originally posted by spacenurse
    I'll ask the question my Grandmas friend asked us:
    Funny "HA HA"
    Funny peculiar?
    Funny "ha-ha":chuckle
  10. by   Furball

    Clinton Supports The War on Iraq
    By Jeremy Reynalds (bio)

    Other Articles by Jeremy Reynalds
    Back to News / Home Page

    Democrats are so fired up about the war with Iraq and the "evils" of the Bush administration that their conversation is threatening to gum up least one well-known leftist web site.

    Visitors to the popular site could see the following: "We are experiencing a large temporary increase in traffic to this website because of the impending war. In an effort to minimize our bandwidth, we have removed many of the graphical and design elements from our pages. Once traffic decreases, DU will return to the way it looked before."

    In a slightly different vein, an e-mail I received from another popular Democratic site was using the conflict as a fund- raising opportunity. (We all know what the reaction from Democrats would be if the Republicans were to employ a similar strategy!)

    "War Has Begun - Help Us Keep Truth Alive! The United States now officially is at war - in criminal defiance of the UN Charter. We believe Bush's War will be unleash a catastrophe for the people of the United States and the world. We will do everything we possibly can to support our troops - by bringing them home to their loved ones safe and sound. Because we stand in firm opposition to this criminal war, we are already under harsh attack from Bush supporters. We urgently need your support to disseminate the truth in the face of official lies and strict censorship of the corporate media."

    Then another e-mail I received read in part (sic), "While Shells are bursting over Iraq, or any where, Anti-war people will no longer purchase no clothes, and at intervals we will send notice to that effect. Or if necessary us anti-war persons will spend money only at restaurants, or small business's 'Abused By The Establishment.'"

    However, not EVERY Democrat is against the war. In fact, one very famous Democrat, former President Bill Clinton, is the author of a recent editorial in Britain's "Guardian" newspaper encouraging Brits to "Trust (Prime Minister) Tony's (Blair) Judgment."

    Clinton wrote that he is on record as supporting the efforts of both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to see Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction eliminated. Last year he said he told the British Labor's conference that attempts to do so should be accomplished through the United Nations.

    Clinton wrote that the UN's unanimously adopted (1441) resolution, giving the Iraqi dictator a final opportunity to disarm, was good. He pointed out that Blair saw the resolution as an excellent way to disarm Hussein while at the same time strengthening the UN and preserving the Atlantic alliance.

    Clinton commented that the language in the resolution was unambiguous, making it quite clear that continued sanctions were not an option and that more of Hussein's defiance would result in serious consequences.

    Then admitting that the consensus behind 1441 is no longer there, Clinton wrote, "Saddam has destroyed some missiles but beyond that he has done only what he thinks is necessary to keep the UN divided on the use of force. The really important issues relating to chemical and biological weapons remain unresolved ... In the face of the foot dragging, hawks in America have been pushing for an immediate attack on Iraq."

    Addressing the situation of France, Germany and Russia, Clinton wrote that they have been vehemently opposed to the use of force as long as inspectors were working. "They believe that, at least as long as the inspectors are there, Iraq will not use or give away its chemical and biological stocks, and therefore, no matter how unhelpful Saddam is, he does not pose a threat sufficient to justify invasion."

    However, Clinton said, there is a definite problem with that position, as it was only the threat of force from the United States and Britain that got inspectors back into Iraq at all. "Without a credible threat of force, Saddam will not disarm."

    Sadly, continued diplomatic efforts failed, Clinton wrote. Force appeared to be the only option left and with that choice, Clinton wrote that as Blair has already noted, there are going to be civilian as well as military casualties. After all, this is war.

    "There is, too, as both Britain and America agree, some risk of Saddam using or transferring his weapons to terrorists. There is as well the possibility that more angry young Muslims can be recruited to terrorism. But if we leave Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, after 12 years of defiance, there is a considerable risk that one day these weapons will fall into the wrong hands and put many more lives at risk than will be lost in overthrowing Saddam."

    Clinton concluded his editorial by saying that in our post-cold war world this has not been the first time for America and Britain to be in difficult positions. "Now in another difficult spot, Blair will have to do what he believes to be right. I trust him to do that and hope the British people will too."

    To ensure that the effort is successful, there's one thing that we all need to do and it's something in which everyone can take part: prayer. We need to pray for our federal, state and military leaders and the troops whom they command. We also need to pray for innocent Iraqis and the humanitarian organizations that will be supplying them aid.

    Prayer, quite literally, will make the difference between success and disaster in this war and we neglect it at our peril!

    Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at He may be contacted by e-mail at

    03.20.03 09:00 AM
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  11. by   Mkue
    Originally posted by Furball

    (We all know what the reaction from Democrats would be if the Republicans were to employ a similar strategy!)

    eeek !
  12. by   pickledpepperRN
    Thank you Furball,
    I hadn't seen the article. Suspected it by his comments.
  13. by   Furball
    Originally posted by mkue
    eeek !
    Isn't politics funny?

    After I re-read the Bush country piece I noticed a missing sentence or two. (must've accidently erased it when erasing advert. ect) Something about Clinton giving this opinion in England but not the US, figuring most Americans wouldn't access it. Weird.....I know I heard him say he supported the war....can't remember where though.
    Last edit by Furball on May 13, '03
  14. by   Furball
    I just looked at that site....yikes....they have Lieberman dead last in their poll? Dean FIRST? Must be a waaaaay left website, not your average Democrat represented.
    They make it sound like 99% Democrats agree with this website >eye roll<
    Last edit by Furball on May 13, '03