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How much of the $87 billion for Iraq Should Be Charged to the Clinton Administration?

September 15, 2003

One of the more difficult claims either Democrats or Republicans can ever make is that the current problem under discussions was really begun by the previous administration (of the other party, of course).

Looking back, some of those claims can be measured and proved or disproved.

For example, the economic recovery during the early years of Clinton's administration can now be traced, using standards long ago accepted, back to a beginning during George H.W. Bush's final year in office. Politically, we can discuss whether or not Bush's (and/or Reagan's) actions precipitated the recovery and/or if they did, should Bush have acted earlier than he did.

The hard fact is that Clinton came into office and rode an economic recovery that had already begun a year before his arrival.

On the whole, I say that presidential actions (and probably Congressional actions as well) seldom have much immediate effect, but nearly always have long term effect.

While listening to the President's address to the country of September 7 when he told us that another $87 billion was needed in the War on Terrorism, I wondered if any of that money was money that should have been spent 1993 (the year of Somalia and the 1st WTC bombing) - 2001 (Clinton's final budget).

The $87 billion request is broken into two major parts: $66 billion for ongoing military expenses in the region: Iraq and Afghanistan; $21 billion to help both countries get electricity, schools, hospitals, water, sewers, and local governments on line.

Let's look at the $21 billion first. (Note that the latter does not state back on line. Neither of these countries had much electricity, schools, hospitals, water, sewers, or local governance BEFORE we arrived.) If Clinton had ever shown any guts and taken care of the Taliban and Saddam early on, he, too, would have needed these monies. What Clinton did do was spend $30 billion just containing Saddam, an expense we no longer have. So Bush's request for $21 billion actually stops a larger expense of $30 billion that, due to Clinton's pacifism, was only growing year in and year out.

Now, let us look at the $61 billion for the military. Here the lack of Clinton policy is more evident. $430 million is for armored HUMVEES and body armor. I believe that if the Clinton Administration had applied lessons learned in Somalia, our troops would have already had armored HUMVEES and appropriate body armor. In addition, our casualties in Iraq would be lower. Anyone who has ready Blackhawk Down knows the effectiveness of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) when fired at unarmored HUMVEES.
Other monies are to transport ally troops to the theater and to give in-country troops some R&R. This brings us to the Al Gore campaign to make the federal government more efficient by reducing the number of federal employees. Again, a sober analysis of his efforts reveals that most of those reductions were in military personnel. Now, we are stretched beyond limits and have to demand U.N./ally help beyond that of our dependable friends: the British, Australians, and New Zealanders. In addition, to all of you who have National Guard/Reserve friends and relatives disappointed in the recent extension of their active duty, call Al and let him know how unhappy you are.

Another $11 billion goes to our forces in Afghanistan to help them track the enemy and stabilize that country. I am not sure I would lay this one on Clinton. September 11 precipitated our invasion of Afghanistan and destruction of the Taliban. Short of another September 11, Clinton would have had no overwhelming cause for such actions.

Can we conservatives go on blaming Clinton for everything that needs "fixin'"? No. But his avoidance in facing threats to our country can now more clearly be linked to our current War on Terrorism. Of the $87 billion Bush asked for last week, most of it is either money Clinton would have needed if he had done the right thing during his tenure or money that would not now be needed if he had prepared for the future instead of satisfying his pathological need to live for the moment.

Sam T. Harper graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University.  Following a tour in the US Navy and a stint as Operations Manager at Roadway Express, he earned his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.  He was a contributor to “In Search of Excellence,” the best selling business book of all time.  Sam was also Manager, Economic Planning & Analysis at Sohio Petroleum, Partner and Chief Financial Officer at investment-banking firm Bridgemere Capital, and Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a San Francisco Bay Area-based think tank and international publishing firm that specializes in self-governing and entrepreneurial public policy.  Sam was a chairman of the San Francisco Republican party and the GOP co-host of California Political Review on KALW-FM in San Francisco.  Sam is currently the co-owner of the Tennessee based Institute for Local Effectiveness Training, LLC – a management consulting, training, and coaching firm.