Clinton's military cuts were a mistake

The Weekly Standard:

"VIRTUALLY SINCE this magazine started eight years ago, we have argued that the American military, and especially the U.S. Army, was too small. We agreed with most defense experts that American troops need new technologies to "transform" their operations and maintain their tactical prowess. But we also took the position that the overall force had to be expanded to handle the many new missions, both combat and post-combat, in which we would find ourselves engaged in the post-Cold War world.

"We are happy to report that, after doggedly resisting this argument, the Bush administration, in the person of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has (more or less) accepted its logic. As the Washington Post reported on January 29, Rumsfeld has approved a 30,000-man increase in the troop strength of the Army. While hardly sufficient, this is a necessary and crucial step toward rebuilding America's armed forces in order to help accomplish a central task of American foreign policy: fostering a decent and more democratic order in the greater Middle East.


"Too many Pentagon leaders continue to delude themselves that the current pace of operations in the greater Middle East is an anomaly rather than the new norm. They seem not to have grasped the most basic fact about American foreign policy post 9/11--that the United States is promoting a new order in the region, not simply managing the current one. While this does not mean that we have embarked on endless military campaigns, it does mean that U.S. forces will be active and present in the region, in the service of furthering a decent alternative to the violent, corrupt, and anti-American status quo. Afghanistan and Iraq are the beginning, not the end, of what National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice describes as a 'generational commitment.'


"The facts are simple: We reduced U.S. military strength too much in the 1990s--beginning in the first Bush presidency. The Clinton administration deepened the Bush cuts by hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of billions of dollars. And the care with which the Clinton Pentagon managed the 'drawdown,' shrinking the educational, training, and institutional base of the defense establishment as well as the size of the field force, makes reconstituting it all the harder. Simple neglect, in the form of a traditional demobilization, might have been less damaging....

"So the gap between America's strategic grasp and its military reach remains. Defense spending has increased during the Bush years, but virtually all of that has gone to the prosecution of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has not bought much new capability, either in weapons systems or troop strength."


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