In Memoriam: Norman Schwarzkopf

He was one of America’s most brilliant generals, and a leader who earned deserved fame for having masterfully marshaled coalition forces against Saddam Hussein in order to liberate Kuwait in the first Persian Gulf war. His only blunder was to have allowed the Iraqi army the use of air power once the war came to an end, which enabled Saddam to put down a Kurdish uprising that might have brought his regime to an end long before George W. Bush took on the responsibility of doing so.

After his service in the army came to an end, Schwarzkopf continued to lead a notable and useful life, endeavoring to be of service to the country in other ways, including helping raise awareness regarding prostate cancer and working to promote children’s charities. But it is his generalship for which he will be remembered, as he helped set the standard for how America should decide to go to war, and how she ought to fight once she has decided to engage. He helped advance American interests and values, and he made the world a better place both in and out of uniform. One cannot possibly ask for more than that.

Requiescat in pace.

  1. Skyler

    He had more than one blunder.

    All who knew him personally have high praise for his character.

    I can’t help but think, though, that history will not be, and should not be as kind.

    He was hamstrung by a president who like his son was good at starting wars but had no idea how to win one. And by a chairman of the JCS who was intent at appearing to be a warrior and commander from Washington.

    But that doesn’t excuse failing to exploit his victory in the Gulf War and destroying the enemy army. Not only did he allow the enemy to escape to reconsolidate Saddam’s power, but on his own initiative he allowed Saddam to use helicopters to crush the Shia population that would have been grateful to us.

    It was his failure to win the gulf war that caused us to go back again later. Had he destroyed the Iraqi army then, we may have had a good ally in the region for ten years instead of being sneered at by the entire Muslim religion for being weak.

    In the end, he may have been a nice guy, but that wasn’t his job.

  2. Richard T. Taylor

    While I agree that crushing Saddam at that time was the proper move, I think the blame for the caveats goes above his pay grade.  In my version of this history, the blame goes to Colin Powell.  I distinctly recall him claiming that destroying an enemy after defeating it was unsoldierly.  Hence another incompletely won war that messed over this country.

    The seeds for the present nations of Japan and Germany were sown at Hiroshima and Dresden.  It may not be nice, but war seldom is.

  3. Instugator

    Rest in Peace, Stormin’ Norman, well done.

    I will agree with the criticisms leveled against Colin Powell – his “Pottery Barn Rule” (a term coined by Thomas Freidman to describe Powell’s ‘You break it – you buy it’ theory of war)  is just about as brainless as it comes.

    But, in studies that I have seen as well as seminars / classes offered as Professional Military Education in my career in the USAF – this thought is incorrect

    Skyler:  But that doesn’t excuse failing to exploit his victory in the Gulf War and destroying the enemy army.

    We did destroy the Iraqi Army in 1991 – Not only were they incapable of continued fighting, they were surrendering to UAV’s. That army ceased to exist on the Highway of Death.

    The courses I took emphasized that the goal with regard to the Iraqi army was to render it incapable as a fighting force for a period of 10 years (1991 – 2001). Given that Iraqi Freedom (2003) resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi government in three weeks – I would have to say that the military objective was accomplished.

  4. Skyler

    Instugator, your classes seem to have ignored that we defeated the conscripts and allowed the well trained republican guard to escape.

  5. Instugator
    Skyler: Instugator, your classes seem to have ignored that we defeated the conscripts and allowed the ‘well trained’ republican guard to escape.

    - edited by Instugator

    You really should use scare quotes.  Because they weren’t well trained, as I pointed out – that Army was destroyed in 1991. 

    I am now watching the youtube briefing.

  6. Skyler

    They were not well trained by our standards. They were well trained to subjugate the Iraqi people.

  7. Skyler

    I don’t have time to watch the general’s briefing, but that was so heavily laden with mutual back slapping and politics that its usefulness is more for showing how the generals deluded us than for anything else. For example, I recall he went on about how important the harrier aircraft was in the war. Yet in truth, the harrier was so easily knocked out if the sky that it was not allowed to fly anywhere that had any type of enemy nearby. The army loved to talk about how wonderful the apache was, but fail to explain that when used en masse per doctrine that they were massacred. The blindness to their vulnerability persists.

  8. Instugator
    Skyler: They were not well trained by our standards. They were well trained to subjugate the Iraqi people. · 8 hours ago

    Sure – but like he says at the start of the briefing we could have removed the government easily if that were the mandate. (it wasn’t)

  9. Instugator
    Skyler:  but that was so heavily laden with mutual back slapping and politics that its usefulness is more for showing how the generals deluded us than for anything else.

    How the Generals deluded us – conspiracy theory anyone?

    Dude – the guy just won against the largest single army in the middle east – the most heavily defended airspace outside of Moscow – attacking prepared defenses with a force ratio of 2-3 against (offensive attackers look for force ratios of  3-1 or better against prepared defenses) 

    Yeah, a little back slapping is ok as well as congratulating dudes who took heavy casualties.

    I do love the 20-year-quarterbacking though – please continue.

  10. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    I had the honor to meet him briefly after a speech he gave about 8 years ago.  Much could have been different, but he deserves much of the credit for burying the ghost of Vietnam in the decisive victory in Desert Storm.   He was a good general, a good commander.  Hope he is sipping bourbon with Grant and Ike right now.

  11. Skyler

    He didn’t win. It was a Pyrrhic victory of sorts. The enemy lived to fight another war ten years later. Instead of removing an enemy, he was left in power to be a thorn in our side.

    Rather than remove the reputation of Vietnam, it cemented in the minds of our future adversaries that we do not have the will to fight. We continue that mind set. We know how to start wars but we don’t know how to win them.

    The general was a good man, but he perpetuated our reputation for not having the stomach to fight to win, and only succeeding when technology makes it easy.

  12. Skyler

    Just to be clear, Nathan Bedford Forest was not on our side. And his side lost.

  13. Carsten Stroud

    Perhaps we need more generals like Blackjack Pershing and George Patton and Nathan Bedford Forrest. As Mrs. Mary Chesnut said, as she watched the siege of Vicksburg, “Woe to those who began this war, if they were not in deadly earnest”. The idea of a war is not to defeat your enemies, but to obliterate them so decisively that their grandchildren will cry when your names are spoken around the fire. That’s what Victory is. Everything else is just a prelude to the next war. That’s the way it is. Ipse dixit.  

  14. Pejman Yousefzadeh
    C

    The objectives of the UN resolution–and the congressional one authorizing the use of force–were met with Saddam’s ouster from Kuwait. Marching on Baghdad would have entailed the same occupation problems that beset the United States in the aftermath of removing Saddam from power (and I write this as one who supported Gulf War II), and would have lost us the very same allies who were fighting alongside us. Additionally, Schwarzkopf was ordered to stand down–and it was the right decision.

  15. Skyler

    It was the wrong decision and some might have had their noses out if joint but victory brings more friends. Ousting from Kuwait includes the implied task if making sure the stay safe from invasion.

    Schwarzkopf wasn’t merely ordered to do it, he agreed with it.

    He allowed Powell to run around sucking up glory and he was a willing participant in the ongoing general staff mentality of ignoring the laws if war when they pose a disadvantage to the enemy and perpetuating the mindset that we must not hurt anyone with our friendly military. He should have been much more assertive towards Powell and towards he enemy. Instead he was another politically correct army general.

  16. Skyler

    iPhone continues to change my “of” to “if” and I don’t catch it. Sorry.

  17. Instugator
    Skyler: The laws of war make it very clear that if attacks are made from civilian homes or mosques, then they are no longer protected and may be destroyed.  We ignore this law of war.

    The operative word is ‘may’ – that also means it is not required. Logic 101, Skyler.

    Far from being ‘ignored’ those places were given a much harder look than they deserved – but when the enemy counts among his allies CNN, the Associated (with terrorist) Press, and the BBC,  the small gain in destroying them is far outweighed in the overall context of whichever war you are discussing…

    Besides, I do not recall where we were attacked from Mosques or other protected places in GW1 – So I don’t see where your criticism of Stormin’ Norman has merit. But then I never did.

  18. Instugator
    Skyler: 

    And Schwarzkopf declared a victory in the Gulf War when he had nothing of the sort.  Yes, he killed a lot of people, and he got a lot to surrender, and he precipitated a withdrawal from Kuwait, but that was not a victory when Saddam was still able to take his Republican Guard and start massacring the people that supported us and needed our support.  He turned a massive tactical advantage into a nullity.

    Each of the goals he was given was accomplished at the end of GW1. That equals victory for the factually challenged.

    So, whatever Skyler – let me know how the Powerball thing works out, given your ‘demonstrated’ feats of prognostication. I imagine we will hear something in 2 decades, no?

  19. Skyler

    He allowed the enemy to escape.  That was inexcusable.  He was complicit in allowing Saddam to remain regionally powerful.  It was a huge mistake and poo-pooing that mistake by saying it wasn’t his objective is just making excuses.  There was no reason to adopt such limitations to our actions.  The fear of losing the coalition was just that — fear.  Coalitions require leadership, and you gain more allies from success than from weakness.  And saying that he was ordered to commit this misfeasance overlooks the fact that he agreed with it.

    You can keep insulting me all you want, but that doesn’t much improve your argument.

  20. Instugator
    Pejman Yousefzadeh: The objectives of the UN resolution–and the congressional one authorizing the use of force–were met with Saddam’s ouster from Kuwait. Marching on Baghdad would have entailed the same occupation problems that beset the United States in the aftermath of removing Saddam from power (and I write this as one who supported Gulf War II), and would have lost us the very same allies who were fighting alongside us. Additionally, Schwarzkopf was ordered to stand down–and it was the right decision. · 4 hours ago

    Yeah Pej – Skyler knows all that and doesn’t care – I just enjoy the double decade quarterbacking.

    No matter, some folk are incapable of saying ‘good enough’.

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