Friday, December 28, 2012
Schwarzkopf, as Commander of US Central Command (CINCCENT), had an interesting bsckground in the Middle East. His father. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Senior, had been head of the New Jersey State Police and Chief Investigator on the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping in 1932. Subsequently, after (re)joining the US Army at the beginning of World War II, the older Schwarzkopf was tasked with taking over the Iranian National Police after the US and Britain deposed Reza Shah and placed his son on the throne. Young Norman joined his father in Tehran at the age of 12. After West Point, the young man served in Airborne units.
Like his senior during Desert Storm, Colin Powell, Schwarzkopf was a product of Vietnam, and had s "never again" attitude towards that war: both had risen to senior commands in the era when the US Army was rethinking its entire doctrine and emphasizing mobility, deep attack, and air-land-battle doctrines, which came to fruition in Desert Storm. It was a totally different training and mindset that Schwarzkopf the Vietnam leader and 1956 West Point graduate brought to warfare than that, say. of David Petraeus, who graduated from West Point in 1974 after US forces were no longer engaged in combat in Vietnam. Schwarzkopf had extensive tactical combat experience in Vietnam, initially as a captain, and won three silvers stars in that conflict. Few US generals since his time have had that kind of infantry experience.
Schwarzkopf's execution of Desert Storm was very much by the book. a result of the new doctrines the Army had hammered out after Vietnam. His most distinctive maneuver, the "Hail Mary pass" or "left hook" to outflank the Iraqi Army, captivated American imagination at the time, though Napoleon would have found it in his own playbook. His choice of title for his memoir, It Doesn't Take a Hero, may have been an attempt to downplay some of the hero worship. He was not politically ambitious.
I think, however history may remember Desert Storm for its motivations and results, Schwarzkopf will be remembered by military historians as a highly competent practitioner of the military art as defined by the Army of his day. He was popular with those who served under him and successfully executed the most important military operation of his career. He was also called "The Bear," which may have been a better characterization than "Stormin' Norman," however fond the press may have been of the latter. Like other West Pointers who took the phrase "Duty, Honor, Country" more seriously than their own fame, may he rest in peace.