Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stormin Norman

Last of the Generals with actual combat experience

Click here for related story [Washington Post]

Stormin Norman has moved on to his next command. 
We'll miss him, since he was the embodiment of what we expected a combat general to be. 
Bold, decisive, brash, profane, and capable.  He was a commander in every sense of the word, and respected by his troops.  He was  brilliant [a Mensa], multi-lingual [German, French, and some Farsi], well-educated [MS - Engineering from USC].

So many medals; but no combat experience [Boston Globe]
The cocktail circuit was Dempsey's combat training

unlike Generals Petraeus, Allen, and JCS Chairman General Dempsey [aka: political generals], who have no combat experience,
General Schwarzkopf was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge -- making him the only one of these famous generals with actual combat experience.

Patton: Schwarzkopf model?
Schwartzkopf didn't blend well with the Washington Cocktail Circuit and was criticized by such non-combatants as Rick Atkinson who described Schwarzkopf  as
"a volcanic figure who threatened to fire numerous subordinates and often behaved like an imperial dictator."

Oddly, that could describe any competent combat commander, to include notables such as General George S Patton, or Vinegar Joe Stillwell.

Fighting off Washington deep thinkers such as SecDef Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, Schwarzkopf developed his Gulf War Strategy around scenarios developed in Forces Command training exercises at Fort Bragg [in which Iraq invaded Jordan] and which tied to his own scenarios of Iraqi aggression in the Middle East with Iraq invading Kuwait. 

And, the war matched that scenario as Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait to seize its oil wells and its port facilities.

Early on, there was some strife between Chairman of the JCS Colin Powell and Schwarzkopf on how to proceed with the battle plan, with Powell pressing for an immediate offensive with US troops on the ground, while Schwarzkopf insisting that the Iraqis had a 5:1 force advantage which would decimate US ground forces.  Initially, the White House bureaucrats [non-combatants] decided Schwarzkopf's plan was "terrible".  Apparently, Dick Cheney [then Secretary of Defense], was a major force pushing for an immediate ground attack.  However, after considerable wrangling, Schwarzkopf's call for an allied assault using overwhelming force prevailed.

[Powell was regarded as "political general" who had not earned his stars [his combat wound consisted of stepping on a punji stick in Vietnam] and he had never served as a division commander.  He was most remembered for his preliminary "white-wash" of the My Lai massacre.  Later, he was rewarded with a White House Fellowship as a major,  after which he rose through the ranks under the mentorship of Caspar Weinberger and promotion to four stars under George H.W. Bush.]

Coalition and Iraqi Order of Battle

Complicating Schwarzkopf's  operational scenario was the incorporation of foreign military forces from 34 countries into a coordinated "coalition".

His operational plan took months [August 1990 - January 1991] to build the logistics and the fire-and-maneuver operations, and the incorporation of air, sea and land forces in a coordinated assault.

His opponent, Saddam Hussein, had a military force of as many as
  • 1-million soldiers,
  • 850,000 paramilitary forces,
  • 5000 tanks,
  • 484 fixed-wing combat aircraft, 
  • 232 combat helicopters.
        "The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun." [Saddam Hussein]

Schwarzkopf noted that, unlike the WWII invasion of Normandy, there was no coherent strategic objective worked out at the national level; instead, his guidance was in the form of a series of phone calls from the White House staff with no written confirmation -- thus, if the guidance were flawed, the blame would land squarely on his shoulders.

In essence, Schwarzkopf was charged with planning and executing a complex military action which was initially the defense of Saudi Arabia, then the recovery of Kuwait, and finally a massive assault against an overwhelming Iraqi military force -- and all the time arguing with White House bureaucrats that he could not accomplish his mission without sufficient forces.

So much intel - so little time
On the subject of intelligence, Shwarzkopf advised that he had the finest intelligence support that any commander had ever had in the history of warfare; the downside was that the Intelligence Community was buried under the avalanche of intelligence they received -- and were unable to analyze it.

A subsequent objective was to inflict so much damage on Iraq that it would be incapable of waging another war in the region; and the White House bureaucrats barred him from accomplishing that objective.

Nearly derailing the Allied plan was Israel's eagerness to participate with both its Air Force and its ground forces.  That action, however, would have led to Iraq's Arab neighbors joining forces with Iraq against the Coalition forces -- leading the US into a long-term regional war.  As it was, Schwarzkopf fought a running battle with Washington to appease the interests of Israel -- which was concerned that Iraq's Scud missiles would impact Israel.  Schwarzkopf noted:

"We were diverting aircraft from the overall campaign plan to address the Scuds -- which were almost totally ineffective as a military weapon.  As a result, the campaign plan was prolonged because of this diversion.  No one in Israel was killed by a Scud missile attack."

His most notable remark was "... I was in more danger in a lightning storm in southern Georgia than I would be in a Scud attack in Tel Aviv" which drew the ire of the Israelis and their powerful Washington lobbyists at AIPAC -- after which they launched their own attacks against Schwarzkopf.

Softening the target                                      [USAF photo]
 Schwarzkopf launched his 43 day assault on Iraq on 17 January 1991with an aerial bombardment of 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs to destroy Iraq's command and control infrastructure, intermediate range missile forces, weapons research facilities, and air and naval forces.

Following the "softening" of the target, he launched his 4-day ground assault, which decimated the Iraqi military in short order. 

"Moving foxholes attract the eye"

The strategy was to launch the VII [heavy] Armor Corps directly at the center of the Iraq forces while rapidly maneuvering the 18th Airborne [Infantry] Corps at the Iraqi's northern flank -- creating a modified pincer movement. 

The flaw was in the VII Corps' snail pace, and the Corps commander's apparent lack of understanding that his corps was the primary attack and exploitation vehicle.  The commander, LTG Franks, then decided to shift his attack to the south, which would have derailed the original plan --  drawing harsh words from Scharzkopf [perhaps the origin of Atkinson's description of him as "volcanic"].

Eventually, the plan came together, crippling the Iraqi force -- and encircling the Republican Guard, the Iraqi main force -- it's backbone.

Schwarzkopf's strategy worked quite well, and with his initial objectives achieved, i.e., ejecting Iraqi forces from Kuwait and defeating the Iraqi Military, he then focused on achieving his final objective, i.e., destroying Iraq's capability of initiating another war.  But that objective was called off when Colin Powell directed that Schwarzkopf shut down his war due to the negative press -- which felt that he was being bullyish.  Thus, the Republican Guard, was left intact.

Allied casualties were minimal [about 500], while Iraq suffered major losses [approximately 25,000 - 30,000 fatalities]. 

Post-war trauma came in the form of the Gulf War Syndrome which was rumored to be tied to depleted uranium rounds; others link the illness to the anthrax immunizations -- which were mandatory for deploying troops.

Spook/Fly on the wall

An excellent "fly on the wall" review of the war is Rick Francona's "Ally to Adversary"; Francona spent time in Iraq during the earlier Iraq-Iran war as an area expert and fluent Arabic linguist; Schwarzkopf selected him as his interpreter and personal intelligence advisor.

Following the Gulf War, Scharzkopf was offered the nominal position of Chief of Staff of the Army, but it was clear that there was no room in Washington Society for a powerful, publicly revered figure like him; he posed a potential political threat, particularly after referring to Presidential candidate John Kerry as having "...a record of weakness that gives me no confidence in his ability to fight and win the War on Terror."   

After the election, Schwarzkopf criticized the continuing war in Iraq, and in particular, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's handling of the war.  He told his story of the Gulf War in a PBS Oral History interview -- an interesting read.