Desert Storm

12.28.12

RIP, General Schwarzkopf

The New York Times offers a tough assessment of the career of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

All but drowned out in the surge of approbation, critics noted that the general’s enormous air, sea and land forces had overwhelmed a country with a gross national product equivalent to North Dakota’s, and that while Iraq’s bridges, dams and power plants had been all but obliterated and tens of thousands of its troops killed (compared with a few hundred allied casualties), Saddam Hussein had been left in power.

Postwar books, news reports and documentaries — a flood of information the general had restricted during the war — showed that most of Iraq’s elite Republican Guard, whose destruction had been a goal of war planners, had escaped from an ill-coordinated Marine and Army assault, and had not been pursued because of President Bush’s decision to halt the ground war after 100 hours.

“The Generals’ War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf” (1995), by Michael R. Gordon of The New York Times and the retired general Bernard E. Trainor, portrayed a White House rushed into ending the war prematurely by unrealistic fears of being criticized for killing too many Iraqis and by ignorance of events on the ground. It cast General Schwarzkopf as a second-rate commander who took credit for allied successes, blamed others for his mistakes and shouted at, but did not effectively control, his field commanders as the Republican Guard slipped away.