The Best Defense

A Centcom official reviews my Atlantic article, and agrees about Tommy Franks

Here is a note from a guy at Central Command in response to the excerpt from my book that ran in the Atlantic. I hadn't before heard his story about Franks turning over the keys:

With some minor exceptions your research is 95 percent spot on.

There is a group of the long term CENTCOM folks of which I am now one -- that have observed the failures of our senior leadership and came to the same conclusion as you. That being the General Officer/Flag Officer Corps of the DoD is for the most part weak, unopposed and sheltered.   

If I had a dollar for every time someone in this HQ has said: "Can you imagine if George Patton had received this order?" or "Can you imagine U.S. Grant or R.E. Lee ever thinking so bizarrely about a situation."

Some of us have further concluded that we won WWII because of Dresden and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Innocent people will die in war. Sad but true. Somehow we've developed this "war can be clean" mentality, because of our advanced weapons I suppose. This is very unhealthy I think. War is ugly and should truly be a last resort because of this fact. When Tommy Franks started showing the laser guided Youtube style videos of rounds going into bedroom windows in 2003, "we can choose which of the 4 panes of glass you want the missile to enter thru" a lot of us with Infantry experience were troubled. When missiles with computers inside them didn't win the war -- the U.S. Army was not prepared for what it faced in the streets of Baghdad. 

The morning after the statue of Suddam came down -- Tommy was briefing on split screen the president, Paul Wolfowitz, and Sec Powell (I was in the room). Tommy briefed the statue bit and praised the 3rd ID -- he then said "Mr. President, I'm ready to turn the keys over" and after a slightly uncomfortable laugh from the President there followed an even more uncomfortable silent pause. You see, there was no one to turn the keys over to. The State Department had no plan and the famous "Phase IV" of the CENTCOM plan was a 1 pager (the other 3 phases -- deploy, invade, kill were in the 20 page each ball park).

In fairness to Tommy -- he did exactly what the U.S. Army trained him to do -- he deployed planes and tanks and took ground. He had zero training in anything else. That is why the invasion by 3rd ID went relatively without a hitch. The U.S. Army had practiced the drive from Kuwait to Baghdad thousands of times at the National Training Center (NTC), Ft. Irwin over the previous 10 years. 

OYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images

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