In the Gulf War, Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf directed a swift victory that minimized U.S. casualties.
And in the battle for the best nickname of an American military commander, his “Stormin’ Norman” ranks right up there with “Swamp Fox” (Francis Marion), “Old Hickory” (Andrew Jackson), “Stonewall” (Thomas Jackson), “Black Jack” (John Pershing) and “Old Blood and Guts” (George Patton).
But Gen. Schwarzkopf, who died Thursday in Tampa at age 78, preferred to be known as “The Bear” — an affectionate moniker bestowed on him by his grateful soldiers.
The general, like virtually all who have seen war’s terrible toll, also preferred peace when it was a viable option — and was positively bearish in doing all he could to protect his troops by securing martial triumph as rapidly as possible.
As for the glory that came his way as the architect of the skillful 1991 armored offensive that drove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait in a mere four days, the decorated Vietnam combat veteran responded with this reminder:
“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”
The general, a political independent, was expertly prescient in his wariness about America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. Though he supported President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, late that year he was critical of what he rightly deemed overly optimistic assumptions by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, explaining: “I don’t think we counted on it turning into jihad.”
But the warriors under Gen. Schwarzkopf’s command could count on him.
And so could our nation.