One thing that should be noted about General Norman Schwarzkopf's role in the 1991 war with Iraq that has generally been overlooked: He was against the war, called Operation Desert Storm, before he was for it.
That seems to have been forgotten. or at least unmentioned, in the glowing tributes to Schwarzkopf, the top allied commander in that war, whose passing last week at the age of 78 was among the latest deaths of famous Americans in the year just ended. To be sure, the general got on board with the commander-in-chief once President George H. W. Bush made it clear that he would wait no longer for the forces of Saddam Hussein to "get out of Dodge" by vacating the occupied nation of Kuwait. But initially he had indicated that he would have preferred to give the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq more time to work rather than launch prematurely a military action that would "kill a whole bunch of people."
We tend to remember Desert Storm kindly because it was wildly successful, mercifully, and resulted in a remarkably small number of U.S. and allied casualties. But it did kill a "whole bunch of people" in Iraq and Kuwait and, as is so often the case with wars, it planted the seeds for the much longer and more costly war that began a dozen years later under the second President Bush. For as surely as the terms of peace imposed at the end of World War I set the stage for World War II, so did the famous victory of Bush War I under George H. W. Bush lead not only to the presidency of one William Jefferson Clinton, but also to Bush War II under George W. Bush, who was determined to drive Saddam Hussein not out of Kuwait —that had been accomplished ("Thanks, Dad") — but out of Iraq itself. The younger Bush changed American policy in the Middle East and, indeed, the rest of the world with the "Bush doctrine," leading to what he would later call the "catastrophic success" in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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Photo of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf: AP Images