Clancy and Franks - Into the Storm

June 09, 2004

Tom Clancy and General Fred Franks, Into the Storm

This is the first of Clancy's Commanders series. Clancy is teaming up with senior or retired military leaders and working through a brief biography and a case study of a major event, all as a way to study the meaning of command (and sell books.)

The third in the series is controversial, while waiting to get it from the library I decided to read the first two. Franks is an interesting fellow - he lost part of a leg in Vietnam but returned to active duty; he commanded the VII corps during the Gulph War, coordinating thousands of vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers in an attack on the Republican Guard; after the was he was one of the people who put together the "shock and awe" battle doctrine.

A few things jumped out at me from this. The first is that Franks certainly took the notion of command styles seriously; in every chapter he spends time explaining what a commander should do, how people should relate, and how they do relate to one another. Franks's style is low-key - no screaming and shouting - and he thinks that staff meetings should be vigorous. He sees a meeting as a chance for everyone to speak, for people to hash out their goals, and then for everyone to go execute.

Franks and Schwartzkof have very different command styles, and the difference in their styles was one of the problems in the Gulph War, for both men misunderstood the other.

The other thing that Franks and Clancy were pushing was that the Vietnam War really was very bad for the armed forces, destroying readiness, morale, and effectiveness, and that during the late 1970s and then 1980s the armed forces worked very hard and very effectively to reinvent themselves. My dad works with a retired Army general and is always effusive in his praise for the man's planning, decision-making, and people skills. Reading Franks' account of the Army training purpose, I was greatly impressed.

Franks and Clancy wrote the book in 1997, looking back at the Gulph War in terms of Vietnam. I read the book in 2004, looking back at the Gulph War in terms of the Iraqi invasion.

A couple of things jumped out at me. The first was that the Gulph War really was fought by Cold War tactics - the same tools that had been designed to slow or halt a Soviet wave coming through the Fulda Gap were turned around and used in the offensive to damage and almost destroy the Soviet-style Republican Guard. The Iraq War was fought with different maneuver elements, far fewer troops, and doctrine and technology that went even farther than the Gulph War had in giving information, navigation, and mission decisions to local units; in the Gulph War, only commanders' tanks had GPS and everyone else had to form on them while in Iraq I think everyone had it and could concentrate on what was around them and not on keeping formation.

The second was that I got a much better understanding of Wesley Clarke's critique of Rumsfield's plan for the war. Franks explains that the military planning starts with the mission statement, reviews the terrain, troops, and technologies available, and then works up a plan, adjusting the troop levels and the plan where appropriate. But, the whole very sophisticated and powerful planning process starts with the mission definition. Clarke complained that Rumsfield told his planners "Defeat Saddam Hussein" when he should have told them "Create conditions in Iraq condusive to creating a representative democracy." It is a subtle but huge difference - you can defeat Hussein with a small force and some risks - we did it. But it takes more warm bodies to create the security situation required for democracy, and it requires a different presence on the ground, control of different locations at the end of fighting - a very different mission.

I am glad I read it. I will read a couple of novels and then read the second in the series.

Posted by Red Ted at June 9, 2004 08:42 AM
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