A general for all seasons

Norman Schwarzkopf was the kind of leader who compelled you to follow
Dec. 31, 2012 @ 11:33 PM

They called him “Stormin’ Norman,” a nickname he probably didn’t like, even if it was meant as a term of endearment. People loved Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, because he had passion, military know-how and a commanding presence. It was just what the country needed when President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Kuwait after Iraq took over that country.

The Desert Storm commander had a temper, for sure. Aides and subordinates feared him while at the same time respecting him. Isn’t that what you want a general to be like? Turns out the general, who died Thursday at age 78 from complications from pneumonia, really was friendly, chatty and even funny. He supported worthwhile causes and children’s charities. He hated the spotlight and refused to run for public office, using his good name for what likely would have been a sure victory.

Schwarzkopf commanded the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991. His press conference at the end of that brief skirmish was one for the books, a combination of tactical explanation and a dismissive attitude about the conquered.

Schwarzkopf was named commander in chief of U.S. Central Command at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base in 1988, overseeing the headquarters for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly two dozen countries stretching across the Middle East to Afghanistan and the rest of central Asia, plus Pakistan. When Saddam invaded Kuwait two years later to punish it for allegedly stealing Iraqi oil reserves, Schwarzkopf commanded Operation Desert Storm, the coalition of some 30 countries organized by President Bush that succeeded in driving the Iraqis out.

He was a military man with a heart, the kind of guy you’d want to lead you into a battle of any kind. A good man was Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. He’ll be missed.