The death of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf recalls a moment in history that now seems far more distant than the actual twenty-one years. The defeat of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army was absolute and almost flawlessly accomplished in a 100-hour campaign on the ground that followed six weeks of overwhelming attacks from the air. There was nothing indecisive about the victory of a coalition of nations whose forces operated under Schwarzkopf's command. It was dawning of what President George H. W. Bush called a "new world order." The United States was the world's sole superpower. President Bush experienced approval ratings that approached 90 percent. Schwarzkopf's magnetic personality – on full display in his famous press briefing – led inevitably to speculation that he would run for office. And no less an office than president. But he didn't have the stomach for it and faded gracefully from the public view while staying active in good causes.
It all seems like something from another and vastly more hopeful age. One can hope that Schwarzkopf will be remembered not only for the famous victory in the desert but for his decision, after Vietnam, to remain in the army and participate in the long, unglamorous but ultimately successful rebuilding of a demoralized army that had been badly used by its political leaders. The lessons from that service to his nation need to be studied as carefully as the operational lessons learned from Desert Storm.