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Military Law Review





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History has shown that one of the most important elements in a successful combat operation is the quality of the commander. The success of Operation Desert Storm confirmed that American commander, General Norman Schwarzkopf, was no mediocre leader. By extension, the war also paid tribute, albeit a silent one, to a man who is arguably the greatest military leader the United States has ever produced—Robert E. Lee. Not only in the sphere of battlefield tactics, but also in ensuring strict adherence to the laws regulating warfare, Generals Lee and Schwarzkopf had much in common.

Unfortunately, however, many are unaware of the phenomenal benefits that our military has drawn from General Lee. When reporters asked General Schwarzkopf which military leaders he most admired, he departed from the opinions of recent prominent American military leaders who typically cited General Lee. Instead, he cited Union leader General William T. Sherman as one of his heroes.

In spite of this, and fortunately for the United States, both General Schwarzkopf and the forces under his command emulated the tactics and ethics of General Lee rather than General Sherman. In the context of Operation Desert Storm, General Schwarzkopf took only one quality from Sherman—his reputation for ferocity. In all other respects, whether judged in the light of tactics or of moral conduct, the actions of the American military in the Gulf War reflected the impact of General Lee. For instruction, inspiration, and inculcation, American officers can find no better role model than General Robert E. Lee.

Recommended Citation

Jeffrey F. Addicott, Operation Desert Storm, R. E. Lee or W. T. Sherman?, 136 Mil. L. Rev. 115 (1992).