Pentagon Warlord


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But while Rumsfeld eventually accepted more forces than he had planned, he has retained a big say over how they would be deployed. And he demanded many more special-forces soldiers, never popular with the regular Army, be added to the mix. The commandos' primary mission: disable Saddam's biological, chemical and nuclear-weapons capabilities. "He wants them to go after weapons of mass destruction," says a Central Command officer. "They were ancillary in Franks' plan, but they've become critical in Rumsfeld's." Rumsfeld also assigned some special forces to hunt for Scud missiles.

Rummy, as he's known, also prevailed on the timetable. Franks wanted Air Force bombers to pound Iraqi positions for 10 to 14 days before starting a ground war--far shorter than the 39-day air campaign in 1991 but long enough, Franks said, to pulverize any Iraqi defenses before the infantry begins to move. Rumsfeld balked at that request, cutting the air-war plan to seven days--or less, since he believes a combined campaign will shorten the battle and save lives. And Rumsfeld pushed his foot to the floor on a ground war too, insisting that once the real shooting starts, U.S. tanks and other armored vehicles should race ahead of their supply lines toward Baghdad in days, if not hours, instead of maintaining a moderate pace to allow slower fuel trucks to keep up.

The ambitious plan is classic Rumsfeld. Brookings Institution military analyst Michael O'Hanlon praises the approach, which relies heavily on special forces, unmanned drones and possibly a new high-powered microwave weapon (see related story). "Rumsfeld wanted to do something more innovative than have a quarter-million armor-centric troops marching up the Tigris-Euphrates valley," says O'Hanlon. Rumsfeld clearly decided that his civilian advisers who were pushing for the Afghan model--sending in 75,000 U.S. troops to back the Shi'ites and Kurds as they fight to overthrow Saddam--were wrong. "Franks was basically right on how many troops we need," O'Hanlon says, "and Rumsfeld listened to him."

Some former Pentagon officials are worried about the Secretary's unusually heavy hand in the planning game. "Rumsfeld is running this on a very short string," says Merrill McPeak, a retired general who was the Air Force Chief of Staff during the Gulf War. "I'm sure that's a source of frustration for Tommy Franks, but this is a Rumsfeld show. He's really running this buildup, hands on the throttle and steering wheel. If I were there, I'd be contemplating resignation daily." Franks dismisses McPeak's concerns. "Everyone who ever wore the uniform--and no longer wears the uniform--is automatically out of date," he says. "[Rumsfeld] challenges, he probes, he manages, he asks questions, and there never, ever has been a point--at least on my side of the equation--where I have felt like I needed to argue with him about an issue. There has never been an occasion where the Secretary has thrown me or one of my plans or ideas out of the room. That is not his style."

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