USS Clueless - Commanded from a distance

Stardate 20011227.0819

(On Screen): There are people who have been criticizing General Franks (CENTCOM) for running the war from his headquarters in Tampa, rather than deploying into the theater. I think they're wrong.

They point to the fact that Schwarzkopf did deploy forward during the Gulf War, which is true. But that is beside the point. Why is there a compelling reason for doing so?

When you come right down to it, I think that the argument is that somehow the commander should share the discomfort of the people under him; they're in the theater, so he should be too. I think that they think it's wrong because it means that General Franks can sleep in his own bed every night while his individual soldiers are sleeping on the cold, cold ground etc... Ultimately, the rationale for this is that it will help the morale of the men at the front to know that their commanders are sharing, at least a little bit, their discomfort.

But the best thing that General Franks can do for his men is to win quickly and efficiently with a minimum number of friendly casualties. (Which he has done, in spades.) Those things are also very good for morale. A headquarters group such as CENTCOM has major requirements, by far the most important of which is access to huge amounts of secure communications bandwidth. CENTCOM's headquarters in Tampa already has everything that it requires to perform its function. If Franks were to deploy forward (to where?) would he be able to perform as well? Would the result have been as rapid and the casualties as low? We'll never know, but that is the risk which was involved, and I think that he would not have been able to perform as well.

Telecommunications have changed everything about war, and every advance in telecommunications has changed it again. One of the reasons that the US Civil War is generally considered the first "modern war" is because it was the first war of telecommunications, with the telegraph. For the first time in centuries, it was possible to monitor the progress of an entire war in real time from a central location.

And we've now reached the point where that can be done from around the world. If by so doing we can achieve a better, faster, more efficient victory, then that's what we should do. It would only be wrong if General Franks were placing his own comfort ahead of victory. If we can have both comfort and victory, then why not?

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