As Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command from July 2000 through July 2003, Tommy Franks led the American and Coalition forces to victory in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Unsurprisingly, the portions of American Soldier
covering these wars are the most interesting because they combine military maneuvers, political wrangling, and lots of action and commentary. This does not mean, however, that the rest of his autobiography is dull. General Franks's writing is clear and engaging and his insider's perspective is informative and interesting, particularly when he explains how the military moved into the 21st century by emphasizing speed, agility, and better cooperation among the various branches--a significant shift from the first Persian Gulf war just a decade earlier.
In addition to his years as a war general, his memoir also covers his childhood, his early years in the Army, his tours of Vietnam, and how he contemplated retirement before being called up as commander of Central Command, "the most diverse, strategically vitaland unstableregion of the planet." Ever the diplomat, General Franks offers insights, but little criticism of individuals. Other than expressing admiration for his own staff and for President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in particular, he is tight-lipped about any conflict within the administration that may have occurred regarding policy issues. (The one exception is counterterrorism specialist Richard Clarke. "I never received a single operational recommendation, or a single page of actionable intelligence, from Richard Clarke," he writes). He also writes that he was surprised by the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that no WMDs were used against American troops. Still, the invasion of Iraq was justified in his eyes: "While we may not have found actual WMD stockpiles, what the Coalition discovered was the equivalent of a disassembled pistol, lying on a table beside neatly arranged trays of bullets." American Soldier is a compelling look at the war on terrorism from one who served on the frontlines as both a warrior and a diplomat. --Shawn Carkonen
About the Author
General Tommy Franks retired from the Army on August 1, 2003. Commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1967 as a distinguished graduate of the Artillery Officer Candidate School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, Republic of Vietnam. He also served as an Assistant Division Commander during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. General Franks has been awarded three Defense Distinguished Service Medals, two Distinguished Service Medals, and four Legion of Merit awards. His other decorations include three Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, an Air Medal, and an Army Commendation Medal -- all with "V" for valor. In 2004 he was named a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. General Franks lives with his wife, Cathy, in Tampa, Florida.