154 of 167 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A four-star review for a four-star general
Tommy Franks rose to prominence in the public eye only relatively recently, in the conduct of the post 9-11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraqi wars. However, Franks has been in the military and on the front lines, both combat and political, for a very long time. Franks enlisted in the army in 1965 (as I consider it, that's as long as I've been alive!) while still...
Published on August 3, 2004 by FrKurt Messick
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Facinating in a strange way
I will admit up front that I am not a huge Franks fan. However, it is my intent to give a review of the book rather than make judgments upon the War in Iraq, the Bush administration, the politics involved, etc, as there is no shortage of this commentary.
As an Army professional, I found this book fascinating from an institutional perspective. Not to say...
Published on April 25, 2012 by Joe Clinkhammer
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154 of 167 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A four-star review for a four-star general,
Tommy Franks rose to prominence in the public eye only relatively recently, in the conduct of the post 9-11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraqi wars. However, Franks has been in the military and on the front lines, both combat and political, for a very long time. Franks enlisted in the army in 1965 (as I consider it, that's as long as I've been alive!) while still suffering from the effects from a hangover, brought on by a drinking bout due to general depression at failing college in Texas. (It is an interesting historical fact that many of America's better generals have not been the best students academically). Franks is not an academy graduate, having worked his way through OCS and almost immediately becoming a line officer in the Vietnam conflict.
Franks' career is a distinguished one, but perhaps the most telling part of which is that he was not really expected to be the outspoken, go-it-alone character that typified his Afghan and Iraq leaderships. The son of a poor family in Oklahoma and Texas regions that never quite recovered from the dust-bowl depression times, he was actually an adopted son who knew the secret years before his parents actually told him (he found his birth certificate in an old family Bible). He went to high school with the future first lady, Laura Bush, who was much more popular than he was, he wrote. He never made much of an impression in high school or his first attempt at college, but in the military, he stood out as an expert in marksmanship, and that was his ticket to OCS.
His rise through the military ranks was not meteoric -- his career spanned almost 40 years, and was fairly typical in many respects. His recounting of tales from Vietnam are standard for the genre; he has a heroic nature that he underplays in many respects -- he was wounded several times and won many combat decorations, but had originally intended to leave the military and get married after his tour was up; the military made him an offer he couldn't refuse, and the rest was history. He did get married, though, to Cathy; they have been married 35 years, and have moved at least 23 times in that period, according to Franks -- a bit more than usual, even among military families.
What most people will be interested in reading first, and I confess I did also, was his account of his time since gaining his fourth star in 2000 under President Clinton, and taking command of CENTCOM, based in Tampa (where Franks still lives much of the year). Franks has some tough words regarding the intelligence situation -- he states that he had direct contact with King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mubarek of Egypt, and both confirmed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (Mubarek claimed they were biological weapons). With regard to another recent author, Richard Clarke, Franks has strong criticism, stating that Clarke was far too much a fan of technology, and that none of Clarke's intelligence reports were ever helpful in a tactical or actionable manner.
Franks had a rocky start with the Bush administration; however, he eventually won over the thinking, particularly with regard to Rumsfeld, with whom he went from being at odds to being in close collaboration and friendly relations. President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld eventually gave Franks a very free reign; Franks did not go in for the daily press conference a la Desert Storm I; he also did not work in collaboration with other military leaders who questioned his judgement. He was given a remarkably free reign; successful in a tactical sense, this is still a controversial element in Franks' legacy.
Franks also devotes space to analysing the political scene in Washington, which he generally views as unhelpful. Franks defends his policies, quite at odds with the first Desert Storm / Colin Powell doctrine of using overwhelming force, describing the fall of Baghdad as only having been unexpected by cable news networks such as Al-Jazeera and CNN; the smaller force made his tactical movements far easier to accomplish. The capture of Baghdad was of vital importance, not only from the WMD perspective (which remains controversial) but also from the standpoint of preserving the oil and water supplies of Iraq, upon which the future of their country rests. Franks is very forward with his surprise at not finding weapons of mass destruction, calling that his biggest surprise of the Iraqi war, when all intelligence, even the words of other Arab leaders, seemed to confirm this.
Franks harshest criticism is reserved for the Iraqis themselves, who he sees as wasting the opportunity to rebuild their country with their terrorism and guerilla warfare. Whether one agrees with this assessment or not, it is present in a frank and honest manner.
Franks is current a 'hot ticket item' on the lecture series. Having retired from the military a few months after major engagement stopped in Iraq, his legacy is still one in question, because the outcome of the war is not yet known; the peace has not been won.
This is an important book to read for insights into the modern military leadership mind, a force likely to be important for some time to come.
66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard hitting, Concise, Excellent Insight,
I started reading General Frank's book at 4:00 P.M. and did not put it down till 2:00 A.M. the next morning finished. A fascinating life story of a truly great professional warrior. The book clearly depicts the dedication and the professionalism of the American military. I believe the book could have been 1100 pages and still have been just as riveting. The General's description of the countless hours and meticulous care that went into the planning of military operations from Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom makes me appreciate the U.S. and Allied military forces even more than I did. I think his recounting of the facts as he knew them to be concerning WMD's in Iraq should but unfortunately probably will not silence the naysayers. I also found his narrative of the rebuilding of the morale and the professionalism of the U.S. Army following Vietnam of particular interest. A great work from an obviously very honest and sincere gentleman. Thank you Tommy Ray Franks.
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of this years best!,
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You never really know what to expect when reading a book by a former military commander. Being a great military officer does not necessarily qualify one as a great writer. General Franks has far exceeded my expectations with this fabulous work. Though I'm sure there were ghost writers and editors who may have cleaned up his work, the end result is one for the ages.
Having grown up on the southern plains in the Texas panhandle in the same approximate time, Franks opening chapters telling of his childhood in Wynnewood, OK and Midland, TX was both poignant and reminiscent of my own upbringing, making it most enjoyable.
Military men of my generation will appreciate the chapters on Franks' early military years, including his boot camp with stories of the time when drill sergeants and company commanders could and did (quite regularly) use four letter expletives to convey their point to raw recruits. As you read on, you begin to see how this man soon became a competent leader and eventually, a polished commanding officer.
Even if you are not a military aficionado, along about page 150, about the time General Franks took command of CENTCOM, you will become consumed by this book. You will learn of both the strength and weakness of our foreign intelligence at that time. At this same point in the book, the General is most proficient in giving candid and sometimes scathing personal analysis of key figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Clark, Pervez Musharraf and countless others.
The second half of this book is absolutely riveting. The reader sees the military precision and coordination of the military in dismantling the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. The incessant "Bush lied" battle cry is obliterated as we see one example after another of how decisions were made based on what was obviously thought to be, accurate intelligence. We also see numerous references to the "liberation of the Iraqi people" prior to engagement.
This is not only an outstanding book for it's entertainment value, it also serves to dispel countless attacks from the left upon our Commander in Chief and reveals a candid look into what we knew, and when we knew it, and how that information was utilized.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very good book by a very good officer,
This book is a must read for anyone interested in getting a candid view of how America is fighting the War on Terror. Franks does a superb job outlining the strategic thinking of CENTCOM in planning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the intelligence that had been gathered. A firm believer in speed and flexibility through "force mulitpliers" (drones, PGMs, SOF), as well as the value of truly joint operations, Franks offers civilians interested in military matters and those serving a glimpse of future American military doctrine.
Franks also discusses the intelligence on Iraq leading up to the war. As theater commander Franks talked personally with many leaders in the region, ALL of which told him that not only did Saddam had WMD, but that he would use them in a war. No one else who has produced a book on the subject had this much access.
Franks pulls few punches in AMERICAN SOLDIER, and he criticizes both the Clinton and Bush Administrations for what he perceived as pervasive arrogance on the part of some officials, including the now famous Richard Clarke. He also takes aim at America's depleted abilities to gather HUMINT (Human Intelligence), the Joint Chiefs (whose interference and constant jockeying for their Service to have more prominent roles in combat was a constant irritation), Pentagon leaks, and the media with it's taking head generals.
All in all, most readers will be interested in the Third Part, which deals with his time as CENTCOM. The first two parts, however, are important if you want to understand why General Franks took such a different approach to war than did his predessors. And military buffs will find a few gems on strategy and generalship, as well as the diplomatic side of being a high ranking officer.
General Franks spent nearly forty years in the U.S. Army, retiring in Aug. 2003 after declining to fill the vacant Army Chief of Staff position on the JCS. His insights are invaluable, and his fluid writing style makes them easy to spot and take in. I highly recommend this book!
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Soldier,
Now here is a man that served his county well and gained the respect of every one that came close to him. A military man with class and did his job of Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command like it should be done. Growing up poor and not doing the best in school to being placed at the lead of his command makes this man a true leader of men. He tells of his life in Oklahoma and on to Texas to fighting in Vietnam and taking a few pieces of lead doing it. He knows what the word (Terrorism) means and what the united States fighting team is doing about it. I can't say enough about this book, its one every one should read if you really want to know what is going on in this fight that the United States is out to win. Larry Hobson- Author- "The Day Of The Rose"
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SOLDIER'S SOLDIER!,
This is a great and informative read that gives a lot of perspective on the events that are currently shaping our world. Prior to Afghanistan and Irag I barely knew anything about General Franks, despite our family having heavy military ties. I feel like I know him a lot better now and am grateful for the long and dedicated service he gave to our country. I highly recommend this book!
152 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The One Most Important Book of the Year...,
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If you read one book this year...make it this one. I read a book every 2-3 days (between 120 and 150 books per year) and by far this has been the most heartwarming, educational and insightful book I have read in a very long time. General Franks has offered his insightful account of History at one of the major "creases" in American History. He has offered a historical perspective from one of the most important positions in America today.... A Commanding General with the job of defending America from brutal fanatics bent on our destruction. As a recently retired Air Force Officer and Fighter Pilot who participated in two conflicts for this country, I began reading this book with the feeling of "been there, done that". This book, however, goes well beyond just a detailed account of military actions or a simple autobiography. It is a detailed account of one Honorable soldiers view of America, our military and its leadership. In that respect, I have not read anymore touching accounts of sacrifice and honor as what are described within these pages. You will not read "self-serving" accounts of heroism by a hero who RIGHTFULLY won the Purple Heart, but rather human accounts about sacrifice and accountability. Written by a true American Hero. One who stood by our country, its principles, and its leaders.
There are a few direct and honest criticisms of individuals by name, as well as "implied" references to individuals who did not best serve this country. However, if you are looking for a Bush or Clinton bashing book, you will not find it here. General Franks stands tall above petty blame games and instead focuses on successes and failures, why those failures may have occurred, and HIS solutions to some of those failures. You will find, contrary to the elite medias fabrications, that there are far fewer failures and many more successes than America is led to believe. You will NOT read a more accurate or detailed account of our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the planning and the people behind the scenes, than can be gleaned from this book. I salute General Franks for his honorable service and commitment to our soldiers. The most memorable component of this book however, is not the story, but rather the storyteller. General Franks personifies what every American aspires to be in terms of Integrity, Honor, Duty, Sacrifice, and Commitment. A Great American Story, one that has earned a cherished place on my bookshelf.
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting story and non political view from a general,
Sure, once in a while you get a whiff of ego but it's mild and in an autobio, it's almost unavoidable. Franks speaks his mind in a sincere fashion. Try not to fall into the trap that other reviewers have and let your personal politics dictate your reading experience.
Unlike most authors these days, Franks is a man of action. Reading this book can really give one a sense of perspective in this highly volatile political season. It's refreshing to read something from the point of view of a man who spent his life in service to the country, making it a safer and stronger place. Compare it to the hate-driven absurdity of the Al Franken types to the ego-driven book-a-year talk show pundits and one can see how rediculous many of those people are.
Many of the criticisms leveled at the book stem from some misguided assumption that as members of the civilian population, they somehow have a better understanding of how the War on Terror needs to be prosecuted or who is to be considered a good or bad wartime leader - or how our success in hinged upon capturing one man (Perhaps the federal government needs to call them and get a detailed plan on how to achieve absolute victory).
He details his upbringing, his relationship with his parents and his wife, chronicals his military career and gives us a blow-by-blow of how the US military waged war in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. His mistakes and shortcomings - both personal and professional are detailed throughout the book as well. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in gaining a better understanding of our military, the War on Terror, the command of our armed forces as told by a man who made a career - and life out of making this country a better place and the world a safer place.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True American Life,
I wish we had many more citizens like General Tommy Franks. Those who have scorned the military (Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Clinton?), should put American Soldier at the top of their reading list. Gen. Franks joined the Army as a PFC and rose to the level of four-star general. He had every intention of leaving the Army after each re-enlistment, but, thankfully for the U.S., he remained in service.
His story of life as a young boy in Texas, his Vietnam service, then participating in the Afghanistan invasion to his planning of the Iraq invasion was so engrossing that I enjoyed every page. His personal observations of policies, politics, and the Middle East were so interesting I'd like to read more.
He's a true American story; a man of honor, loyalty, family man, and we need many more like him.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Readable History,
Obviously, the "reviewers" who criticized this beautifully written blockbuster had political axes to grind. They couldn't have read the same book I did. General Tommy Franks is NOT repeat NOT political; he deals out praise and finds fault (with himself as well) even-handedly. But more importantly, he reports living history in a seamless, accurate flow--from combat in the paddies of Vietnam, through the tense nuclear-standoff of the Cold War to the day-by-day, order-by-order account of the War on Global Terrorism. Franks was a brilliant commander, creative, often a maverick. He was never a yes-man and often clashed with Donald Rumsfeld and his narrow-minded political appointees. Franks won all the battles; the Pentagon came close to losing the war. If you want to learn how our military can weather the current Iraq crisis and continue to protect our country from a dedicated and skillful enemy, read this remarkable book. I recommend it to all!!!
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American Soldier by Tommy Franks (Paperback - April 26, 2005)