THE major military lesson of the Gulf war may be that management has become a fearsome weapon, according to NATO's military chief. While World War II campaigns were two-dimensional, the speed and capability of high-tech weapons made Desert Storm three-dimensional. Synchronizing deep air strikes with a lightning ground campaign, while conducting electronic warfare and sifting through instant intelligence, was a formidable management challenge for Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
``The toughest part of military leadership now is doing what Norm did - putting all that together and orchestrating it,'' said Gen. John Galvin, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in a Pentagon interview.
At the same time, the forces of Saddam Hussein were de-orchestrated. His radar units, air defense, and communications were attacked. Top Iraqi generals lost the ability to operate their thousands of tanks and artillery pieces as meaningful units.
``Saddam had some pretty good stuff,'' said General Galvin. ``But if you can't put it together you're nowhere.''
Much of the material which provided Desert Storm's Sunday punch was shipped out from Galvin's theater of operations. US VII Corps, which swept west of Kuwait, through Iraq, to knock out the Republican Guard, is largely based in Germany.
Ironically, this rapid redeployment came at a time when budget cuts and geopolitical changes were beginning to draw down the number of United States troops overseas committed to NATO. This shrinkage will pick up again in coming months.
This means that not all of the equipment shipped to Saudi Arabia with VII Corps will return to Germany. Some may be left behind, transferred to Arab allies. Some will go directly back from the Gulf to the United States.
A portion may return to Europe but be placed in storage as the number of US troops on the continent is reduced.
``We've got it all laid out in great detail as to what we think we need back, and what we don't,'' Galvin said.
When the dust settles sometime in the future, Galvin foresees a ``competent, adequate corps'' of US troops left in Germany. This corps would consist of two Army divisions, augmented by three to four wings of tactical fighters. A Navy aircraft-carrier battle group would remain afloat in the Mediterranean, along with a Marine amphibious force.
Many characteristics of the US force in the Gulf point to what the American force in Europe probably will be like in the future. Among them: more reliance on reserves; more reliance on rapid projection of forces; greater strategic mobility, and more participation in multinational units. In the near future it is likely that divisions from different NATO nations may be melded together into multinational corps.
In the Gulf war ``there were a lot of lessons learned that reinforced the way I want to go in NATO now,'' said Galvin.
NATO's whole military transformation has been based on political changes in a Soviet Union, which now shows disturbing signs of renewed hostility. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, faced with a crisis of public order, is turning back to conservative institutions that can help him maintain order, according to Galvin. That means the influence of the Soviet military is once again on the rise.
That is seen in the sudden Soviet stubbornness regarding the already-signed Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. In the US view, the Soviets are undermining CFE by claiming that three motorized rifle divisions are naval infantry, and thus exempt from having their weapons count as treaty-limited equipment.
The Bush administration won't submit the CFE pact for Senate confirmation until this disagreement is resolved. Perhaps the vast Soviet bureaucracy has simply made a mistake, said Galvin. But he added that ``the Soviets need to recognize that this puts the treaty in jeopardy.''
Still, the vast upheaval that has shaken Eastern Europe in the past two years has definitely made NATO's security task easier. When the Soviet troops still based in what used to be East Germany finally withdraw, the territory of what used to be the subordinate members of the Warsaw Pact will form a buffer zone on NATO's Central Front. Where once the Fulda Gap in Germany was the focus of NATO commanders' concern, Europe's flanks may become the areas receiving the most attention. ``In the north, Norway st ill abuts the Soviet Union, and in the south Turkey does,'' said Galvin.
NATO has already taken political steps to change its relations with what used to be the Warsaw Pact. Officially, the Soviet Union is no longer an adversary. Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and other Eastern European countries may apply for diplomatic liaison representation at the NATO headquarters.
As a stabilizing balance in the region, NATO still has a role to play, insisted its military chief. ``I think NATO will be around for a long time,'' Galvin said.