When two soldiers under fire are thrown into the same foxhole, survival depends on putting any differences aside. Perhaps that explains why General Tommy Franks and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld left work one night recently for a stag dinner right out of a buddy movie. Back in January, their wives out of town, Franks and Rumsfeld hit a Georgetown sushi bar after the multimillionaire Pentagon chief decided to give the Oklahoma-born and Texas-reared artilleryman his first taste of raw fish. As Franks recalled it, "About midafternoon he said, 'Let's go eat sushi,' and I said, 'Eat what?' I told him I'd be proud to do it if he'd show me how, so he did." Both men enjoyed themselves that evening, as other patrons stopped by their table to wish them well. Afterward, Franks gave TIME his review: "Terry Bradshaw was not far from the truth when he talked about eating bait."
Generals come in all varieties--loud and brash, brainy and bookish, and occasionally a little worrisome. Tommy Ray Franks is none of those: he is quick, funny, very private, ferociously hardworking and, everyone says, a rare leader of soldiers, particularly enlisted troops. He is also, at least in public, the consummate strong and silent type, the good soldier who shuns the limelight in marked contrast to some of his predecessors at Central Command. All this makes Franks, 57, ideally suited as the go-to general for the second Bush Administration. Retired Admiral Archie Clemins, who commanded the Pacific Fleet when Franks was serving in Korea six years ago, noted that "a lot of generals have a media persona, and then they have their real persona. With Tommy, what you see is what you get."
Now, as the U.S. mops up one war in Afghanistan and prepares to launch a second in Iraq, it is increasingly clear that if Franks is not Rumsfeld's better half, he is surely his other half, his alter ego, the soldier's soldier who can rein in the supercivilian and gently remind him that battles are won not with dash but usually with numbers. If Afghanistan had been fought Rumsfeld's way, we might still have commandos mounting up on horseback to hunt down the Taliban. If the war had been fought Franks' way, we might have nabbed Osama bin Laden a long time ago--but only by having 100,000 G.I.s in position beforehand. It's a slight exaggeration to say Franks and Rummy are a bit like the tortoise and the hare: one man is always in a hurry; the other takes his time. But it is fair to say that the abilities and instincts of each man compensate for the weaknesses of the other.