General Zinni called it right!  

redmustang91 58M  
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4/18/2006 8:50 am

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4/18/2006 8:51 am

General Zinni called it right!

General Zinni has a new book about the difficult chaos caused by the 1989 destruction of the Soviet Union. This instability reverberates from Iraq to Africa and Asia. The neocons were too optimistic and ignored his warnings; now we have the insurgency and civil war in Iraq. Perhaps this time some in power may pay attention to his warnings...

A General Reports on the Dangers of Global Instability
No one was more prescient about the problems that could ensue from the present Bush administration's invasion of Iraq than Gen. Tony Zinni, the former commander in chief of United States Central Command (Centcom) and Mr. Bush's former envoy to the Middle East.

As early as 1998 (when neoconservatives began agitating for the removal of Saddam Hussein), General Zinni was warning that "a weakened, fragmented, chaotic Iraq" could be "more dangerous in the long run than a contained Saddam." And in 2002, as the war drums beat louder and louder in Washington, General Zinni warned that invading Iraq could create more enemies for America in the Middle East, stretch the American military too thin, strain relations with allies and cost billions of dollars for reconstruction.

General Zinni, who as commander of Centcom)had prepared contingency plans for the possible fall of Mr. Hussein, also recommended that if an invasion of Iraq were pursued, it should rely upon "overwhelming force," and that a comprehensive plan for reconstruction be adopted before the war. His outline of such a plan (dealing with the protection of infrastructure, the sealing of borders, political fallout and an assortment of economic and social issues) was dismissed at the Pentagon, the New Yorker writer George Packer has reported, on the grounds that its assumptions were "too negative."

In "Battle Ready," the 2004 nonfiction book he did with Tom Clancy, General Zinni reflected that "in the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption." And given the general's outspoken comments in recent public appearances – he was one of the first in a widening circle of retired generals to call for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation – the reader might well expect his new book, "The Battle for Peace" (written with Tony Koltz), to be peppered with lots of provocative, news-making observations.

It's not. General Zinni reiterates some of the criticisms he has voiced in speeches and interviews: at one point, comparing the wars in Iraq and Vietnam, he draws an analogy between the Gulf of Tonkin incident and Mr. Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction. But for the most part he soft-pedals particular complaints about the administration's conduct of the war.

For instance, in writing about national security strategy, General Zinni sidesteps questions about the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive intervention, noting only that it has been "applied inconsistently and haphazardly." And in discussing the Pentagon's efforts to effect a "transformation" of the military, he does not delve into Mr. Rumsfeld's determination to streamline forces and his fateful decision to go to war in Iraq with far lower troop levels than many experts (including General Zinni) recommended.

The bulk of this book is willfully focused on the big picture – on long-term strategies for dealing with global crises and emerging threats. Although General Zinni manages to anchor his more abstract arguments in knowledge he has acquired on the ground – leading troops in Vietnam, commanding rescue operations in Somalia, heading a special operations section of the Marines, in addition to serving as Centcom)commander and special envoy to the Middle East – he often leaves the reader wanting more specifics and more close analyses of situations he knows firsthand (like the one in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian standoff).

His central theory is that the world changed not on Sept. 11, 2001, but in 1989, with the end of the cold war, which created seismic changes comparable to those left in the wakes of World War I and World War II and a dangerous new environment of global instability. "We expected a new world order of peace and prosperity," he writes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. "We could not have been more wrong. Instead of global peace and prosperity, all the snakes came out, with consequences that are still unfolding."

Change and flux, he reminds us, accelerated in the closing decade of the 20th century and the opening years of the 21st. Globalization held out the promise of worldwide economic development but also threatened to increase economic inequalities and feelings of exploitation on the part of the third world. At the same time, old ideas of sovereignty were being challenged by a proliferation of "non-state entities" (like terrorist networks and drug cartels), while old ideas of nationalism were being challenged by religious, ethnic and tribal identities.

The real threats to the United States, General Zinni writes, come not from military forces or violent attacks; nor do they derive "from an ideology (not even from a radical, West-hating, violent brand of Islam)." Rather, they come from "instability and the chaos it generates," which, he says, will sooner or later "wash onto our shores."

As General Zinni sees it, the United States is not only slow to react to burgeoning problems around the world, waiting for crises to metastasize before taking action, but is also hobbled by an outmoded "governmental system, organizational structure and national strategy that had served admirably and successfully during the 50 years of cold war but had not evolved to adapt to the changes that swept in after its collapse."

In the course of this volume General Zinni offers some suggestions for remedying this situation: from forming "an integrating agency" that "would be responsible for monitoring unstable areas, destabilizing conditions and emerging threats" to creating more multilateral initiatives involving other countries, international agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Though many of these recommendations sound sensible and are articulated in clear, no-nonsense language, they are presented in only the sketchiest and most general terms.

"The Battle for Peace" feels, in the end, less like a full-scale analysis than a warning, a warning that deserves serious consideration, given General Zinni's Cassandra-like foresight on matters like Iraq.

With the end of the cold war, "violence may hit us – as it hit London in 2005, and as it hit us in 2001," he writes. "But the violence will not be a World War III knockout blow." Instead, there will be "hundreds of little" blows (ranging from terrorist attacks and global health epidemics to job losses and oil shortages), fueled by the growing instabilities of the world.

"We're now in the position of the man who slept with a cobra," he argues. "The cobra is gone. Now the room is full of bees. Could those bees kill him? Possibly. Possibly not." But they present the specter of a "death of a thousand stings."

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