Ground Truth Reading About Failure of US Policy Process,
While many critics read the book as if it were a glorification of the theater Commanders-in-Chief (CINC), and complain about the militarization of US foreign policy, a proper reading of this book clearly documents that the militarization occurs by default, as a consequence of the abject failure of the White House and the Department of State, neither of which, under either Clinton or Bush, are serious about global engagement.
The military *works* (when it’s not being frittered away by elective wars and occupations). What I see in this superb book is a solid foundation for thinking about three essential reforms to American national security: 1) the creation of a Presidential level inter-agency strategic planning and operational coordination process–no, the National Security Council is *not* capable of doing that; 2) the redirection of theater commands and staffs to become truly inter-agency, with men of the caliber of Bob Oakley and Mark Palmer serving as Peace CINCs with military four-star deputies; and 3) the doubling of the Special Operations Forces through the creation of a “white hat” “armed peace corps” that can deliver sewing machines, water purification, and the myriad of other things, including law enforcement under combat conditions.
The book also does for Marine Corps General Tony Zinni what Ron Suskind’s book “The Price of Loyalty” does for Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neil–it gives us some deep insights into Tony Zinni as one of the most extraordinary men to ever serve the American people, and a man who is clearly well-qualified to be one of the top five to ten people in any future Administration. Although I am a former Marine and know Zinni’s reputation among Marines as both a warrior’s warrior and a thinking general (there are very few of those, even in the Marine Corps), I had not realized the depth and breadth of his brilliance until I read this book. In particular I was moved by his intuitive demand for tribal-level intelligence, his focus on nuances and context at all times, and his insistence that a major aspect of US national security policy must be on the delivery of water, electricity, and the kinds of basics that can rescue failed states, legitimize governments, and create future democracies.
I recommend that this book be read together with Kissinger’s book on “Does America Need a Foreign Policy”, Boren’s edited book on “Preparing American Foreign Policy for the 21st Century”, and Halperin’s 1980’s but still relevant book on “Bureaucratic Politics & Foreign Policy.” Bob Oakley’s edited work on “Policing the New World Disorder” and Mark Palmer’s recent book on “Breaking the Real Axis of Evil” (44 dictators), and Joe Nye’s two most recent books, will round out any intelligent person’s feel for what needs to be done. This is a very high quality book, fully meriting five stars, because it explains both the harsh world we must engage, and the failure of our national policy process–regardless of who is President–in this regard.