Today’s foreign policy world seems like the bad old days of American indecision under Jimmy Carter; the Israel-Hamas war, Putin annexed the Crimea, President Obama’s red-lines in Syria are repeatedly ignored, and the Americans killed in Iraq seem to have been sacrificed for a country whose people wanted democracy far less than the “Neocon’s wanted it for them…clearly General Tony Zinni’s USMC (ret) latest book, Before the First Shot is Fired; How America can win or lose off the battlefield, is being published at a most opportune time.
Writing with an honesty rare in Washington, D.C, “Before the First Shot” is Zinni’s assessment of why America’s foreign and military policy-making is ineffective, if not harmful, to America’s national interests. In conjunction with co-author Tony Koltz, he discusses why the complex question “Are we warriors, peacekeepers, or liberators?” of Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond needs to be honestly discussed and answered when military actions are being considered.
WARNING NOTICE: http://www.taylormarsh.com has a major virus. Do NOT go to their story on the Houston meeting (apart from its being hype, now it’s just plain dangerous).
Phi Beta Iota: We believe the following:
1. Michael Bloomberg wants to be President.
2. Wall Street wants Michael Bloomberg to be President not because Barack Obama has failed them, but because he has so visibly pandered to them. The elite mob includes Burson-Marsteller, the Clintons and Joe Lieberman as well as Peter Peterson and David Walker (former Comptroller General who declared US insolvent in 2007 without being witting of financial crimes legalized by the Clintons and sanctified by Bush II and then Obama).
3. Two groups have been started, one on the West Coast, one on the East Coast, both focused on convergence in the middle, with Michael Bloomberg as the “natural” anti-thesis to the Republican and Democratic alternatives. Both are eligible for and will channel massive funding from corporations exercising their ill-gotten “personality” rights.
Obama, according to Wall Street people who regularly deal with his economic and budget officials, is acting as if he has a blank check to do what he wants, while ignoring the longterm costs of his policies.
When I was working on my book Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, I read a work that Walter Lippmann, the co-founder of The New Republic, published in 1937. In it, with an eye to the New Deal, he observed that, while
the partisans who are now fighting for the mastery of the modern world wear shirts of different colors, their weapons are drawn from the same armory, their doctrines are variations of the same theme, and they go forth to battle singing the same tune with slightly different words. . . .
“I mean, that’s one of the things that’s particularly troubling: This whole notion of radicalization of Americans,” Holder told ABC News during an interview in his SUV as his motorcade brought him from home to work. “Leaving this country and going to different parts of the world and then coming back, all, again, in aim of doing harm to the American people, is a great concern.”
Holder said the ever-changing threat of terror and the pressure to keep up with it weighs heavily on his mind as he tries to ensure that the government has done all it can to anticipate the moves of an unpredictable enemy.
“In some ways it’s the most sobering part of the day,” Holder said of his morning intelligence briefing, in which he gets the latest report on the landscape of “the organizations, the people who are bound and determined to do harm to our nation.”
+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++
NEWS FLASH FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: There is a “Harvest of Rage” buidling up in America, and is is not from jihadists against the Nation, but rather normal, sober, average Americans full of common sense who are angry at the long list of high crimes and misdemeanors committed by a corrupt Congress and a White House that–regardless of occupant–represents Wall Street instead of Main Street.
The Watts riots by people of color will look like a kiss on the cheek if the white people of Middle America ever decide to march on New York and Washington. With all due respect to the good intentions of the Attorney General, he is out of touch with reality and with America. This is a Republic. The government is failing. It is time to fix it or abolish it. We favor the fix, and the fix is easy: the Electoral Reform Act of 2009.
American is going clinically insane because the federal government as a service of common concern to the United STATES of America is so busy transferring wealth from the individual taxpayer to the banks and special interests that it has failed to do its job: mind the public interest, nurture the public soul, and guard the public commonwealth.
Cheney and Rice equated informed patriotic objections to the elective war on Iraq at “treason”–General Tony Zinni in particular was tarred with that brush. Today the Obama Administration seems to equate opposition to its sophmoric efforts to do good while continuing to loot the Treasury for Goldman Sachs as “the radicalization of Americans.” Yes, America is being radicalized. The public intelligence question to be asked and answered is this: are We the People being radicalized by external or internal circumstances? Phi Beta Iota believes that our radicalization is caused by a government that has lost touch with the public it is meant to serve. Our good people trapped in a bad system have forgotten that their oath is to the Constitution, to defend America against all enemies, domestic as well as foreign, and that sometimes it is the integrity of the individual in the chain of command who remembers the Constitution, that prevents the abuse of power by political appointees who have been bought and paid for by Wall Street.
THE Common Sense “Primer” for Everyone Including Bozo,
April 14, 2006
I was initially inclined to give this book four stars because it does not “name names” and have footnotes or a bibliography, but as I got deeper into the book I realized that what Tony Zinni has produced is a world-saving “primer” that ANYONE can appreciate, including Bozo the Clown. This is not a dumbed down book as much as it is “straight talk” with no gobbly-gook.
I have known over fifty flag officers in my time, and only a handful have actually been world-class, including Zinni, Gray, Stackpole in the USMC, Clapper and O’Lear in the USAF, Studeman in the Navy, and of course Schoomaker in the Army. No doubt there are others, but in my experience most flag officers have simply won a beauty/etiquette contest, and they do not acquire any additional strategic vision upon being promoted from the lower ranks. Zinni is incontestably the one general we have that has done three things brilliantly:
1) been a foxhole Marine with grievous wounds and innovative leadership at the company and field grade levels (see my review of his book “Battle Ready”);
2) been a general deeply experienced in Operations Other than War (OOTW–what a stupid former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff once said of “Real men don’t do OOTW–which is about as stupid as the DNI still saying (we paraphrase) “we’re in the business of secrets for the President, the hell with open sources and everyone else”); and
3) been a true inter-agency Commander-in-Chief (CINC) able to make full use of *all* the inter-agency capabilities, not just the military, and done so diplomatically and personally. He is the George Shultz (himself a former Marine) of the current warrior class.
With that as pre-amble, here are the highlights of the book that demand its reading by every citizen in time to challenge their light-weight (and generally corrupt) Members of Congress prior to casting a vote in November 2006:
1) Chapters 1-7 are essentially an overview of reality and why global reality impacts on America’s security and fortune. This is required reading for all but a handful, and needs to be read very slowly and carefully by those encumbered with ideological filters. As the author notes, very often perception is reality, and when an ideologically-biased perception conflicts with actual multi-cultural reality, what you get is a catastrophe such as Iraq.
2) The heart of the book is the author’s prescription for achieving both an unbiased view of the real world, and the ability to fully plan for and leverage all the sources of national power as represented by the varied agencies, through three simple and elegant “hubs”:
2a) At the national level, a National Monitoring and Planning Center (NMPC) that is able to integrate both intelligence (less than 20% of the relevant information) and operational inter-agency information (the other 80%), and to then plan, coordinate, and guide the execution of long-term inter-agency campaign plans.
2b) At the operational level, the modification of the currently planned Joint Intelligence Operations Commands or Centers (JIOC) to turn them into more of a Joint Inter-Agency Collaboration Center (JICC) such as SOCOM has developed in concept. Although JFCOM’s Joint Inter-Agency Coordination Group (JIACG) is the example used by the author, I believe that we actually need to bring together the JFCOM and SOCOM concepts with those emerging in the NORTHCOM inter-agency directorate under Bear McConnell, and the Global Innovation and Strategy Center (GISC) at STRATCOM, which not coincidentally also has the lead for getting a grip on all open source information in all languages all the time, something the DNI cannot provide.
2c) At the tactical level the author is right on target when he proposes the civil affairs model (as does Congressman Rob Simmons, R-CT-02 from the HASC and Homeland Security Committees) as the focal point for inter-agency application of resources in-country. The author does not dismiss the U.S. Embassy, which was supposed to play that role, but his book is a clear demarche with respect to the incapacity of the Department of State to provide a leadership role, a planning role, or an inter-agency management role in-country. The Embassies are simply not working the way they are supposed to our could be made to work.
3) The author concludes his work with an analogy of cobras being killed by the death of a thousand stings from bees. Exactly right. The threat to America is NOT Iranian nuclear power (just as it was NOT Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction) but rather a global concerted effort to destroy Americas economy through the simple expedient of putting oil prices up to $300 a barrel, something that can be achieved very inexpensively with tiny but potent attacks on key oil pipelines and pumping stations in Nigeria, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia.
Tony Zinni is one of my heroes. He not only understands asymmetric warfare and the urgency of getting serious (that is to say, professional, which we are not at this time) about global instability in the intangible non-military dimensions, but he is a clear-headed diplomat and warrior-philosopher who knows how to make big bureaucracies do his bidding.
I hope the day comes when we have a chance to work together to save this great Republic from the morons that have broken the piggy bank, cost us all moral legitimacy in the eyes of the world, and started a 100 year six front war we did not need and were not ready for.
BRAVO ZULU and GUNG HO.
Admin Note: If you select “see my other reviews” and bookmark that page, you can, over the course of several hours, receive a free graduate education in reality and non-fiction about global issues. If Zinni *had* had footnotes, most of the books I have reviewed would have been in his book as supporting elements for his personal and professional essay.
Best Book Clancy Has Offered Recently, Zinni is Superb!,
June 10, 2004
For the serious, this book absolutely merits a careful reading, together with Dana Priest’s “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military,” and–for a fuller and free overview–my varioius reviews on emerging threats, strategy and force structure, and why our current “military only” approach to foreign policy is ineffective.There are some tremendous gems in this book, some of which I summarize here.
1) Zinni is mpressive in his grasp of grand strategy, of the urgency of understanding the threat, devising a full approach that mixes and matches *all* instruments of national strategy, and that focuses–as Zinni learned to focus in Viet-Nam, on the hearts and minds of the people rather than the force on force battles (a means to an end, not an end in themselves).
2) Zinni’s understanding of war comes across very early in the book when he describes the six completely different wars that took place in South Viet-Nam, each with its own lessons, tactics, and sometimes equipment differences–nuances that conventional military policy, doctine, and acquisition managers back in the US still do not understand: a) Swamp War, b) Paddy War, c) Jungle War, d) Plains War, e) Saigon War, and f) DMZ War.
3) Zinni has read SLA Marshall on “The Soldier’s Load”, and he notes that the equipment that the South Vietnamese carried was lighter and better for their needs–the US military-industrial complex burdens our Armed Forces with overly heavy things, too many of them, that actually impair our ability to fight. Perhaps even more fascinating, Zinni sees that buying equipment for our troops locally cuts the cost by 4/5th. Not what your average US contractor wants to hear, but precisely what I as a taxpayer am looking for–with the added advantage that this puts money into the local economy and helps stabilize it.
4) Within the center of the book, there are rich lessons about war-fighting and peace-making that will stand the test of time. Most impressive is Zinni’s focus on pre-emptive relationship building across the region.
a) Relationships matter, and relationships forged in advance go a very long way in avoiding misunderstanding and defusing crises. If you have to fight, relationships are the single best means of reducing the fog of war and assuring good integration of effort across cultures, nations, and armies.
b) Speed and mixed forces matter. Zinni was the master, in four different timeframes, of using speed and properly mixed forces to achieve effects not possible with larger forces arriving late. In Viet-Nam he worked with “the Pacifiers”, especially reinforced company-size units that had been specially augmented with flamethrowers, extra machine guns and mortars, and their own engineers and scouts, all trained for instant deployment. At Camp Hansen, during the times of race riots, he learned the value of a fast, big guard force *combined with* constant and open dialog with the troops in distress. In humanitarian operations, he learned that rapid delivery of food tended to rapidly reduce the violence–get the food flowing fast, and reap the peace benefits. And finally, in developing the Marine Corps variant of special operations capable forces (not to be confused with the uniquely qualified Special Operations Forces), he developed the original capabilities of doing special things “from the sea.”
c) Non-state entities, both tribal threats and non-governmental organizations, are the heart of the new battle. Repeatedly Zinni comments on how poorly we do in terms of thinking about strategy, operations, and tactics for the sub-state war, and how badly we do at intelligence about tribes, and at coordinating with non-governmental organizations. Zinni finally discovered the true value of Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations as a flag officer, and ended up nurturing the creation of Civil Military Operations Centers, and a new language, such as “Humanitarian Relief Sectors” instead of “kill zone.”
5) Zinni makes some other observations throughout the book that are relevant now.
a) His respects Clinton as a quick study. Without disparagement, he makes it clear that Sandy Berger and Bill Cohen were mediocrities. He admired James Baker, who tried to do Marshall Plan kinds of things and could not get the beltway crowd to see the light. He is cautionary on General Wayne Downing (who went on with the Rendon Group to sponsor Chalabi–Zinni, on page 343, makes it clear he knew Chalabi was a thief and liar as early as 1998). He is admiring of Ambassador Bob Oakley.
b) With respect for foreign capabilities, among the insights are the integrity and capability of Pakistani and Bangladeshi troops, who maintained and then returned US complex equipment in better condition than it was received, with every single tool in every single kit present and accounted for; Italian military field hospitals; African troop tactical fighting discipline and capability.
6) The book wraps up with Zinni’s recommendations for change, all of which are on target: use retired Service and theater chiefs to constitute the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rather than the Service Chiefs with their parochial interests; earmark budgets for the theater commanders–inter-agency budgets; create an inter-agency strategy and operations center to make the government, not just the military, “joint.”
Zinni’s final observations deal with ethics and the obligation to avoid spin and always speak the truth. Zinni is smarter than the current crop of military leaders, who mistake loyalty to specific individuals with loyalty to the Constitution. He also differs from them in understanding that Operations Other than War (OOTW) is where it is at and will be for the foreseeable future.
Missing from the book is any reference to national and military intelligence, other than one small section where he notes it simply was not reliable and not available at the tribal level. Also missing from this book are any references to John Boyd, Mike Wylie, Bill Lind, or G.I. Wilson, all four of whom were, in my opinion, the legs of the intellectual stool that Zinni constructed for himself over time.