Waging Peace: Gen. Anthony Zinni Sorts out America's "Credibility Problem"

Article excerpt

Gen. Anthony Zinni gave his views on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the broader Middle East, and President Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC on Sept. 1. The former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, Zinni has been on tour discussing his new book, Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom.

As he travels the world, Zinni said, he speaks to leaders who are worried that the United States cannot manage things any more. "There is sincere concern," he noted. Americans used to be trusted to get it right, but as a result of what transpired after the 9/11 attacks, he explained, there is now a real credibility problem.

One suggestion Zinni made was for the Obama administration to do what it is actually legally required to do under the Goldwater-Nichols Act and issue a "national security strategy." The general pointed out that administrations are required to release such a report within 150 days of taking office, and the Obama administration has not done this.

President Bill Clinton's strategy was "engagement," and "pre-emption" became the theme under President George W. Bush. Obama has changed the tone with his "smart power" strategy, which calls for using civilian, military and economic tools.

Throwing money and people at problems is not the answer, however, General Zinni warned. He called for a major restructuring of the Department of State and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). "The military has a culture of planning," Zinni explained. "We create a set of plans, rehearse, practice, modify and review. We went to Baghdad, took down the Republican Guards, and then what? What were we supposed to accomplish after that? It scared the hell out me. There was no plan. The military plans the military piece, but no one plans past it."

Zinni argued that the civil affairs section of the military should be pulled out of the military structure as it is today and set up as its own command-and used to structure nation building and other activities in a collaborative way with other institutions of government. …