Anthony Zinni on Sorting out America’s Credibility Problem


Yesterday, I hosted General Anthony Zinni for a discussion on his views on national security decision making, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the broader Middle East, and President Obama’s approach to foreign policy.
Zinni has been on tour discussing his new book, Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom.
General Zinni’s comments during the 77 minute program above were captivating, incisive, and for the most part in line with my own. I differ somewhat on how he would structure American engagement in the Israel-Palestine process as I think that we are at a point in history where the general outlines of “the deal” should be imposed on the parties — but his other structural suggestions made great sense.
Among the zingers that Zinni offered were his suggestion that the Obama administration do what it is actually legally required to do under the Goldwater-Nichols Act and issue a “national security strategy.” Zinni noted that administrations are required to release such a report within 150 days of their administration, and the Obama administration has not done this.
He also said that he thinks the “soft power” approach to national security problem solving can’t be undertaken by the flawed institutional realities embedded in the Department of State and US AID. He said that the civil afffairs section of the military ought to be pulled out of the military structure as it is today and set up as its own command — and use this as a way to structure nation building and other activities in a collaborative way with other institutions of government.
Zinni generally supports America’s deepening commitment to Afghanistan and the war there – though his opening comments imply concern about our focus in the war. He thinks we cannot abandon Afghanistan and need to commit the resources to stand up a system of security and government that can withstand its internal adversaries. I don’t share his view on this front — but his framing of the issue is important to listen to.
ball twn.jpgZinni was stongly critical of the envoy process and the use of envoys for tough, long term foreign policy problems. He offered a self-critique of his envoy experience and offered serious suggestions on how to reshape the Israel-Palestine peace process.
I asked if he got a call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she had an ambassadorship for him and “this time it was for real”, would he be interested. His response is that he felt like he was sort of like Charlie Brown going off to kick the football that Lucy was holding, and she pulled it back. He said he doesn’t want to go through that again.
For people interested in a serious, non-dogmatic discussion on national security strategy, this is a great session to watch.
— Steve Clemons


6 comments on “Anthony Zinni on Sorting out America’s Credibility Problem

  1. Kathy Cline says:

    Yes, please check out the credibility of the press regarding COL(R) Levonda J Selph was never a contracting officer and had no authority to award contracts.
    Why would a Colonel accept $9,000 in bribes when she had over $18B in her oversight.
    Get the facts! I know her, and worked for her.
    She was the most honorable officer I have ever worked for and what the bureaucrats have done to her is a disgrace to America.


  2. RC says:

    Though it is quite a serious topic but I couldn’t but remembered English film Yes, Prime Minister. I downloaded it from shared files SE . There was a part when the prime misnister was having a similar conversation. Though it is an ironic film but there are a lot of common things between the film and the information I read in this post.


  3. JohnH says:

    It’s a hoot that nineteenth century politicians could trumpet non-intervention while gobbling up one American nation after another–Iroquois, Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux, Hawaiian etc. etc. They even gobbled up large chunks of Mexico and bought part of Russia (Alaska). The biggest mistake was taking Texas, home of neanderthal politicians.
    But, like Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, Americans did not consider themselves to be intervening, just doing what they were entitled to do under Manifest Destiny, the precursor to American exceptionalism.


  4. samuelburke says:

    John Quincy Adams delivered a brief address on American foreign policy on the Fourth of July in 1821 in which he argued for a policy of sympathy and example, but not intervention:
    Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been unfurled, there will her [America’s] heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
    Likewise, when the Hungarian nationalist Louis Kossuth sought American aid in the struggle for Hungarian independence, Henry Clay remarked that “the cause of liberty” is better served by “avoiding the distant wars of Europe.” We should instead “keep our lamp burning brightly on this Western Shore, as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction, amid the ruins of fallen or falling republics in Europe,” said Clay.
    When President Grover Cleveland delivered his first inaugural address in 1885, he saw no reason to deviate from a century of nonintervention:
    The genius of our institutions, the needs of our people in their home life, and the attention which is demanded for the settlement and development of the resources of our vast territory dictate the scrupulous avoidance of any departure from the foreign policy commended by the history, the traditions, and the prosperity of our republic.


  5. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    Unfortunately, due to some technical default, the comment I have offered regarding this blogging ,has been published on the page:The Montel’s show on Afghanistan


  6. samuelburke says:

    Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom.
    may i recommend a book to ret gen zinni..
    “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (Kejserens nye Klæder) is a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about an emperor who unwittingly hires two swindlers to create a new suit of clothes for him.
    imperialism is the disease…exceptionalism is the virus.
    There have been twenty-nine convictions, several suicides, and the investigations and trials promise to drag on. It is reported that more than two dozen indictments of Americans are pending.
    Army contracting officer Major Gloria Davis and Air Force procurement officer Charles Riechers both committed suicide over contracting fraud while Colonel Ted Westhusing shot himself after sending an accusatory letter to General David Petraeus concluding “I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars.” Some believe that Westhusing was murdered because he was about to turn whistle blower.
    Robert Stein, the former US Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) controller for South Central Iraq, was one of the first successful prosecutions for corruption. Stein diverted $8.6 million through a business run by Californian Philip Bloom. Bloom admitted paying more than $2 million in bribes to US officials including four Army Colonels—Curtis Whiteford, Bruce Hopfengardner, Debra Harrison, and Michael Wheeler. Army Major John Cockerham accepted nearly $10 million in bribes while in Kuwait and his successor Army Major James Momon received $5.8 million. Army Major Christopher Murray, Army Lt. Col. Levonda Selph, Army Major John Rivard, Captain Michael Dung Nguyen, and Captain Bryant Williams have all been imprisoned for taking bribes. In Iraq’s Anbar province, local Iraqis report that US officers routinely demand 15% of all reconstruction project funds.
    One corruption whistleblower might even have been killed. American businessman Dale Stoffel went to the US authorities in Baghdad to complain that US military officers had been taking bribes in pizza boxes stuffed with hundred dollar bills at the contracting offices to conceal the payments. The use of dead drop points for leaving cash in paper bags was common throughout the green zone. Stoffel was threatened and was murdered in December 2004. Two US military officers, Army Colonel Anthony Bell and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Hirtle, were identified by Stoffel before his death and are currently reported to be under investigation.
    Particularly disturbing is the growing evidence of widespread involvement of senior US military officers and civil servants in the corruption, which was driven by windfall profits on contracts requiring little or no work. Apart from the Army and Air Force officers who have gone to prison, reports from Kuwait suggest that at least sixteen American flag officers, generals and admirals, are currently under investigation by the Justice Department, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Sigir), or by the Department of Defense. Sigir alone has carried out 300 investigations and more than 250 audits. Government sources report that 154 criminal investigations are still open.


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