October 21, 2004

Zinni for Defense?

Is Gen. Anthony Zinni going to get a spot in a Kerry administration? If not, why not? The man really knows what he's talking about:
What is the role of the military beyond that point? Right now the military in Iraq has been stuck with this baby. In Somalia it was stuck with that baby. In Vietnam it was stuck with that baby. And it's going to continue to be that way. And what we have to ask ourselves now is, is there something that the military needs to change into that involves its movement into this area of the political, the economic, the information management? If the others, those wearing suits, can't come in and solve the problem-can't bring the resources, the expertise, and the organization-and we're going to continue to get stuck with it, you have one or two choices. Either they get the capability and it's demanded of them, and we learn how to partner to get it done, or the military finally decides to change into something else beyond the breaking and the killing.

What could this mean? It could mean civil affairs changes from just being a tactical organization doing basic humanitarian care and interaction with the civilian population, to actually being capable of reconstructing nations. That we will have people in uniform that are educated in the disciplines of economics, political structure, and we're actually going to go in and do that. We're actually going to be the governors. The CINCs that are the proconsuls will truly be proconsuls and given that authority to do it; that you will set regional policy. This is scary stuff. I know in the five-sided building if this echoes over there-they hate me anyway, but they probably would be shaking in their boots to think this. But either get the people on the scene that can do it, get them there when they need to be there, give them the resources and the training, create the interoperability that's necessary-or validate the military mission to do it. In my mind, that's the most important question we have now.
That speech was given in 2003, but Zinni's been thinking about these things for a long time. If Dana Priest's wonderful book, The Mission, can be believed, Zinni saw the writing on the wall in Central Asia years before anyone else, and understood how important it was to: a) encircle and deal with Afghanistan, b) enlist Perez Musharraf as a key ally against militant fundamentalists, and c) balance reforming Central Asian nations (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia) with preventing them from becoming failed states. His idea of CINCs acting as proconsuls who "transform" their regions is pretty radical, but it's also born of extensive experience and hard thinking on these issues, and he certainly can't be dismissed offhand.
-- Brad Plumer 5:11 PM || ||