Can you win a war without stepping on a battlefield? Can you ever be in a position to win a war before the hostilities start?
Retired General Anthony Zinni, former Commander of U.S. Central Command, says yes in his new book ’Before the First Shots Are Fired’. A thoughtful read, for me anyway. Zinni clearly states that a military response to threats is not always the best option and certainly not the only option. Two of Zinni's conclusions that I take away from this book are:
1] “Words and ideas are as important to victory in today’s conflicts as bullets.”
2] ”Our foreign aid budget is pitiful, our State Department, USAID, and the other government agencies that we critically need to be on a par with our military are underfunded, undermanned, and poorly structured for their current objectives.”
Conflict-of-interest-alert: I liked Tony Zinni before I ever picked up this book. His public scolding of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld ten years ago for the blunder of invading Iraq was identical to my thinking. And his defamation by the neocons and smear attempts by the right wing press made him OK in my book. On top of that he and I are of the same generation, both former Marines, and both served in Vietnam. Some of you though may take offense at his later supporting calls for ‘The Surge’. Or for also criticizing Obama's strategy. And some press accounts have labeled him a warhawk and a shill for the military industrial complex. So be forewarned.
PS - Regarding that #2 point above. I recently served as a pallbearer for a 98-year-old WW2 vet who was also a veteran of the State Department. He had served on the USS Astoria but was lucky enough to have been transferred to another ship just prior to its sinking at the Battle of Savo Island. He served throughout the war and saw much action but was prouder by far of his time in foreign service as part of the State Department after the war.