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The Battle for Peace

A Frontline Vision of America's Power And Purpose

by Tony Zinni and Tony Koltz

Hardcover, 233 pages, St Martins Pr, List Price: $24.95 |


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The Battle for Peace
A Frontline Vision of America's Power And Purpose
Tony Zinni and Tony Koltz

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Book Summary

A former military commander argues that America is threatened more by the global conditions that lead to terrorism than by terrorism itself and makes recommendations on how the United States can promote a more stable and peaceful world.

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Excerpt: The Battle For Peace



Palgrave Macmillan

Copyright © 2006Tony Zinni and Tony Koltz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4039-7174-9


Acknowledgments.......................................xiForeword by Tom Clancy................................xiiiOne  America's Power & Purpose........................1Two  In the Foxhole...................................15Three  Beyond Checkpoint Charlie......................35Four  The New Face of War.............................67Five  Colliding Worlds................................97Six  Stovepipes.......................................129Seven  Strategy.......................................143Eight  From Strategy to Foxholes......................155Nine  On the Front Lines of Peace.....................177Ten  The Battle for Peace.............................209Index.................................................227

Chapter One


I look forward to a great future for America-a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. -John F. Kennedy, 1963

America is great because she is good, but if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. -Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

The last assignment in my four-decade military career was to command the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), where I had responsibility for all military activities in a volatile area that included twenty-five countries-in East Africa, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia. For many years this region has occupied the red-hot center of what is often called the Arc of Instability or the Zone of Conflict-a belt stretching around the midsection of the earth containing the world's most turbulent, troubled, and unstable nations. Over the years of my military career, and later as a diplomat and businessman, I have spent considerable time in nearly every nation in the Zone of Conflict; I have developed a deep personal interest in each of them; and I have made many friends and close personal connections in those nations. I know the area well.

Immediately after 9/11, I received a flood of letters, emails, and calls from friends all over the world expressing condolence, shock, and anger over the horrific acts of that day. But one Arab friend was more than just upset by the shocking terrorist attacks; he seemed intensely worried about something deeper. And that caught my attention.

"I understand your sadness and your compassion," I told him, as we talked on the phone. "That's obvious. But I'm very interested in what's bothering you beyond that."

"I'm worried that this tragedy could cause America to stop being America," he said.

I asked him to explain.

"You Americans don't know your power, your influence, and your goodness," he said. "Your anger and the retaliation you're about to take are justified. But in doing what you must do to respond to this evil, I hope, for the sake of the world, that you never lose sight of your values and your sense of justice in the actions that you take. The world needs you more than you realize."

My friend was telling me much more than the obvious-that we Americans don't know our own power and influence. He was telling me that we haven't really learned how to use them to get what we want or need; that we don't really know who we are, in the sense that we've had to struggle to work out our proper role in today's world; and that our role must include the moral dimension that has been essential to America's actions in the world since the days of the nation's founders. This does not mean that America has always acted well, only that the attempt to act well has consistently guided us. What he was saying is that America always sought to do right-and that both our friends and our enemies have seen that.

It's tough to operate within a set of principles when the other guy does not; but that has always been our strength.

But my friend was probing even deeper, implicitly asking powerful and hard questions about America's totally new and unprecedented situation after the end of the Cold War. America is now the last superpower standing, the most powerful nation in the history of the planet by staggering orders of magnitude, and is capable of projecting every dimension of power and influence anywhere on earth. The direction that all of the earth's peoples will take over the next century will largely be determined by the United States' choices.

We have to lead. We have no choice. We're the 800-pound gorilla in an eight-by-ten room. We may not like being in that position, and we may wish we didn't make everybody else in the room nervous-when we move, the whole room knows it. But we can't help being who we are; and we can't help it that hardly anything goes on in the room that we don't affect.

That is what I believe former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright meant when she observed that the United States is "the indispensable nation." This was by no means an arrogant declaration; it was a statement of reality. We are the single nation that can make or break significant worldwide actions or international programs. People both inside and outside this country may not like this truth, but they know it's true. Everywhere I travel throughout the world, I get this from my friends: "Without you," they tell me, "we can't make it happen."

There will be no Middle East peace without United States participation in the peace process. There will be no global environmental policy without U.S. participation. There will be no global health policy. No global economic and trade policy. And without the United States, you can forget the United Nations.

The catch is, our choices are anything but clear. What does world leadership mean in the post-Cold War environment? Nobody knows. Nobody has been there before. There are no models.

Debates on this question have been fierce within the last three administrations ... and without resolution.

Are we the world's policeman: Are we an empire? How do we choose our priorities for acting in the world when we can't do everything? What are the limits of our power? What are the limits of our actions? What are the limits of our influence? What are the limits of our leadership? How much can we demand, and of whom? What freedoms and responsibilities does our supreme position give us that other First World players don't possess? How do we work with and within international organizations?

The very asking of these questions-and there are many others like them-indicates the extent of our confusion.


My answer to questions about America's role will make some Americans-and many non-Americans-uncomfortable: We are an empire, and empires have a nasty reputation. Yet no other word covers the preeminent position America has achieved in the world. That's what it means to be "the indispensable nation" the only nation whose power and influence are felt everywhere in the world. Never before in the history of humankind has a nation been in this position-the world's sole remaining empire, yet a very different breed of empire from all the other empires that have risen and collapsed over the course of history.

Traditionally, empires are born through military conquest, and military power provides the basis of their influence. Empires take over and administer territories; they send out troops to occupy them and oversee security; they send out governors and managers; they exploit natural resources and labor and extract the wealth of the occupied lands on behalf of the empire's core. They command and dictate.

That kind of empire is dead (though it could conceivably come alive again). America is not an empire of conquest and self-interest, though some accuse us of that ("All you Americans want is to grab Iraq's oil"); and the source of our influence goes way beyond our military power. Yet America is an empire that cannot command or dictate, and does not want to; it can only influence. It is not an empire of conquest; it's an empire of influence.

The President of the United States has announced to the world that the United States intends to make the world democratic; that we are going to make the world operate on market economies; that we will promote and protect human rights; and that we will use all elements of our power to make that happen.... In essence, we decide how you shape your society.

I don't know what to call a statement like that other than an imperial pronouncement.

I'm not saying our nation is wrong to set these goals. I like them. We obviously feel that the goals are right and good and morally correct. But they reflect our morals and beliefs.

That's imperialism. Not imperialism at the point of a bayonet, but imperialism achieved through the other dimensions of power-our unmatched ability to collect and disseminate information, our leadership in diplomacy, our vast resources, our social and cultural influence, our economic influence, our moral influence, and our military might.

These touch everyone in the world, sometimes directly and forcefully (we invaded Iraq and easily toppled the Saddam Hussein regime), sometimes more subtly. Everyone listens to American music. Everyone watches American movies. Everyone eats American food. Everyone wears American fashions. There's hardly anyone out there who does not look out at the world through American lenses. Even those who hate us perceive their world by reference to American culture, values, and power.

During my visits to the Middle East, people have kidded me, "Hey there's the American Cultural Center."

"The American Cultural Center?"

"McDonald's, Burger King, KFC."

And yet, for all our matchless power, capable of touching any point on the globe with every dimension of power-no other nation on the planet matches us in even one of those dimensions-we are not accomplishing the goals in the world that most matter to us: enhancing democracy and respect for human rights, giving people opportunities to improve their lives, and increasing the security and stability that are the necessary foundations for those happy outcomes. Often we don't know how to wield our power and influence; where to wield our power; or even the scope of our power. We would like a secure peace in the world. Yet we are unsure of the actions needed to achieve it.

The failure begins at home.


Our nation's leaders-skilled, experienced, dedicated people in three administrations-have struggled to adapt to the radical and dangerous worldwide seismic shift that followed the Cold War ... with success that's at best mixed.

The first Bush administration put together, under a UN resolution, the remarkable international coalition that fought the first Gulf War, and in doing so created an effective and lasting model for dealing with complex problems and crises. After the fall of the Soviet empire, the administration was forward-looking in its attempts (organized by Secretary of State James Baker and Ambassador Richard Armitage) to connect peacefully with the new nations that once made up the Soviet Union and to lead an international coalition aimed at launching a new Marshall Plan to help these nations get on their feet. Sadly, their grand dream died in the euphoria that followed the collapse of the Soviet military threat.

On the downside, the administration was naive in its assumptions about the changes brought on by the end of the Soviet threat. They didn't grasp the new world environment and accepted uncritically their own slogans proclaiming an automatic "New World Order" and a "Peace Dividend." After the euphoria died, we discovered that we had neither.

The Clinton administration's multilateral and multifaceted approach to world trouble-spots was an excellent initiative to reshape the world in a positive way, but the administration never came up with the energy, organization, or resources needed to match the words.

The second Bush administration has promoted a strong, noble, and positive sense of values-human rights, freedom, democracy-and is willing to commit energy and resources to this cause. Yet its aggressive, unilateral approach has alienated the international community and blocked the international cooperation necessary for achieving these goals. The clearest example of the second Bush administration's unilateral approach is the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But not far behind is their resistance and hostility to a number of treaties with broad international support.

Each of the three post-Cold War administrations has had real accomplishments. Yet, they have all failed

to fully grasp the meaning of the post-Cold War changes and to devise a coherent, integrated strategy for them; to see the signs of critical instability emerging from the post-Cold War environment or to grasp its underlying causes; to confront developing trouble until it has degenerated into a violent confrontation, that is, until it has turned into a crisis; to develop tools other than military force for managing the crisis (and when that hasn't proven practical, the crisis has been left to simmer-or grow worse); to implement, enforce, and sustain peace, order, and stability once the crisis appears to be settled; to commit the time and resources necessary to accomplish genuine reconstruction and restoration of a stable society-or to even seriously attempt it; and to reorganize our outdated governmental structure to better integrate the elements of power needed to deal with today's threats and requirements.

We have seen the effects of these failures again and again-in Afghanistan in the 1980s, in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, in Iraq and Afghanistan today, and in many simmering crises in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.

Why did our leaders fail? Because they were incompetent? Because they were foolish? Because they were blind?

Hardly. They failed primarily because they were working within a governmental system, organizational structure, and national strategy that had served admirably and successfully during the fifty years of Cold War but had not evolved to adapt to the changes that swept in after its collapse.

Critics have accused Presidents Clinton and Bush of failing to make the correct strategic decisions to stop Al Qaeda and perhaps prevent the 9/11 attacks. Such criticisms are unfair to both presidents. They depended on outdated organizations and systems that failed to sense the changes in the world and to present an integrated view of the threat and the necessary responses. As the 9/11 Commission reported, good men and women were working within an antiquated process.

Later, we had a war plan for Iraq but not a plan to reconstruct and win the peace. We had a military organization that could defeat the enemy but not an organization that could reconstruct the society.

Our nation has time and again confronted the disorder and crises that instabilities and conflicts produce. Yet we have been inconsistent and haphazard in how we have chosen to accomplish our goals-both in our basic principles and in subsequent actions.

Some of that is for good, practical reasons: "Here I can make a difference. Here I can't."

But some of it comes from our failure to engage in basic strategic thinking. The two world wars of the past century were followed by worldwide seismic shifts as powerful as the one that followed the Cold War. The lesson each time has been the same: the world cannot find peace and stability by sailing on its own rudderless course. There has to be a map, a direction, to guide us through the confusing and dangerous new world environment. We need an overarching strategy to deal coherently with threatening, unstable parts of the world ... a national security strategy that redefines our role in the new century, defines our goals, and shapes our national organizations to achieve those goals.

A new statement of national strategy will take into account the challenges presented by the reordered world that has followed the end of the Cold War.

It will derive from our strongly held values and principles, and from the level of security and well-being we want to ensure both for ourselves and for others-essentially peace, stability, and prosperity; it will take into account the availability of our resources and our strongly held priorities for using them; it will come with a new, comprehensive analysis of the environment that we're faced with-the challenges, the threats, the issues, the potential pitfalls; and it will redefine our role in the world-who we are, what we expect of ourselves, and what we're willing to do. The new strategy will acknowledge that we can't do everything. Some threats can at best be contained. Some we can't deal with at all. Some we must deal with.

Our starting point must be the actual condition of the world. What's out there?