General Zinni's Considerations Revisited (Again)

Urban Operations Journal -- 28 February 2003

General Anthony Zinni (USMC Ret); experienced in the theory, planning, and conduct of Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) as well as a leading proponent of cultural intelligence; developed the following considerations for humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping, and peace enforcement operations. The successful conduct of operations in Iraq extends well beyond 'taking down Saddam'. The end state we achieve in Iraq - and how we achieve it - will have a direct and serious impact on all future operations in the conduct of our war on terrorism.

They are presented here as helpful guidelines on winning the peace before, during, and after the dust settles in Baghdad and other Iraqi urban areas.

• Each operation is unique. We must be careful what lessons we learn from a single experience.

• Each operation has two key aspects - the degree of complexity of the operation and the degree of consent of the involved parties and the international community for the operation.

• The earlier the involvement, the better the chance for success.

• Start planning as early as possible, include everyone in the planning process.

• Make as thorough an assessment as possible before deployment.

• Conduct a thorough mission analysis, determine the centers of gravity, end state, commander's intent, measures of effectiveness, exit strategy, and the estimated duration of the operation.

• Stay focused on the mission. Line up military tasks with political objectives. Avoid mission creep and allow for mission shifts. A mission shift is a conscious decision, made by political leadership in consultation with the military commander, responding to a changing situation.

• Centralize planning and decentralize execution of the operation. This allows subordinate commanders to make appropriate adjustments to meet their individual situation or rapidly changing conditions.

• Coordinate everything with everybody. Establish coordination mechanisms that include political, military, nongovernmental organizations, and the interested parties.

• Know the culture and the issues. We must know who the decision-makers are. We must know how the involved parties think. We cannot impose our cultural values on people with their own culture.

• Start or restore key institutions as early as possible.

• Don't lose the initiative and momentum.

• Don't make unnecessary enemies. If you do, don't treat them gently. Avoid mindsets or words that might come back to haunt you.

• Seek unity of effort and unity of command. Create the fewest possible seams between organizations and involved parties.

• Open a dialogue with everyone. Establish a forum for each of the involved parties.

• Encourage innovation and nontraditional responses.

• Personalities are often more important than processes. You need the right people in the right places.

• Be careful whom you empower. Think carefully about who you invite to participate, use as a go-between, or enter into contracts with since you are giving them influence in the process.

• Decide on the image you want to portray and keep focused on it. Whatever the image; humanitarian or firm, but well-intentioned agent of change; ensure your troops are aware of it so they can conduct themselves accordingly.

• Centralize information management. Ensure that your public affairs and psychological operations are coordinated, accurate and consistent.

• Seek compatibility in all operations; cultural and political compatibility and military interoperability are crucial to success. The interests, cultures, capabilities, and motivations of all parties may not be uniform; but they cannot be allowed to work against one another.

• Senior commanders and their staffs need the most education and training in nontraditional roles. The troops need awareness and understanding of their roles. The commander and the staff need to develop and apply new skills, such as negotiating, supporting humanitarian organizations effectively and appropriately, and building coordinating agencies with humanitarian goals.

General Zinni offers basic, common-sense guidelines here. Unfortunately, many of these guidelines are left behind at our military think-tanks and schoolhouses once the first round goes downrange. We are reaching critical mass and can ill-afford to relearn lessons from such places as Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, and elsewhere. It is time to start winning wars instead of battles - winning hearts and minds instead of temporary respite. With that we will win the peace.

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That first list – although non-prioritised - seems appropriate for the operational level. But what is his list for the strategic level ?