Small Wars Journal

General Zinni's Considerations Revisited (Again)

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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.

 

About the Author(s)

Dave Dilegge is a retired USMCR Intelligence and Counterintelligence / HUMINT officer. He is also a former USMC civilian intelligence analyst and worked several years in the private sector. He served with the 1st Marine Division during Operation Desert Storm. In 1999 he was the recipient of the National Military Intelligence Association’s Colonel Donald G. Cook Award for his work in supporting USMC and DoD urban operations analysis, wargaming and experimentation. He is currently a Director at the Small Wars Foundation and is Editor-in-Chief of Small Wars Journal. He is a member of the Marine Corps Association, US Naval Institute, Warlord Loop, Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Rifle Association, National Italian American Foundation, Order Sons of Italy in America, and Tau Kappa Epsilon.

Comments

Bill M:  Here, once again, are the excerpts from the General Zinni interview -- that I provided in my comments below:

Item No. 1:

General Zinni:  Appearing to discuss the "root causes as weak, failed and/or failing states" thesis:

"All those things you suggest are treating the symptoms of terrorism. Attacking the terrorist, becoming more aware of the threat, those are at the symptoms. You have to go back to the root cause. I don't believe that the vast majority of terrorists do what they do out of some fanatical motivation, religious or political belief. It's usually because we have a part of the world that's traumatized; that, through humanitarian or political conditions that are very, very poor, we have a number of young people, usually young men, who are disenfranchised, who are radicalized, dissatisfied, who want to strike out at something. Some political condition, economic or human condition, has made them that way. And they find refuge in sanctuaries, usually in places like Afghanistan and Somalia where there is no rule of law, no nation state that's viable, no existing state, usually a failed or incapable state. And they find refuge among extremist groups that will give rationale to the cause, be it religious or otherwise. But the real underlying ability to recruit has to be in an environment where these other conditions exist." ...

Item No. 2:

General Zinni:  Appearing to discuss, accordingly and via the Marshall Plan no less, the "cure is transformation more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines" thesis. 

"I think that's in our interest. Well, I think both. I mean, obviously, a part of this development is the ability to provide for your own security and to do it in the right way and with security forces that respect human rights, that do address the hearts and minds and aren't oppressive in the way they apply force, because they just exacerbate the problem if they do that.

But it's in our interest to see economic stability, political stability in regions of the world. We can't allow instability in regions of the world that we depend on, that we must access because we depend on raw materials, freedom of navigation. In these places we aren't going to allow instability, or [limit our] option to direct involvement. There has to be something in between, either an unstable situation and the application of military force, something has to come in between that. And I think it's investing in the stability of the region and investing in the region's ability to help itself.

A classic example of where we did it right was post - World War II Europe. The classic example where we did it wrong was post - World War I Europe. After the Second World War, the Marshall Plan, the investment in eliminating the thing that caused the First and Second World Wars. Where we do invest in this, where we make the commitment, where we help others help themselves, we tend to succeed. Where we intend to become directly involved is where we have a tendency not to succeed. Where we're using military force directly, that doesn't work as well for us."

Bill M:

At first glance, one might think that the above certainly does not jive with the General Zinni item that you provide below, to wit:

"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.

However, I suggest -- given General Zinni's Item No. 1 above (the "root cause is weak, failed and failing states" thesis) and Item No. 2 above ("nation-building" -- via a Marshall Plan no less -- as the "cure"); given these such matters, I suggest that General Zinni may believe that:

a.  While our cultural values should not be "imposed" on these such outlying states and societies,  

b.  They should nonetheless -- given such things as their relevance to the Marshall Plan, etc.  -- be "installed" via other ways and other means?  

Thoughts?

Bill C.

You are imposing your view point upon GEN Zinni.  You wrote: 

"General Zinni, as noted in my comments below, seems to embrace:

a.  The "root cause of the world's problems is weak, failed and/or failing states" thesis, to wit:

b.  The thesis that suggests that the only "cure" to such problems is the transformation of outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines."

What GEN Zinni actually wrote was, 

  • 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.

The combination of not understanding other cultures and the arrogance of Bush, Chenny, and Rumfeld and GEN Frank who arrogantly embraced the "end of history" viewpoint and assumed the world would simply conform to their preferences, even after facts on the ground refuted that view, set the stage leading to disaster that was narrowly adverted in Iraq. Obama followed and simply wished the problems away and focused on pulling out as though that was the solution the Bush administration created.  

Strategists that have a clue don't seek to impose our system upon others, but we do promote our values, there is a difference. Idealists, especially naive ones seek to impose our system upon others.  If we're going to do that, then at least give the military the forces they need to "impose" a new order, because it won't emerge naturally from chaos.  It is unfortunate that GEN Zinni didn't lead the invasion, but I suspect if he was commanding CENTCOM at the time Rumi would have fired him, because Zinni would point out how stupid his ideas were. 

First, from the book -- "America and the Future of War: The Past as Prologue" by Williamson Murray -- referenced by Bill M. below:

"In the early 1990s Samuel Huntington, the great Harvard political scientist, published an article in Foreign Affairs titled "The Clash of Civilizations."  That seminal piece of imaginative strategic writing met with howls of outrage from much of the West's academic and political world.  Several years later the professor published a somewhat milder version of his argument in book form, which again received consideration criticism from those that believed that the Old Cold War had ended in the triumph of the West of the Soviet Union.  Instead, with democracy and neoliberal economic competition leading the way, the world was supposedly heading into an unparalleled period of peace and prosperity. 

How far away from those hopes and dreams appear a quarter century later.  Instead, there are now a growing number of trouble spots, for which the United States seems singularly unprepared to confront, while a number of major powers are now challenging the United States not only politically but militarily as well.  Some of these challenges represent straight old-fashioned power politics, while others remain deeply embedded in the culture and religions of peoples "of whom we know nothing."

https://www.amazon.com/America-Future-War-Past-Prologue/dp/0817920048 (See the Appendix: "Potential Trouble Spots.")

Next, from Bill M.'s comment below:

I'm currently reading "America the Future of War," by Murray. He quotes a relevant comment from COL Mansoor, where he basically states too many leaders from the Brigade level and higher (to include civilian leadership) were excessively focused on what was happening the tactical units at the expense of developing strategy and the operational concepts to implement it. I'm more convinced than ever that is the most significant problem with our military and civilian leadership today."

Question:

Could we say that Brigade level and higher (to include civilian leadership); these such folks' hands were essentially tied;

This, given that our national leadership both conceived of -- and indeed forced their subordinates to only work under and within -- grossly flawed and totally erroneous strategic and operational concepts; concepts which (a) formally rejected Huntington's "Clash" thesis and which, instead, (b) required acceptance only of the  "universal western values," "overwhelming appeal of our way of life" and Fukuyama "End of History" concepts?

(In such a "they will greet meet us with flowers" strategic world, it was thought that the Iraqi Army would not be needed, would serve not any significant purpose and, in fact, would only cause trouble or otherwise get in the way?)

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

General Zinni, as noted in my comments below, seems to embrace:

a.  The "root cause of the world's problems is weak, failed and/or failing states" thesis, to wit:

b.  The thesis that suggests that the only "cure" to such problems is the transformation of outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines. 

This being the case, then should we say that:

a.  General Zinni developed his "list" from the perspective offered by my "a" and "b" immediately above.  But in doing so:

b.  Acknowledged that the environment that our soldiers would be operating in; this would look (a) much more like Huntington's "Clash" world and (b) much less like "Fukuyama's "End" cosmos?

Dave,

Thanks for re-sharing. I reviewed the list and believe about 90% of this guidance is stated in Joint Pub 5-0 (Plans) and Joint Pub 3-0 (Operations).  The rest are hard learned lessons from a series of MOOTW operations that should have been heeded.  As you stated, " many of these guidelines are left behind at our military think-tanks and schoolhouses once the first round goes downrange." Actually they were left behind before the first round was fired. I was tied into the initial planning, and I couldn't get a straight answer on what happens after we take key cities and towns.  There was a prevailing assumption that the Iraqi Army would cross sides and help us stabilize the country, but no branch plan if that assumption didn't materialize. In our neck of the woods we only 20 or so Iraqi officer defect over to us, hardly a stabilization force. 

I'm currently reading "America the Future of War," by Murray. He quotes a relevant comment from COL Mansoor, where he basically states too many leaders from the Brigade level and higher (to include civilian leadership) were excessively focused on what was happening the tactical units at the expense of developing strategy and the operational concepts to implement it. I'm more convinced than ever that is the most significant problem with our military and civilian leadership today.  I don't think it is an education shortfall, rather a cultural shortfall. It will take strong leadership to change it at the various levels. 

Bill C.

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 12:00pm

One last stab at this.

As Hans Morgenthau notes below, since at least the end of World War II, U.S./Western military personnel have had to operate in environments in which they have been required to:

a.  Help PREVENT the achievement by others (for example, by the communists, the Islamists) of the political, economic, social and/or value "transformation" of other states and societies; this, more along NON-modern western political, economic, social and value lines. 

And where our military personnel -- often simultaneously -- have had to: 

b.  Help FACILITATE the achievement, by the U.S./the West and our allies, of the political, economic, social and value "transformation" of other states and societies; this, more along modern-western political, economic, social and value lines.  

(Rare exception: The First Gulf War.)

Hans Morgenthau, in his 1967 "To Intervene or not to Intervene:"

"The United States and the Soviet Union face each other not only as two great powers which in the traditional ways compete for advantage. They also face each other as the fountainheads of two hostile and incompatible ideologies, systems of government and ways of life, each trying to expand the reach of its respective political values and institutions and to prevent the expansion of the other. Thus the cold war has not only been a conflict between two world powers but also a contest between two secular religions. And like the religious wars of the seventeenth century, the war between communism and democracy does not respect national boundaries. It finds enemies and allies in all countries, opposing the one and supporting the other regardless of the niceties of international law. Here is the dynamic force which has led the two superpowers to intervene all over the globe, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly, sometimes with the accepted methods of diplomatic pressure and propaganda, sometimes with the frowned-upon instruments of covert subversion and open force."

(Post the Old Cold War, this goes on, with our "enemies" today being [a] any state or non-state entity that seeks to transform their own states and societies -- and/or others -- more along NON-modern western political, economic, social and value lines -- and/or -- [b] any state or non-state entity that seeks to prevent the U.S./the West from achieving the transformation of other states and societies, more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines.)

This being the case, then might we say that General Zinni's list -- provided by our author/Editor-In-Chief above -- this such list may have been developed by General Zinni; this, specifically to help our military personnel operate in this/these such unique, and amazingly difficult, PREVENT AND/OR FACILITATE environments? 

(Environments in and practices which are formally "outlawed" by -- and/or otherwise glaringly fly in the face of the non-interference/self-determination principles of -- international law?  International law which, accordingly, and since at least the end of World War II, seems to have become a "dead letter?")

Here is a little more -- re: the "winning the hearts and minds" perspective -- from the referenced General Zinni interview I provided in my initial comment: 

BEGIN QUOTE

I think that's in our interest. Well, I think both. I mean, obviously, a part of this development is the ability to provide for your own security and to do it in the right way and with security forces that respect human rights, that do address the hearts and minds and aren't oppressive in the way they apply force, because they just exacerbate the problem if they do that.

But it's in our interest to see economic stability, political stability in regions of the world. We can't allow instability in regions of the world that we depend on, that we must access because we depend on raw materials, freedom of navigation. In these places we aren't going to allow instability, or [limit our] option to direct involvement. There has to be something in between, either an unstable situation and the application of military force, something has to come in between that. And I think it's investing in the stability of the region and investing in the region's ability to help itself.

A classic example of where we did it right was post - World War II Europe. The classic example where we did it wrong was post - World War I Europe. After the Second World War, the Marshall Plan, the investment in eliminating the thing that caused the First and Second World Wars. Where we do invest in this, where we make the commitment, where we help others help themselves, we tend to succeed. Where we intend to become directly involved is where we have a tendency not to succeed. Where we're using military force directly, that doesn't work as well for us.

END QUOTE

General Zinni seems to suggest that:

a.  It is "stability" that we seek in various regions of the world.  And that:

b.  Only the massive provision of political, economic, social and/or value "development"/"modernization"/"change" (only along modern western political, economic, social and value lines?) can adequately provide for such "stability.

Note that this such thinking seems to fly in the face of the understanding of how "stability" is achieved -- and/or maintained -- as understood by international law:

BEGIN QUOTE

Within the existing framework of international law, is it legitimate for an occupying power, in the name of creating the conditions for a more democratic and peaceful state, to introduce fundamental changes in the constitutional, social, economic, and legal order within an occupied territory? ...

These questions have arisen in various conflicts and occupations since 1945 -- including the tragic situation in Iraq since the United States–led invasion of March–April 2003. They have arisen because of the cautious, even restrictive assumption in the laws of war (also called international humanitarian law or, traditionally, jus in bello) that occupying powers should respect the existing laws and economic arrangements within the occupied territory, and should therefore, by implication, make as few changes as possible.

END QUOTE

https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/access/content/user/1044/ajil_-_roberts_on_tr…

This begs the question:  

Is General Zinni's list provided by our Editor-In-Chief above -- and General Zinni's thoughts re: "root causes" and "winning hearts and minds" (provided by yours truly) -- are these not dictated by our having to operate -- throughout the world -- in an environment which -- contrary to the understanding of international law above -- associates:

a.  The introduction of "fundamental changes in the constitutional, social, economic, and legal order of other states and societies;" this, with:

b.  "Stability" rather than "instability?"

If so, then should we question General Zinni's list -- and his thoughts re: "root causes" and "winning hearts and minds" -- accordingly?

We should note that -- at the time that General Zinni's list above was initially provided (2003/2007?) -- certain populations of the U.S./the West, via the Brexit and the election of President Trump -- had not joined (as "insurgents?") the populations of certain other states and societies of the world; this, in formally rejecting (in favor of more-traditional values, etc.?) certain "modernization" efforts being made by their respective governments. 

(This, in spite of the fact that many of these such governmental efforts -- made by the U.S./the West and/or other responsible governments -- were actually designed to make their nations adequately competitive -- and/or to otherwise provide for these nations' national security.)

Thus, I suggest that -- in order adequately consider General Zinni's list above today -- and thus his thoughts re: "root causes" and "winning hearts and minds" more generally (see my excerpt from a Zinni interview below) -- one might best do this -- now -- by viewing these matters in today's context.

To wit: in a context which finds conservative elements of the U.S./the West now joining with conservative elements of other states and societies in rejecting unwanted/intolerable aspects of "modernization."

With this suggested challenge/criteria now before us, here is the excerpt from the (2007?) General Zinni interview:

BEGIN EXCERPT

Interviewer:

"Okay, let's broaden this context. What do we need to do? In response to these very different kinds of terrorist threats, is it a question of reconfiguring our forces? Is it a question of having better intelligence? Is it a question of having better resources? You seem also to be suggesting it's a question of educating the American people about what the problem is.

General Zinni:

All those things you suggest are treating the symptoms of terrorism. Attacking the terrorist, becoming more aware of the threat, those are at the symptoms. You have to go back to the root cause. I don't believe that the vast majority of terrorists do what they do out of some fanatical motivation, religious or political belief. It's usually because we have a part of the world that's traumatized; that, through humanitarian or political conditions that are very, very poor, we have a number of young people, usually young men, who are disenfranchised, who are radicalized, dissatisfied, who want to strike out at something. Some political condition, economic or human condition, has made them that way. And they find refuge in sanctuaries, usually in places like Afghanistan and Somalia where there is no rule of law, no nation state that's viable, no existing state, usually a failed or incapable state. And they find refuge among extremist groups that will give rationale to the cause, be it religious or otherwise. But the real underlying ability to recruit has to be in an environment where these other conditions exist.

END EXCERPT

http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/conversations/Zinni/zinni-con4.html

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

General Zinni's pre-Brexit and pre-election of President Trump list --- provided by our author/editor above -- and General Zinni's thoughts on "root causes" and "winning hearts and minds" accordingly (provided by yours truly) -- these would seem to have risen from the, exceptionally well-known, "root cause based on weak, failed and/or failing states" thesis.

Now that the U.S./the West -- via the Brexit and the election of President Trump -- has joined the fray, are we not now forced to consider some other "root cause" thesis; such as, Kilcullen's (see his "Counterinsurgency Redux") "rejection of modernization" concepts?

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e7f3/f7fd5e525d6dfe177357a894839bc770348b.pdf (See the bottom of Page 2 and the top of Page 3.)

To wit: a concept that -- opened up -- might provide that, in fact, 

a.  ALL states and societies -- weak and/or strong -- democratic and/or not -- economically powerful and/or otherwise -- are subject to "insurgencies" and

b.  These, more correctly, to be understood from the "root cause as rejection of (further) modernization" point-of-view?

(Implications?  For General Zinni's list, etc.?)