Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Gen Zinni: A True Progressive On Foreign Policy

In last weeks Marine Corps Times there was an article about a speech that Gen. Anthony Zinni (ret.) gave at the Marine Corps Association's Ground Dinner, where he outlined what in my eyes are a few of the basic tenets of a Progressive foreign policy.

The most basic tenet of a progressive foreign policy should be, in my eyes, that military force is only one of the tools we posses to achieve our foreign policy objectives and ensure our security, and because of the extremely high costs of military action (blood, money, prestige, etc.), it should be the absolute last option that we turn to.
A former head of U.S. Central Command has criticized the Bush administration for trying to deal with modern security threats through military solutions alone.

Speaking at the Marine Corps Association’s Ground Dinner in Alexandria, Va., on May 5, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni said the United States — and the Marine Corps — must make a greater effort to understand the problems of the developing world instead of narrowly focusing on fighting terrorism.

“Our threat is that half of the world is remarkably unstable and it brings that to our shores everyday … we need to do more than throw the military at this problem,” he said.

“Whatever the causes of stability in this world are, the causes of it are what have to be addressed. If you don’t deal with reasons, you’re going to continually have to deal with the symptoms.”
Here we can see another of the foreign policy principles that I believe progressives should take: we must search out and address the root causes of instability, instead of constantly having to react to the symptoms.

The third aspect of foreign policy that I think progressives need to embrace is the recognition that we face a new paradigm in national security, one which requires us to address issues usually thought to fall outside of the IR realm.
Zinni criticized the government’s national security strategy as not evolving enough from Cold War days, when enemies were nations and conflicts were dealt with army on army.

The government needs a complete overhaul to deal with the post-Cold War world of non-state actors and other threats, Zinni said.

The government, he said, must take a larger role in dealing with multi-faceted instability and problems of a globalized world — terrorism, epidemics, migrations, environmental degradation — so the military doesn’t get stuck with the job of economic and social rebuilding when those problems turn into threats, he said
To put the above principle in another way, progressives and liberals need to embrace reform of our national security policy and forces. As the Iraq War has made painfully obvious the military is not adequately equipped for the tasks of rebuilding and policing a failed (or in this case an overthrown and occupied) state. For example Zinni's plan for occupying Iraq (not that he wanted to invade and occupy, but he saw it as a possible scenario that needed to be planned for) called for about 18 times the number of civilian authorities.
In my time at CENTCOM, we actually looked at a plan for reconstruction, and actually developed one at CENTCOM because I though that we, the military, would get stuck with it. In my mind, we needed formidable teams at every provincial level. 18 teams. The size of the CPA was about the size we felt we needed for one province, let alone the entire country of Baghdad [sic] (Iraq), to do those other parts.
Beyond the recognition of the need for deployable non-military personnel, Zinni also recognizes that the causes of instability emanate from such non-military areas as environmental degradation, epidemics and mass migration.

In the last section of the article we see an aspect of foreign policy that is completely "liberal."
While Zinni said the military should focus on fighting wars — not rebuilding cultures and societies — military officers also need to make a greater effort to understand the problems of the world.

“We need to broaden out to where we become truly renaissance men and women. Just to go there and think you can break things and kill people better than anybody else won’t work. We’ve seen that before; the movie was called Vietnam.”

Zinni said that soon after graduating from The Basic School, Marine Corps officers should begin branching out, learning about the world’s cultures and problems. Specifically, officers need to understand that western and military logic don’t necessarily apply to other parts of the world.

“You need to understand these other pieces. It doesn’t mean the military do them, but for the fit and the integration you need to be educated enough to take that on,” he said.
And before you even suggest that this isn't a liberal view of how to deal with the world, let me just point to the definition of liberal:
1. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
3. Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
4. Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.
Now if only we could convince Gen. Zinni that definitions 1, 2 and 4 belong together we'd be one step closer to finding a Democratic spokesman for a truly progressive foreign policy.