Amidst all the noise of people repeating the same three ideas, of media outlets concentrating on the superficial and reporting the noteworthy, is there original thinking and analysis anywhere? Here is some original thinking.
For Gen. Anthony Zinni, one of the country’s most respected military thinkers, Iraq and Afghanistan are already yesterday’s wars. Confident that the Taliban will be at the conference table by the end of the year, he is thinking about how the United States should be preparing for its next conflict.
It is easy to forget that there are some very bright military minds. Sam Grant and Robert E. Lee were intellectually gifted and capable. Even Colin Powell is quite bright, despite his lack of social courage (he has plenty of physical courage, quite a different thing).
He hinted that there had already been backroom talks between the U.S. and the Taliban—“like Kissinger’s with the North Vietnamese”—and predicted that these would lead to formal negotiations by the end of the year. So, he told an audience of several hundred students, academic staff, and visiting military officials, now is the time for the U.S. to consider what it expects from its military in the future.
Well, the US has publicly announced that it will negotiate with "moderate" Taliban elements.
The United States must be prepared to fight both a conventional war and “that other thing,” he said. And how to define “that other thing” will occupy us for the next ten years. His own definition is a nation that needs stabilization and reconstruction because the social institutions can’t cope.
“But our military is not designed to handle this,” Zinni said. He has counted 54 tasks the U.S. Army is performing in Iraq that can not be defined as “military,” including running swimming pools.
Nation-building, which Republicans castigated Bill Clinton for doing.
When we touch something, we own it,” Zinni said, taking Colin Powell’s quote, ‘When we break something, we own it,’ one step further. “And when we own it, we can’t help rebuilding it in our own image. That’s the American way. But we’re not good at it and we can’t afford it.”
We won’t even be able to claim victory when the troops come home, because “we don’t come home anymore,” Zinni said. “Sixty years after the Second World War, there are still American troops in Germany, South Korea. Sixty years from now, will we still have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?”
A sobering thought.