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Battle Ready (Study in Command) Hardcover – 1 May 2004
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"Military success, in and of itself, is never the complete answer. Success will have to be measured not in military terms, but in political terms in what is left behind. That will be the mark of what we are--what we leave behind."
A powerful assessment of today's hottest battle zone --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Clancy's eloquent certification of Major General Zinni's military credentials provides a formidable platform for a very tough critque of the intellecutual authors of the United States invasion of Iraq. Moreover, Clancy's well-known hawkish convictions adds volume to Zinni's powerful charge that the Bush administration failed the American people.
The former United States Central Command Commander in Chief points many fingers...and backs it up with solid facts. Zinni is a classic gentleman and officer and like many other Marines I know from Philadelphia...he tells it like it is. Highly recommended.
The book opens with a brief introduction to Zinni as CINC commander for the first 22 pages and then drops back to the beginning of his career where we find him in Vietnam. The next 100 pages covers the young lieutenant Zinni. Quickly we find him directing artillery fire on his first assignment. In his second combat experience he travels (naively) by himself by common Vietnamese bus to the Mekong Delta - Rung Sat. The oppressive heat, rivers, canals, jungle and the lurking VC (fighters by night farmers by day) all remind me very much of the recent book that I read on John Kerry - "Tour of Duty" - do not laugh! There is more in common than one might expect in some of their Vietnam stories.
I make the comparison with Kerry because Kerry and his men I think were average soldiers that came to serve, put in their time, do their part, and they wanted to leave - alive. Here we see a different picture with Zinni. He is a professional soldier first and seems less concerned about his own safety and he wants to stay in Vietnam with his fellow marines. He is very aggressive trying to fight when sick and wounded. Both Kerry and Zinni try to avoid the killing of civilians and to protect their men. But in general his early assignment are more like a "baseball utility player" or junior executive learning the ropes of the "marines corporation". He is sent around Vietnam where he fights as a back up with different groups of Vietnamese and US marines - not tied to one group like Kerry was - and he always seems to be in very active areas where you do not have time for reflection - as did Kerry. But like Kerry, he sometimes appearing to operate on gut instinct and adrenaline. For Zinni it was a time of learning and fighting.
He fights in the delta in the narrow rivers and jungle and swamps, near where Kerry had his Swift boat, then on to the central region of Binh Dinh, fighting with the Vietnamese marines where booby traps were a daily threat. Some of those Vietnamese marines that survived post war imprisonment by the north came to the US later with their families. He is assigned to a region near Saigon. He fights until so sick and with a low body weight he is forced to take a medical leave returning to the US for two years. Regaining his strength he returns and is promoted to commanding officer, Company A, 1 st battalion, 5th marines. There he suffers serious wounds from AK-47 fire and is evacuated by helicopter from the Que Son mountains. For both Zinni and Kerry, I think the Vietnam experience formed their characters.
The book goes on to chronicle his post war experiences in Okinawa, his ship-to-shore marine training, promotions to major and colonel, war college, and then promotion to general in 1989. He was in Israel during the Gulf war as a liaison officer with the patriot missile brigade. He spent time in Europe, the Pacific, led the Somalia effort and was promoted to run CENCOM. He was a man of action, always was volunteering for active marine assignments and he found retirement difficult. He tried to be a special peace envoy to the Middle East but was thwarted by the Palestinian division and violence. All in all this is a good book although I found some of the middle sections between Vietnam and Somalia a bit slow, but otherwise it is an interesting book, but not a real barn burner. The Vietnam part of 100 pages out of the 440 total is the most compelling and perhaps the most revealing.
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Zinni has subsequently been a strident critic of the Iraq invasion and the Bush administration, particularly the neo-cons in and out of the Pentagon; he has been mentioned as a possible running mate for John Kerry. This book is Zinni's life story, ghost written by a third party and marketed by Tom Clancy. But that's about all it is: what it is not is either an insightful history or a thoughtful policy commentary.
Zinni's military career began in Vietnam in 1961 and spanned a period of exceptional changes as America emerged from the slump of the 60s and 70s to take over the mantle of World Leader after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The US military has been faced with unprecedented requirements to adapt, and Zinni was in the middle of it for 40 years. His story is disappointingly one-dimensional, though, more a discussion of his career than an analysis of the issues.
Critical of the Peace Dividend and the failure to see that difficulties would arise from the ashes of the Cold War, Zinni's analysis is that East-West tensions were replaced by North-South tensions and that states have been replaced as the key players by non-states such as al Qaeda, NGOs and multi-national corporations, enabled by the "global information revolution" and cheap transportation for poor people wishing to emigrate, primarily Muslims to Europe. Zinni laments the absence of a post-Cold War Marshall Plan to deal with the rising tensions. Whether his or anyone's vision was actually so clear in 1989 is open to question.
Zinni's largest missions were the massive and successful relief effort in Iraqi Kurdistan after the first Gulf war and the support of the international relief mission in Somalia (Black Hawk Down). According to Zinni, the problem in Somalia was the UN, focused not on relief as much as on the political mission to establish democracy, excluding the warlords from the process. Zinni is actually quite sympathetic to Mohamed Farah Aideed whom he says was working with the US before the turnover of command to the UN and Zinni's departure.
A supporter of Clinton's instinct for engagement and critical of isolationist tendencies in the Congress that kept resources tight, Zinni identifies 1998 as the year terrorism became an institutional threat. Al Qaeda created a network to link previously disorganized groups to provide training, planning and funding, announcing its arrival that year with the East African embassy bombings (the WTC bombing five years prior is not mentioned). Also that year Zinni met Ahmed Chalabi, supported among others by John McCain, proposing to topple Saddam Hussein with US help; Zinni expressed his disdain, referring to a "Bay of Goats" with "Gucci Guerillas". As Zinni was transferring command to Tommy Franks in 2000, the USS Cole was bombed in Aden and Zinni took the hit before Congress and in the press.
Immediately following 9/11 Colin Powell asked Zinni to take the point on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, another in a long line of well-meaning but utterly doomed such attempts to make peace.
The book is easy reading but there's not a lot of meat unless you're really interested in Tony Zinni's career, per se.