Retired Marine Corps general Zinni warns of the dangers of spending time in the so-called Arc of Instability—precisely the area where America’s course of empire-building has led.
It’s a time of unintended consequences; battling terrorism produces police statism, insisting on good intentions makes enemies. Zinni (with Koltz, both of them two-time co-authors with Tom Clancy) allows, with admirable candor, that “we are an empire,” though, he adds, it is one not of conquest but of influence. Zinni looks at some of the ways in which that influence, which exists side-by-side with an arrogant refusal to learn anything of the world beyond America’s borders, sometimes turns out to be a less than good thing; though he’s no Smedley Butler, for instance, he wonders whether giving free rein to multinational, indeed transnational, corporations is really wise in a time when state sovereignty is threatened and so much of the world is getting poorer. Zinni offers a blend of anecdote, memoir and policy wonkery to deliver a message that might be distilled thus: If you act in the world, act well, for you must live with the consequences—and, in what strategists call the Zone of Conflict, to live with them for a very long time. Throughout, Zinni clearly disapproves of the Bush administration’s unilateralism, and heading his list of prescriptions for building a better world is the care and feeding of international alliances. The real enemy, he concludes, is not insurgent Islam or terrorism but instability, which is just the sort of thing that nation-building and international aid can combat; though “it doesn’t take much for unstable societies to fall over the edge,” Zinni observes, optimistically, “it doesn’t take much to keep most of those societies from falling over the edge.” The details are a little sketchy. Still, it’s worth pondering the well-traveled, culturally aware general’s program for restoring at least some of America’s good name in the world.
Refreshingly contrarian, and perfectly commonsensical.