Executive Times






2006 Book Reviews


The Battle for Peace by Tony Zinni




(Mildly Recommended)




Click on title or picture to buy from amazon.com






I kept looking for greater coherence or clarity from Tony Zinni’s new book, The Battle for Peace, but came away with my search unfulfilled. Readers may agree or disagree with Zinni’s central premise that the United States has created an empire, whether intentionally or not. What we do differently because of that became hazier. The abstract way Zinni presents his case made it difficult to discern his message. Here’s an excerpt, from the middle of Chapter 3, “Beyond Checkpoint Charlie,” pp. 60-65:


People are not necessarily losing their old forms of identity, but the forms of identity are changing, the makeup of societies is changing, and the emphases people put on their own identity—the ways people look at themselves—are changing: “What’s more important to me? My country? My ethnicity or race? My religion?”

What does it mean to be French? Millions of North African Mus­lims are now French. But they are hardly French in the same sense that Jacques Chirac is French or that Juliette Binoche is French.

What does it mean to be American? Millions of Hispanic peoples from Latin America—ethnically Native Americans—have now become American citizens, and are now in the majority throughout much of our West and Southwest—or will be soon. The Indians are taking back the country.

When Marshal Tito ran Yugoslavia, he kept the lid on the entire country; and people might actually have considered themselves Yu­goslavs. . . though they also thought of themselves as Serbs, Albani­ans, Bosnians, or Muslims, Orthodox Christians, or Catholics. But after he died, the old order collapsed, the lid popped, and nobody thought of himself as Yugoslav. All of a sudden, this person is a Serb. That person is an Albanian. That one is a Bosnian. That one is a Mus­lim. A Croat. Eastern Orthodox. Catholic. Suddenly, identity issues became central to the political dynamic. . . religious identities, eth­nic identities, tribal identities.

Something similar has happened in Iraq. Under Saddam, every­one in Iraq was Iraqi, they had no choice. . . though they were also Sunni, Shiite, Chaldean, Kurd, Turcoman, Assyrian, or Christian. Now that we have knocked out Saddam’s regime, can we count on everyone in Iraq still holding on to an Iraqi identity?

We invaded Iraq believing that Iraqis would all keep thinking of themselves as Iraqis. We went in to free all Iraqis as Iraqis. But it turns out they didn’t think of themselves as Iraqis. They wanted to be free as Shiites or Kurds. And it turns out that the minority Sunnis were reluctant to give up the privileges, powers, and ascendancy they had long held over all the other Iraqis.

In Central Asia, after the Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Turcomans, Kirghiz, and Tajiks threw off the Soviet yoke, their first priority was to return to their own languages and traditions. Yet few of the Central Asians had a clear idea about what exactly were their na­tional identities.

When I visited Uzbekistan, the Uzbeks were searching their his­tory for evidence of their Uzbek identity, building museums to cele­brate their glorious past, and claiming Tamurlane as their patriarch. But Tamurlane was not an Uzbek leader; he was a Mongol leader, the product of an invading and conquering people who subjugated the Uzbeks.

Do Muslims think of themselves primarily by their national, eth­nic, or religious identity? Some go one way; some go other ways.

Why does a young Saudi decide to go blow himself up in Kash­mir for an issue between Pakistanis and Indians? Why does another young Saudi go to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviets? Or go to fight in Iraq against Americans? They feel a religious identity affinity that is stronger than their national identity.

In America we tend to identify by ethnic origin—Italian, His­panic, Native American, African American, Pakistani, WASP. In Eu­rope, communities are more often identified by religious affiliation. In Europe, they talk about the Muslim Community, not about the Pakistani Brit or the French Algerian or the French Moroccan.

A professor friend of mine in Britain—a British citizen whose ethnic roots are Pakistani and whose religion is Islam—feels Euro­peans are reinforcing the Muslim identities of immigrant communi­ties who come from all over the map. Europeans are dumping this enormous, multinational hodgepodge into a single crucible—Mus­lim. What besides their religion do Irish Catholics, Italian Catholics, German Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, and Filipino Catholics have in common? Would an imposed religious identity in the United States have made assimilation more difficult for them? Does an encouraged or imposed religious identity foster greater problems in today’s charged environment? When Europeans—intentionally or uninten­tionally—make the mosque the central point of focus for everyone who happens to be Muslim, do they create conditions that give radical imams far greater influence than they would otherwise have?



Mass Migrations


The decline of the nation-state and the breakdown of secure national borders have taken the lid off the normal constraints on legal and illegal migrations. To paraphrase the Southwest Airlines ad, “You are now free to move about the world.” Millions of people all over the world are moving out of their home countries—either because the grass is greener somewhere else, or more likely because life is unbear­able at home.

Normally, people want to live where they have their families and their roots. And normally, it takes a strongly motivated person to rip out his roots and abandon his old life and family. In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, as the American national myth has it, the motivation for immigration was dreams and daring.

Today people are more likely to risk the move because the chaos, instability, or violence back home have made their lives intolerable.

But the risks of moving are great.

Many die attempting to cross the Sonora desert from Mexico to the United States. Many die attempting to cross the sea from Haiti or Cuba to the United States, or from North Africa to Italy, or from Asia to Australia.

Once they make it to America or Europe, the migrants—both legal and illegal—often transfer to the first world the instabilities and chaos endemic in the third world; and so they put strains on a na­tion’s security and social systems that its systems may not be able to handle. There are humanitarian issues, religious tolerance issues, po­litical issues (they can eventually vote, and they need services, which cost money). Extreme Islamist immigrants bring in mosques and leaders who encourage radicalism and violence.

In the past, immigrants into the United States normally migrated into already-existing immigrant communities. We created enclaves— Italian communities, Irish communities, Jewish communities, German communities—which were eventually stepping stones to assimilation.

Today in cities like New York or Los Angeles, there are Russian communities, Chinese communities, and Arab communities. Will these, as before, prove to be stepping stones to assimilation in a gen­eration or two? It’s hard to say—yet, you can now see encouraging signs in places such as New York, like modest, young veiled Muslim women wearing slacks and T-shirts that read, “YOGA AND PILATES.”

This country has a tradition of assimilation; Europe does not. In the past, when you thought of Western or of Northern Europe, you thought of white men. Exclusively white societies are everywhere a thing of the past. But what will then be the impact on these societies of a more varied society that doesn’t have a central, dominant tribe, or the tribal recognition or identity they once had? Migrations to Europe from former colonies have generated frictions that Europeans aren’t handling well. European birth rates are declining. European economies need the workers, but their societies have a hard time handling the cul­tural and religious differences the workers bring with them.

On the other hand, if conditions are made more tolerable back in their home countries, people will stay home. In the previous century, many of the best, brightest, and most highly educated emigrated from India. But as capacity was built up and good jobs became in­creasingly available, the best and the brightest decided to stay home. Though outsourcing to India became a problem for the American economy and employment picture, India is far more stable, peaceful, and prosperous than it was a few years ago.

Anyone who fails to understand what these changes mean, and what they bring to countries and societies, will be lost in today’s world. Anyone who tries to apply mid-twentieth-century templates to these problems will find himself lost, confused, and powerless to handle them.



Failed States


Collapsing states and states on the edge are always bad news.

They breed wars, secessions, and regional chaos. They can be­come sanctuaries for criminals of all sorts, predators, warlords, hos­tile non-state entities, extremist movements, and far-reaching terror­ist networks. They can be sources of massive illegal migrations; generate global environmental or health problems; unleash religious radicalism and horrible ethnic or religious hatreds that spread be­yond their local borders; and produce humanitarian disasters on a massive scale.

A given state’s incapability may be in a few areas or it may be in general. And these instabilities may cause it to collapse, or they may not. Some states simply live with their instabilities and struggle along. These states may never collapse and fail, but they are weak.

The ability of fragile states to survive in the current environment has become more problematic. Some states that were artificial cre­ations from colonial eras are coming apart. Others that have not had viable natural resources or an advantageous geography find survival difficult. Still others with significant internal problems and strife lack the capacities necessary to prevail over the forces destroying them. These increasingly become global problems that can’t be ignored.

All the changes put in motion in 1989 have at best generated mixed results on this front. The promises of better economic, politi­cal, social, and humanitarian conditions have been realized by a few societies. A great number of societies have experienced the opposite, facing such disturbing negative conditions as an increase in economic polarity (the rich get richer and the poor get poorer); degradation of the environment and resulting destructive climatic effects; overpopu­lation of regions unable to sustain demographic growth; and the dev­astating effects of exploding urbanization in the third world. Multi-million-inhabitant third world cities rarely have a viable physical infrastructure, or political and social structure, and they breed every kind of social, health, and environmental evil.


For those of us frustrated with our current international engagements, The Battle for Peace points ahead to greater challenges. Zinni’s anecdotes are interesting, but his prescription contains too much writing that’s hard to interpret.


Steve Hopkins, August 25, 2006



Buy The Battle for Peace

@ amazon.com

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage



Go to 2006 Book Shelf

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to The Big Book Shelf: All Reviews





*    2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the September 2006 issue of Executive Times


URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/The Battle for Peace.htm


For Reprint Permission, Contact:

Hopkins & Company, LLC • 723 North Kenilworth AvenueOak Park, IL 60302
Phone: 708-466-4650 • Fax: 708-386-8687

E-mail: books@hopkinsandcompany.com