If the next president of the United States wants to call up General Anthony Zinni for guidance on what he or she should make a priority in the first term in office, Zinni already has his advice planned out.
Zinni, who was named the Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 Professor last year, delivered a lecture last night in Call Auditorium entitled "The New World Order." Zinni is a retired general in the United States Marine Corps, former Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command, and has traveled to more than 70 countries during his military and diplomatic services.
Zinni's advice to the next president comes in six parts.
First, he or she needs to "assess this new world," Zinni said. He stressed how important it is for the president and the government to be able to understand this world and the changes it has undergone, especially since the end of the Cold War era.
Through laughter-inducing anecdotes, Zinni was able to explain many of the changes that swept through the world with the fall of the Soviet Union.
"I want to take you back to about 1989," Zinni said to begin the lecture.
He described the chaos and the confusion that were rampant through the portion of Berlin controlled by the Soviet Union after its collapse, and he told how he and his colleagues were among the first ones to begin chipping away at the Berlin wall with a sledgehammer.
To highlight the changes that were occurring in America, he told a story about buying a car. Zinni had always bought his cars from Bob's Car Dealership, which sold Chevy automobiles. But when Zinni returned to America after the fall of the Soviet Union, he found that Car Dealership now had Japanese Hondas in the lot, instead of American Chevys.
"You communist," Zinni jokingly told Bob at the time.
But Bob proved to him that even though he was now selling foreign cars, he was doing more to support American industry than he would had he continued to sell Chevys. The Honda plant where his cars came from was stationed in Ohio, while the Chevy plant was in Mexico.
The change of the face of American industry was just one of the many changes that occurred in the post-Soviet Union era.
"The collapse of the Soviet Union invited people to reposition somewhere," Zinni said, explaining that people were moving across their native countries or entirely different countries.
Zinni's second piece of advice was to revive the importance of strategic design and the value of strategic thinking. He described how after World War II, Secretary of State George Marshall created the Marshall Plan to help rebuild war-torn countries. This, he said, was an example of strategic thinking, which he said is something that is missing in today's society.
"We all have collective Attention Deficit Disorder," Zinni said.
David Goochee '09 agreed with Zinni about the importance for the next president to think differently.
"It's important for the next president to be able to formulate new ideas about the geopolitical situation that we're facing," Goochee said.
Third, the next president needs to "try to solve problems before they become [a] crisis," Zinni said.
The American government, Zinni said, is too quick to simply "throw our military" in to solve problem. He described how in the case of the Iraq war the administration sent in the military to try and fix the problem rather than thinking strategically and trying to come up with other alternatives. He said the government did not understand the complexity of the Iraq region, making their easiest course of action military invasion.
The fourth part of his advice was to rebuild relationships with other nations. Before the Iraq war, Zinni said he would often hear citizens of foreigncountries speak of the infallibility and omnipotence of America. Now, he said he hears people doubt that America has what it takes to get the job done in Iraq.
"We want America back," Zinni said, which elicited applause from the audience.
Fifth, "we should also transform our military," Zinni said.
He explained how the American military still resembles the one that existed during the Cold War. Zinni explained how a terrorist organization operates through the use of cell phones, the internet and other technologies that were not in existence during the Cold War.
"It is not the kind of military we need for the 21st Century," Zinni said.
The sixth and final piece of advice Zinni would give the next president is "to take a hard look at this world."
He referred to warnings George Washington gave to avoid entangling alliances, and explained the isolationist tendencies of America at the end of World War I. America has had a history of trying to distance itself from whatever happens in the rest of the world, Zinni explained, but in today's world that is just not possible. Now matter how hard a country might try to avoid becoming involved in the affairs of other countries ultimately, "[it] will wash up on your shores," Zinni said.
After Zinni concluded his speech, many of those who lined up behind the microphones in the aisles to ask him questions thanked him for his speech and for his service to the United States.
"I think it hit on really relevant issues," Gracielle Cabungcal '09 said about Zinni's speech.
One of the main issues that the audience was interested in was Zinni's views about the Iraq war. While Zinni did not believe sending the military into Iraq was a good idea to begin with, he does not believe it is feasible for the United States to simply walk away now.
"We cannot abandon commitments," Zinni said.
© 2008 Cornell Daily Sun via U-WIRE