Retired General: Time to Stop Being So “Paranoid” About Boots on the Ground

A great point here from General Anthony Zinni, the retired Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command: “I wish we were not so paranoid about boots on the ground. We can’t even define it! There’s going to have to be special operations forces,” Zinni told NBC’s Meet the Press about the way forward in Iraq.

He’s quite right, in the sense that America has become so war-weary that when we discuss these matters, everyone’s thoughts tend to turn towards one extreme or another: full military engagement…or complete abandonment. The best option probably lies somewhere in between, but President Obama has become so adamant about disengagement that it’s clouding his ability to make any sort of judgment call. Obama also happens to be completely incapable of admitting that he was wrong in his assessments about where the greatest threats to national security are actually coming from, and it has caused his so-called doctrine of “don’t do stupid stuff” to completely fall apart. The “stupid stuff” has, in fact, become his sheer failure to accomplish anything positive on the world stage since the death of Osama bin Laden.

Now, before you rush to label Zinni as a war-mongering neocon, keep in mind that he was quite critical of the Bush administration before and during the invasion of Iraq. You may recall that in 2008, his name was floated as a possible vice presidential running mate for Obama in order to beef up his foreign policy credentials (how and why Joe Biden beat him out on that is anyone’s guess). So let’s remember where this is coming from.

If you put two brigades on the ground of U.S. forces, they would push ISIS back to Syria in a heartbeat and probably take less time, less cost, and I think in the long run fewer casualties overall,” said General Zinni, as he outlined his prescription for tackling the current terror threat.

Still, the term “boots on the ground” is tossed around so often as a pejorative, it’s as if everyone has Boots on the Ground Tourette’s Syndrome. Maybe boots are required at this point in time, or maybe they’re not. But if we always rule them out entirely from the get-go when limited engagements MAY actually be effective once in a while, aren’t we doing our nation a disservice? We can’t let bitterness about how Iraq was handled a decade ago guide what the policy is today. Things are different, the threats are greater, and considerations are being made with newer technology and presumably, improved intelligence. It might behoove the Commander-in-Chief to assess threats to the homeland on a case-by-case basis, rather than using “I’m the anti-George Bush president” as the singular deciding factor.

I’m not saying that boots on the ground is necessarily the answer in Iraq. I’m simply stating that ruling it out before its potential positives are fully understood is foolish. To Obama’s credit, maybe boots on the ground isn’t the answer, and perhaps he fumbled his way around and accidentally discovered that airstrikes ARE the better option. If that’s the case, how about outlining that for the American people? What if the strategy calls for airstrikes AND some boots on the ground? Okay, fine. Articulate that. But can he at least give us SOMETHING to work with so we’re not all running around fearing that no one is actually leading the United States right now?

Unfortunately with Obama, it’s all or nothing. Boots on the ground or complete withdrawal. One size fits all. And usually, that size equals FAILURE. It makes it that much easier for him to turn the John McCains of the world into straw-men later. There’s no complexity to it whatsoever, when in reality, the best solutions are often composites of multiple strategies.

But if you’re a liberal reading this, feel free to add your own paranoia about the Military Industrial Complex and all of its evils below.


Matt Fox

Senior Editor

Fox has history in broadcasting that spans two decades. From his early days as an FM host and club DJ in the mid-90′s to his later experiences in political talk radio, he has always had a knack for combining topical news with his love for popular culture. Those experiences culminated in his position as executive producer for several radio shows featured in the TALKERS Heavy 100. Originally from New York, Fox has made the great pilgrimage down to sunny south Florida.

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