Listening to the Generals

In the last five years, the respect accorded to military officials’ opinions has fluctuated with the political climate, something Anthony Zinni knows all too well.

On October 10, 2002, General Anthony Zinni spoke at the Middle East Institute:

If we think there is a fast solution to changing the governance of Iraq,
then we don't understand history, the nature of the country, the divisions,
or the underneath suppressed passions that could rise up. God help us if we
think this transition will occur easily.
That's going to be extremely difficult. There were 98 opposition groups the
last time I counted; I think now it has increased a little bit. If you
believe that they're all going to rush to the palace, hold hands and sing
Kum Ba Yah, I doubt it. If you think that people won't see opportunity to do
things that will cause concern in the region, whether to the Iranians, the
Turks or others, and go against what we hope will happen and against
agreements that will be made, then I think you could be sadly mistaken. If
you think it's going to be easy to impose a government or install one from
the outside, I think that you're further sadly mistaken and that you don't
understand this region.
There is no history of Jeffersonian democracy here. If we think that this is
going to happen overnight, we're wrong. In my experience with any
involvement I've had in nation building and I've had some you need a period
of transition. You need an immediate sense of order; you need to assess what
is happening on the ground. You need to correct some things that are not
going in the right direction. You need to build confidence. You need to
rebuild institutions. You need to create a system of governance that will
last, that the people can understand, participate in and feel confident in.
If you think you're going to do that in a month or two, or even a year or
two, I think you're dreaming. I've never seen it done like that.