Sixth Course, Session 6: General Abizaid

The “Mad Arab” came, saw and appeared to urgently need something to conquer. He wore his combat fatigues because, he said, after days of testifying before Congress, there was too much blood on his uniform.

He spoke well, with humour and vision, and tugged at the heartstrings with a lovely ‘call to service’ at the start of his address (which almost made me want to enlist in the US Army). He made an eloquent case that this is more a battle of perception than a military battle and that’s where the US needs to win this war. He chilled my spine when he declared that in today’s wars there are no civilians (not the vegetable vendor, not the Red Cross, not the most impartial newspaper). And he made a lot of international friends when he admitted publicly that the US could certainly be a lot humbler in the world.

But in the final analysis, what came through most is that the General, like everyone else, doesn’t really have a clue about how to stop this thing his bosses started. Sure, he can analytically list the three biggest challenges of this era for global security (Israel-Palestine, Shi’ite extremism, Sunni extremism) and come up with a to-do list. But the ‘how-to’ question remained glaringly unanswered. I suppose it’s possible that he does have the answer and isn’t telling us. Yet something in his body language and words makes me think it’s unlikely that even the Mad Arab knows something we don’t.

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