Battle Ready – Book Review
Book Review: Battle Ready
Tom Clancy & General Tony Zinni
Recently, six retired Generals of the United States military have stepped forward to criticize Donald Rumsfeld for his handling of Operation Iraqi Freedom. One of the six was retired Marine General Anthony ‘Tony’ Zinni. General Zinni has had a remarkable career that spanned from the Vietnam War to Commander of Central Command (Centcom) during Operation Desert Fox to being designated a ‘Wise Man’ whose ability as a diplomat can open doors and influence others positively towards the United States and its Western partners.
Tony Zinni’s first posting as a young Marine officer was as an advisor with the South Vietnamese Marines. Like the United States Marines, the South Vietnamese Marines were an elite unit that made do with material shortcomings and, at times, less than inspired leadership from its officer corps. It was from here that Tony Zinni learned two important lessons in that: 1) inspired troops can thrive even in the worst situations and 2) the best way to work with allies was to understand their culture and mindset. While many officers learned the first lesson, a lot of them overlooked the second and it was perhaps this lesson that made Tony Zinni the man he is today. Tony Zinni is not a graduate of the Naval Academy, but graduated from Villanova University where he was a member of the ‘Platoon Leaders Class’ which is the Marine version of ROTC. Tony Zinni was badly injured in the closing phase of the Vietnam War and he began the slow recovery from the terrible wounds. After recovering from the wounds he received in Vietnam Tony Zinni was sent to Okinawa where he thought he’d go back in country for another tour but the ‘Vietnamization’ of the war had started and the American forces were being drawn down. Tony Zinni was caught in a catch-22 type situation. He couldn’t be deployed to Vietnam because of the severity of the wounds he received nor could he be assigned to any infantry unit in the 3rd Marine Division because it WAS deployable to Vietnam. So for the next 8 months of his year long tour in the Vietnam tour of duty was with the 3rd Force Service Regiment which was a logistics unit at Camp Foster in Okinawa. Assigned to Headquarters and Support Company, Tony Zinni watched as racial tensions flared in the corps and tensions with the local Okinawans flared up as well. A beer lubricated remark soon found Tony in charge of the Guard Force for Camp Foster. It was as the guard commander that Tony picked up more life lessons that a good leader should know. Tony returned to the Infantry and the 2nd Marine Division after his tour at Camp Foster ended.
Tony continued to climb the ranks and with each new posting he learned and grew into one of the finest combat commanders the United States has ever produced. He learned to blend diplomacy with the ways of the warrior. It would be safe to say that Tony Zinni also learned the art of psychology with those he dealt with. Tony Zinni became a flexible part of the United States Government when it needed somebody who not only could deal with the battlefield aspects, but the diplomatic and cultural aspects as well. The world can use more Tony Zinni’s.
Battle Ready is co-written by Tom Clancy and Tony Zinni himself. The text is crisp and flawless. The text written by Tony Zinni is italicized and thus easy to differentiate from that of Tom Clancy. The only concern that I have is that Tony Koltz is listed in the writing credits, but his role is never discussed anywhere. There are no illustrations in the book which is a minor shortcoming, but if there had been than the value of the book would have only been increased. With a list price of $16.00 the book is readily available for every reader. If you are interested in the arts of leadership or the hidden history of many recent events or just looking for a good read on a modern mover and shaker then Battle Ready is highly recommended. Battle Ready should be required reading for junior leaders of all branches of the government.