- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who once made war in the Middle East, flies today into the maelstrom of warring Israelis and Palestinians in a battle for peace.

"He is well suited for the mission. This is not about detailed treaties. It needs a straightforward person, someone people trust," said one State Department official.

Gen. Zinni, 54, served in Vietnam, Somalia, and during the Persian Gulf war. He rose to be head of the U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibilities stretches from the Middle East to as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He made his mark on the U.S. military by delving deeply into the non-Western cultures where he was assigned to operate. In Vietnam, he learned the native language and lived mainly with locals.

When assigned in 1997 to the Central Command, he began studying Arabic and Islamic culture and then began visiting with many Arab leaders.

Gen. Zinni also earned a reputation for challenging military conventions amid his disillusionment with U.S. tactics in the Vietnam War.

He commanded U.S. military relief operations in Turkey and northern Iraq after the Gulf war, also in the former Soviet Union and in Somalia in 1992, where his troops protected aid supplies from local warlords.

In his last military assignment before retiring in 2000, Gen. Zinni went to Central Asia to build new relationships with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which played a vital role during the anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan.

Speaking last March at the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, he urged addressing the root causes of terrorism.

"I don't believe that the vast majority of terrorists do what they do out of some fanatical motivation, religious or political belief," he said.

"It's usually because we have a part of the world that's traumatized; that, through humanitarian or political conditions that are very, very poor, we have a number of young people, usually young men, who are disenfranchised, who are radicalized, dissatisfied, who want to strike out at something.

"Some political condition, economic or human condition, has made them that way," he added.

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