For the better part of the last half century, the United States has been the world's police, claiming to defend ideologies, allies, and our national security through brute force. But is military action always the most appropriate response? Drawing on his vast experience, retired four-star general Tony Zinni argues that we have a lot of work to do to make the process of going to war-or not-more clear-eyed and ultimately successful. He examines the relationship between the executive and the military; the challenges of working with the UN, coalition forces, and NATO; and the difficult choices that need to be made to create tomorrow's military. Among his provocative points: Virtually every recent American military operation follows a disconnected series of actions that lead to outcomes we never foresaw or intended. We need to assign accountability for the political decisions that can make or break a mission. Words and ideas are as important to victory in today's conflicts as bullets. From the Oval Office to the battlefield, Before the First Shots Are Fired is a hard-hitting analysis of the history of America's use of military action and a spirited call for change.