Monday, 1 December 2008

US Foreign Policy and the Scrabble-tastic Zbig Brzezinski

Meanwhile, Chatham House had the Scrabble-tastic Zbigniew Brzezinski over to talk about his favourite subject- the Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President.

Brzezinski goes WAY back, and was a fixer for Jimmy Carter (yes, that far back), and has popped up on CNN for donkeys years. He wrote a book I quite liked for its honesty and lack of bullshit.

Prospect, inexplicably beloved by centrists-across-the-political-spectrum, ran a short piece on him a couple of years back...

"During a recent trip to congress, [Zbigniew Brzezinski] compared the effect of the Iraq war on US influence in the midde east to the loss of Anglo-French power after Suez. American dominance of the region was now in crisis, he said, and "we face the possibility of being pushed out of the Middle East." This got big applause. He went on to say that the US's role could be saved only if the great unmentionable were adressed. "The fact is that our policy on the Middle East is paralysed by domestic politics," he said. The power of the pro-Israel lobby through political fundraising and lobby groups had to be challenged. He expected this to earn him brickbats from his audience. To his great surprise he got a standing ovation."

Anyway, the precis of the Chatham House speech is worth a read. There are two developments that he reckons lessen US manouevrability

“The first development can be referred to as 'a global political awakening; Almost all of humankind is politically activated and issues of fundamental well-being are emerging as critical international issues: climate change, social inequality, and so on.”

Shades of “The Crisis of Democracy” from the Trilateral Commission- i.e. That there is too much democracy...

He continues:

“The second development partly stems from this diffusion of power: it is now infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control that same million.”

Blah blah, asymmetric warfare blah blah.

Yeah, expand the G8, have “regular informal dialogue between key strategic powers... not least with China...”

On Israel/Palestine, he seems to be advocating the Americans get with the (rest of the world's) programme, bang some heads together and end up with;

a) an eventual Palestinian state, demilitarised

b) territorial settlement “involving” 1967 lines, with equitable exchanges permitting the incorporation of highly urbanised Israeli settlements [the facts they've been busy creating on the ground] on the fringes into Israel

c) no right of return, though some “acknowledgement” and a pay-off

d) “Jerusalem must be shared, and the the Palestinian flag must be allowed to fly over the Dome fo the Rock"

On Afghanistan, he seems to caution against higher troop numbers, and says “the political track is crucial, not least exploring the possibility of agreement with the Talibans in certain areas.”
He and Rodric Braithwaite would probably get along just fine.

His concluding remarks are hilarious: “... the US public remains woefully undereducated about the world. This exposes the polity to demagogy, and accounts for the culture of fear that has characterised US foreign policy of late. It also facilitates foreign lobbies.” Who can he possibly mean?

For further info- The FT ran a piece today on Hilary Clinton's selection as US Secretary of State and James L. Jones as National Security Adviser

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