Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brzezinski's Foreign Policy Recommendations

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has a new column out titled, "The global political awakening." He gives some fairly specific recommendations for the direction of U.S. foreign policy.  Let's examine some of them:

1.  "re-establish a shared sense of purpose between America and Europe."  This is pretty vague, but essentially he's calling for the U.S. to work closer with European allies and make them feel like they have a role in U.S. foreign policy decisions.  I'm not sure how we accomplish that, but it appears to be a worthy goal.

2. "A regular personal dialogue...between the U.S. president and the Chinese leader."  Brzezinski wants more engagement with China to develop "a shared sense of responsibility." This is a realist approach that recognizes that we need Chinese cooperation on various issues.  It seems like a reasonable proposal.  We can't afford to ignore China.

3.  Diplomatic efforts toward Russia, in conjunction with Europe, to "seek agreements that enhance global stability, promote nuclear weapons reduction and deal with such regional problems as Iran."  Unfortunately such efforts assume that Russia is willing to cooperate.  There haven't been many signs of that lately.  He writes that the U.S. and Europe have to 

find a way of reaffirming their commitment to the integrity of Ukraine and Georgia while conveying to Russia that their interest in these two states relates to the gradual construction of a larger democratic Europe and is not designed to threaten Russia itself.

Good luck with that.

4.  "The Israeli-Palestinian peace process needs to be a priority."  Here I strongly disagree.  As a realist, Brezinski should understand that the Israeli-Palestinian situation is an unsolvable problem. The best thing we can do is to try to keep it from escalating. Wasting our time trying to come up with new agreements is pointless. We should also stop pretending to be some sort of honest broker and recognize that Israel is our ally, the Palestinians are hostile, and act accordingly.

5.  "undertake seriously reciprocal negotiations with Iran."  Useless and counterproductive.  Our only negotiations with Iran should be in the form of clear, unmistakable threats -- ie. deterrence. The current Iranian regime cannot be trusted.  Making some sort of deal with Iran, which they will then break -- either openly or secretly -- is a terrible idea.

6. "America's strategy regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan needs a basic reassessment."  Here he argues for a shift in Afghanistan toward a policy aimed at trying to separate the Taliban from Al Qaeda -- more diplomacy and less military action.  I think we should definitely consider such a strategy.  He does not elaborate with regard to Pakistan.

The entire article is definitely worth reading, even though I disagree with some of his assumptions and recommendations.


  1. I agree with most of your reactions.

    However, I do think we should have greater dialogue with Iran. Their leaders are actually uncomfortable about the idea, because Bush/Cheney were so mega-hostile and perfect foils for Iran's own extremism. That said, I trust the Iranian leadership about as much as North Korea's, which is to say not at all.

    In realpolitik terms, it's too bad that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" has actually strengthened Iran's hand in the region, by eliminating Saddam as a counterweight, and giving them a potential Shiite client state.

  2. "However, I do think we should have greater dialogue with Iran. "

    Yes, it's possible that we might be able to resolve some minor issues. If we are going to pursue a policy of deterrence toward Iran we do need to talk to them. I'm just extremely wary of talks based on the idea that we are going to be able to make some sort of major deal with them.

    As for strengthening their hand, I disagree with that interpretation although it could happen in the future. As long as U.S. troops & bases remain next door in Iraq, Iran has no client state and basically has the U.S. military as its neighbor.

    If at some point the Iraqi government kicks us out entirely, then the balance for Iran could change dramatically.