Brzezinski on Afghanistan, diplomacy with Iran, Palestine-Israel, Chas Freeman, the Israel Lobby, and the current state of international disorder.
If there’s anything uncontroversial about Zbigniew Brzezinski, it’s that he’s one of the most controversial people of the last thirty years. From his days as National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration to now, so-called doves called him hawkish and the hawks consider him ‘too diplomatic’. He’s more recently in the fire from the flame throwers of conspiracy theorists as co-founder of The Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller in the early 70’s and if you want to much further understand how this world works, I highly suggest reading The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission — which is pricey, but can be found at large metropolitan and university libraries (I cite it in a prior article, relevant to the topic) — and his personal works: The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives and The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership.
One might think it’s odd for a deonotological person like myself to admire such a man, but it was in studying Prof. Brzezinski that I understood the reality of the world to be a polycentric (anarchic) legal order. With this interview, you’ll get a bit of my thoughts on Prof. Brzezinski, but I can save the real meat of my analysis of this man I’ve studied so closely for a day where I have more time to give his work the depth it deserves. For now, I’ll just say that he’s one of the best international relations analysts I’ve ever met, read, studied, etc., but it is in my opinion that he’s made calculations where many lives have been lost when his conclusions have been based on analysis heavily weighed toward the more near-sighted factors.
Prof. Brzezinski, since 9/11, has been really good at giving circular answers on Afghanistan — particularly on the anatomy of the mujahideen. A crucial point that he wastes no time in hitting is that al-Qa’ida and the Taliban are not a united front and the Taliban is not centralized. Since their fall from power of the Afghan region south of the Northern Alliance, the Taliban has scattered. Prof. Brzezinski isn’t saying that the Taliban has always been this way. He’s talking about right here, right now. He couldn’t be more right.
The Taliban is really just Newspeak for militant opposition in the Af-Pak region. The Newspeak isn’t reserved to the West. Iran’s Press TV reported a militant in Pakistan’s relatively autonomous Swat Valley as saying, “Osama can come here. Sure, like a brother they can stay anywhere they want.” referring to him as a “local spokesman for the Taliban”. This was simply some brown guy with a gun who might be really nice to reporters a lot of times.
This is important to understand because the meme surrounding the Afghan War as the ‘good war’ is that:
- The Taliban are terrorists responsible for 9/11 from some to large degrees;
- The Taliban are regaining a stronghold in Afghanistan; leading to
- Everyone in any way sympathetic to legal orders slightly resembling Sharia Law are fundamentalist Taliban who must be destroyed and killing five civilians to kill one is a necessary evil.
Without understanding what the Taliban is (at least) to this degree — that it is not one faction, but a Newspeak generalization for many factions in the Af-Pak region, it’s difficult to begin analyzing the Af-Pak situation.
After that, Prof. Brzezinski plays the same tune of the last eight years — that the growth of the mujahideen was the result of the Soviets. To a degree, he is correct. Sharing a common enemy strengthens a military faction of any sort, greatly — Prof. Brzezinski would probably say more than anything else. He’s critical of Western ignorance toward the mujahideen when the West didn’t need them to crush the Soviets anymore. There’s a degree of truth to this, as well, and is consistent with Prof. Brzezinski’s criticism of the first Gulf War — sharing a common enemy strengthens a military faction of any sort, and Prof. Brzezinski knew that escalated presence anywhere in the region would be the U.S. creating itself into that new enemy.
Prof. Brzezinski always fails to mention the most crucial point: he masterminded the mujahideen without an exit strategy. Can you do such a thing? I really don’t know and this is where creating the mujahideen was a near-sighted gesture — one that became 9/11.
One response could be that the exit strategy is to be their Nanny State after they crippled the Soviets to end the Cold War. This is inaccurate vacuum logic. A move like this would’ve surrounded Pakistan and Iran at a very sensitive time. The Soviets were a serious threat to the Middle East, as a whole. After the U.S.S.R.’s demise, it was impossible for the U.S. to have a presence in the region without being the common enemy and having an adverse effect.
Diplomacy with Iran
A couple of months ago, Prof. Brzezinski said that Iran (basically) isn’t stupid, therefore will not initiate a war in the region and that there were two approaches to conduct relations with Iran:
The first is to design the negotiation to fail, and to make Iran appear to blame. This would be achieved by setting preconditions, threatening with sanctions and force, calling for regime change and labeling the Iranian government as a “terrorist entity.”
The second approach to negotiation is to, “Seek to engage the Iran in a process in which there emerges the possibility of some consensual arrangement.”
In this interview, Prof. Brzezinski makes it very clear to not act as a spokesperson for the Obama Administration and applies these approaches to two random sides to any negotiation. The implication is quite clear from the follow-ups where the interviewer tries hard, but doesn’t get him to bite: that both Pres. Obama and Pres. Ahmadinejad are setting up negotiations to fail.
Mr. Obama is issuing ultimatums for Iran to stop doing things it isn’t doing (enriching uranium for nuclear weapons), has already applied extended sanctions, and threatened force. Iran is using abusive rhetoric, which Prof. Brzezinski calls, “either stupid or Machiavellian.” Prof. Brzezinski only says that were one side of negotiations to act in these ways, they’re setting up for failure. He wasn’t specific, but if you follow the current events, I think you’ll come to the same conclusion as I did in interpreting where Prof. Brzezinski was directing his rhetoric.
This is the most interesting part of the interview, for no reason that had to do with the peace-process [sic] at all. Prof. Brzezinski makes the point that it could be easier for Israel PM Bibi Netanyahu to hammer out a two-state solution with his image and the international “racist” image of his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
This clicked in an instant: a politician’s image always makes it easier for him act in manners contrary to that image. You can expand your support and while your supporters will not love it, your extreme rhetoric can always fire them back up again. This is exactly what’s happening in the U.S. Were Sen. John McCain elected president last November, there’s no way in hell that the press would give him the free pass for the hawkish measures Pres. Obama is taking regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and not prosecuting Bush Administration officials for torture and war crimes.
Were Tzipi Livni elected prime minister of Israel, the public opinion in support of a two-state solution would be far greater, but if a racist and a Likudnik can somehow come around, it might not be that bad.
I hadn’t thought of the recent Israeli elections to this Machiavellian extent, but it makes some sense. To go back to Prof. Brzezinski’s words on abusive language in diplomacy, Mr. Lieberman’s foul, racist mouth will better manufacture consent among Neo-Cons that just don’t to be associated with Mr. Lieberman.
Chas Freeman and the Israel Lobby
Prof. Brzezinski defended one of my favorite books, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by Profs. John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt. Prof. Brzezinski’s one of the extreme few to confirm the great influence of the Israel Lobby in the U.S. and not have his career crucified, but that’s because Prof. Brzezinski doesn’t make moral statements as others who confirm these facts often do. I would like to ask Prof. Brzezinski, “Why couldn’t Chas Freeman serve as Pres. Obama’s ‘Lieberman’?”
After hearing Prof. Brzezinski’s analysis of the new administration in Israel, I’m finding it difficult to believe that the Obama Administration will make the bold (yet, just) approach to support the 1967 borders of Palestine and Israel in accordance with international law. Prof. Netanyahu will always come to the table acting as if his presence at the table is such a large concession that relinquishing settlements will be ‘too much’.
Prof. Brzezinski doesn’t lie when he identifies the chaos of this world. In reality, the fuel to this fire of chaos are the interlopers. Harmony between between two parties — whether they be the Karzai Administration and the Taliban or the Palestinians and the Israelis — can only truly be achieved by those two parties at odds with one another. For a new world order to emerge from this chaotic rubbish — that is in any way orderly — is to accept and embrace the reality of the anarchic world in which we live and only be interlopers when both parties consent to the interlopers’ presence. Without this consent, the dissenting party will not trust the interloper — hindering the negotiations — and he’ll usually be right not to.
Prof. Brzezinski is extremely careful with his words, but can come off as speaking cyclically, if you don’t listen carefully; if you’re trying to judge him as he speaks, you’ll only hear what you want to hear.
Part One (8:31):
Part Two (8:58):
Part Three (9:44):