Wednesday, July 23, 2008


"Regret what? This secret operation was an excellent idea. It lured the Russians into the Afghan trap, and you would like me to regret that? On the day when the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote president Carter, in essence: "We now have the opportunity to provide the USSR with their Viet Nam war." Indeed for ten years Moscow had to conduct a war that was intolerable for the regime, a conflict which involved the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet Empire.

Le Nouvel Observateur: And also, don't you regret having helped future terrorists, having given them weapons and advice?

Zbigniew Brzezinski: What is most important for world history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? Some Islamic hotheads or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Le Nouvel Observateur: "Some hotheads?" But it has been said time and time again: today Islamic fundamentalism represents a world-wide threat...

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Rubbish! It's said that the West has a global policy regarding Islam. That's hogwash: there is no global Islam. Let's look at Islam in a rational and not a demagogic or emotional way. It is the first world religion with 1.5 billion adherents. But what is there in common between fundamentalist Saudi Arabia, moderate Morocco, militaristic Pakistan, pro-Western Egypt and secularized Central Asia? Nothing more than that which connects the Christian countries..."

Former American National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, interviewed by Le Nouvel Observateur, 15-21 January 1998, translation by Jean Martineau, in

When one reads that Monsieur Brzezinski has been interviewed once again in some newspaper (the Financial Times, the New York Times, et cetera), or writes an opinion piece, one is tempted to read and take seriously what this august and learned gentleman presents to us the public. Afterall, not only is this gentleman a former National Security Advisor, one of the few who has filled well this role in the formulation of American foreign policy (the others being Bundy, Kissinger, and General Scowcroft [twice]), but, in his earlier career as an academic in the fifties and early sixties he was a major presence in the academic scene in the field of sovietology. His collaboration with Carl J. Friedrich, made him one of the originators of the theoretical concept of 'totalitarianism', in the American academic mainstream. He was also an early adherent of the idea that the 'Soviet Bloc', was ripe for potential fissures which made for the possibilities that the so-called People's Democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, eager to possibly escape or at least lessen the bonds of Soviet-Russian hegemony.

However any such tendency to take entirely seriously what the good Professor says these days says should be held in check. Unfortunately, as a long stream of endlessly written and easily forgotten books since his time in government in 1981 (if one does not include his memoirs, the total is seven), easily proves, much of what Brzezinski says is said less for the purpose of any deep analytical thinking, and, much more for purposes of pour epater. Who is being epaterat the given moment, is also a secondary factor for the good Professor. At times his targets have included Gorbachev, George Bush the Elder's Persian Gulf War, non-intervention during the Bosnian Conflict, non-support for independence of Chechnya, the demonization of the Putin regime, et cetera, et cetera, the list being a rather a long one. The larger point, is that rather than reflecting the judgment of someone who has thought long and hard about policy in a deep and serious way, Brzezinski's pronouncements in the past twenty-five years, have all of the gravitas and substance of a stuffed turkey. Sad but unfortunately all too true. As per his latest table talk to the FT, what can one say but that he: a) wants to be once again blimelight by backing the Presidential campaign of the junior Senator from Illinois; b) his own son, Mark is an advisor to the self-same Presidential candidate. A further thought is that the analogy used in the interview is rather off-base insofar as it is somewhat unlikely the Sovietskaya Vlast would have been 'defeated' in Afghanistan, sans, all that American and Saudi money and equipment to the Afghan resistance. Last time I checked the Taliban, while being able to play on regional and tribal antagonisms to the Karzai regime in Kabul, is not supported by any outside actors, not even the Persians. In absence of such, while it is likely that the Taliban will continue to be a threat in quite a few of the eastern, and southeastern provinces where the Pashtun predominant, it is also unlikely to be able to re-stage a comeback to their former predominance `a la the 1994 to 2001 period.

Quad erat demonstratum.

For those who wish to read the interview, please see below:

"Brzezinski warns against repeating Soviet Experience", By Daniel Dombey

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former US national security adviser and prominent supporter of Barack Obama, has warned the Democratic presidential candidate that he risks repeating the defeat suffered by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Mr Obama has called for up to 10,000 more US troops to be deployed in the country, where the USSR once sent tens of thousands of soldiers only to suffer cataclysmic military failure.

But in an interview with the Financial Times Mr Brzezinski warned: "It is important for US policy in general and for Obama more specifically to recognise that simply putting more troops into Afghanistan is not the entire solution . . . We are running the risk of repeating the mistake the Soviet Union made . . . Our strategy is getting in deeper and deeper."

He added that while the Soviets invaded the country thinking there was a communist Afghan elite on which they could rely, "we have to be careful not to overestimate the appeal of the democratic Afghan elite, because we run the risk that our military presence . . . will gradually turn the Afghan population entirely against us".

Afghan society was deeply conservative and resistant to dramatic change, he said.

Mr Brzezinski is sometimes seen as a controversial figure because of his trenchant criticism of Russia and his calls for US policy on the Middle East not to be "subordinated to Israeli interests". Today he depicts himself as a supporter who has declined to join the Obama campaign because of his unwillingness to be kept quiet or on message during the duration of the election.

"I realise that in an electoral campaign you don't want to antagonise large groups which are highly motivated," he said.

Nevertheless, their personal contact has left its mark on the 80-year-old former Harvard and Columbia professor, a veteran of the Johnson and Carter administrations. He said that of all the presidential candidates since 1960, he was most impressed by Mr Obama and John Kennedy, both of whom he considered "in tune with the music of the time". But he argued it was more difficult today for Mr Obama to define a clear foreign policy position than it was for Kennedy.

"This is a very dangerous period of time with very unpredictable consequences," he said, referring to tensions between Iran and Israel and the US. "You have three countries doing a kind of death dance on the basis of confusion, division and fear.

"If we end up with war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran at the same time, can anyone see a more damaging prospect for America's world role than that?" he asked. "That's the fundamental foreign policy dilemma at the back of this election. A four-front war would get us involved for years . . It would be the end of American predominance." 21 July 2008 in Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008


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