Thursday, February 01, 2007

Zbigniew Brzezinski Makes Buckets of Sense

Zbigniew Brzezinski delivered an outstanding statement on the Iraq war and regional tensions at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today. His opener is simply the best description of the current situation in Iraq I have seen to date:

"The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability."
And he warns:

"If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large."
He provides a perfect antidote to the ever-increasing drumbeat on the right about the need to confront Iran and radical Islam everywhere in the context of the "global war on terror". For the increasing shrill rhetoric about Iran's nefariousness is eerily similar to the picture painted about Iraq a few years ago. Is this a case of deja vu? Brzezinski:

"A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by
false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the "decisive ideological struggle" of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II.

This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily
powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi state; while Iran -- though gaining in regional influence -- is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider slamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Deplorably, the Administration's foreign policy in the Middle East region has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering. Vague and inflammatory talk about "a
new strategic context" which is based on "clarity" and which prompts "the birth
pangs of a new Middle East" is breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of a long-term collision between the United States and the
Islamic world. .... One should note here also that practically no country in the world shares the Manichean delusions that the Administration so passionately articulates. The result is growing political isolation of, and pervasive popular antagonism toward he U.S. global posture."
He's right, of course. The Malkinesque right is indeed Manichean. It is often influenced by a derivative Calvinism that paints the world into the saved and the damned, the good and the evildoors, and damns the latter. Hence this group will latch onto any incident of Islamic extremism, making it seem like every Muslim shares these views, and keep shouting about how our entire civilization is at stake. Clowns like Dinesh D'Souza blame western culture. What these people fail to understand that citizens of the Middle East hate American foreign policy, and its intentions in the region, either real or perceived. They most certainly do not wish to live under a Taliban-style regime. And sure, there are some pathologies in the culture of the Islamic Middle East (such as the glorification of suicide bombing, a grave evil) but these pathologies do not call for a maximalist, and ultimately counterproductive, response.

So, what should the United States do right now? Brzezinski answers in a number of ways. First, withdraw from Iraq. Ambiguity about departure only maintains the current stalemate and unwillingness to compromise and negotiate. Moreover, since the role of the United States is viewed with suspicion in the region, only a quick withdrawal will alleviate such concerns. Second, talks with the Iraqis, against the backdrop of withdrawal. Third, dialogue at the regional level. And fourth, the United States should push forward on the Israel-Palestine issue, the source of much of the ill will toward the United States in the region. Brzezinski is a voice of sanity crying out in the wilderness!

1 comment:

Spirit of Vatican II said...

Great wisdom here. If the US continues to stay in Iraq, this will not ensure the maintenance of some status quo, but will actually invite further developments -- and what these developments are likely to be is made clear by Brzezinski. It is like if you have a rusty knife stuck in a wound -- you must remove it immediately or it will fester, producing gangrene, amputation, perhaps death. America is being held hostage to Bush's senile rigidity.