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Against Bush's Demagogic Foreign Policy

The security advisor under President Carter criticizes the delusional US foreign policy and urges recognizing Iran as a stability factor.

Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski

Security advisor under President Carter criticizes the delusional US foreign policy and urges recognizing Iran as a stability factor

[This interview published in the Berlin Freitag, March 4, 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.freitag.de/2005/09/05090701.php.]

Freitag: You recently urged a rapid withdrawal of the US from Iraq. Is that realistic? Prime minister Ijad Allawi supposedly reached agreement with different Iraqi parties that no one would make this demand.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: If politics in the original sense of the word occurs again in Iraq, the individual politicians in the country will feel considerable pressure to act in an authentically patriotic and nationalist way and call the foreign invaders to withdraw. They will heartily thank the invaders for their role and tell them clearly they are no longer needed as occupiers.

Such a development would be a fiasco for the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration. How would realists like yourself deal with the situation in Iraq?

Realists must deal with practical problems for which there are no credible neo-conservative solutions. Whoever claims that our experience in Iraq was entirely a success is obviously near madness.

For me, terrorism is only a symptom of a much deeper problem that we must face. We live in a world of political awakening without precedent. This is a completely new reality. This awakening brings turmoil, conflict, hostility and sometimes terrorism. Our own policy, especially in the Middle East, has turned this terrorism directly against the United States. However the whole extent of the problem cannot be defined as terrorism. We are not in a phase of a global struggle against terrorism. This formulation unites our enemies and separates our friends instead of uniting our friends and dividing our enemies. Encouraging moderate Arabs is hard when we speak of a war against terrorism. The danger of opposing the whole Islamic world cannot be ignored. This policy does not correspond to t6he needs of a world in which billions of citizens are participating actively in political events for the first time in the history of humanity.

If John Kerry had been elected president and you worked again in the National Security Council, what would you do?

I would turn immediately to the three problems facing us in the Middle East that are responsible for the terrorist threat: the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, a credible and trustworthy withdrawal from Iraq and normalization of relations with Iran. These are all the beginnings of a process. In addition, I would be energetically devoted to improved relations to Europeans and the Japanese so the richest parts of the globe face the problems of a politically awakened world population. In a time of global mass communication, inequalities and injustices can no longer be easily accepted. The rich countries may not evade the abuses so the rage of despair doesn't continue growing. This is not an agenda that can be worked out within a year or an election period. This is an agenda that focuses our attention on the political and moral dilemmas arising out of inequality.

What can the United States do to reduce the negative effects of globalization?

Firstly, a greater readiness to relinquish unjustified privileges and act more human in economic relations and toward workers in the third world. Globalization may no longer be misused to extort economic advantages from people. On the contrary, globalization must be a part of a worldwide social policy that grapples with the challenges confronting a growing part of the world population.

Do you believe that John Kerry formulated these alternatives in his election campaign and addressed the better sides of the United States?

I believe he could have thrashed Bush. But Bush's weaknesses were not sufficiently and clearly emphasized. Bush misled the American people. That is the least one can say. However this fact was not stressed. The war in Iraq and in particular the incidents at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib had already morally discredited the political leadership of the country. Who was responsible for that? This question was not raised vigorously. There was no clearly focused attack on the administration.

Let us leave Kerry aside and turn to the Democratic Party. Does it have an alternative foreign policy?

I believe the leadership of the Democratic Party since September 11 has lacked orientation and followed the president in this predicament. The most important democratic politicians were nothing but cheerleaders for the war demagogically justified by the president. One picture recurs to me. While president Bush delivered his propagandistic tirades in the Rose Garden of the White House, the most important democrats of Congress stood next to him and smiled in friendly approval. With this attitude, the Democratic Party could hardly question the premises of a strategy that was official policy after September 11, a strategy that became a neo-conservative crusade within a year.

You speak of political tasks that certainly will not be tackled in the coming four years. Initiating a change of direction afterwards may be even more difficult.

Not necessarily. Perhaps it will be easier. Our credibility will diminish even more if the president remains committed to the neo-conservatives and doesn't correct his course. We will become even more isolated and endangered in relation to terrorist attacks. Some time or other the public will make the connection between this increasing danger and the policy of our government. Pursuing an enlightened foreign policy is obviously much harder than a policy of fear reduced to a single slogan. Another American foreign policy will build on the leadership role of the United States, that is on sheer power, while simultaneously recognizing that legitimation and moral support by the people belong to that different foreign policy. Because I am basically an optimist and believe in the common sense of Americans, I am convinced that we will witness a turn. The world situation will be gradually relaxed if Europeans speak with one voice and are engaged in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and if the Iranians can be included in a calm dialogue about security interests.

Why should relations to Iran be normalized?

Iran is a country to be taken seriously with an independent history and a marked self-esteem. Iran is not an artificially created nation - like so many other states of the region. The country can be a factor of stability. I would prefer a moderate Iran with nuclear weapons to a hostile Iran that permanently tries to possess nuclear weapons to counter a military intervention of the United States. This variant would be far more dangerous than a moderate nuclear-armed country. [(1) The American Prospect]

Zbigniew Brzezinski (76) was often described in the past as a tough cold warrior and an opponent of all détente policy. During his official term as director of the National Security Council (1976-1980) and later as a journalist, he urged an uncompromising power politics. But what does power politics means in the contemporary world? Beyond the ideological blindness of the Bush administration, we must turn to the global injustices and end the game with fear, Brzezinski says.

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