(Image by 50th Munich Security Conference 2014: Zbigniew Brzezinski: Zbigniew Brzezinski (Former United States National Security Advisor; Counselor and Trustee, Center for Strategic and International Studies)) Details DMCA
There has been talk among some geopolitical analysts over the past few months about the latest article by former National Security Adviser (under President Carter), Zbigniew Brzezinski. As some readers may recall from my pastwritings on Zbig, he was supposed to be the Democratic Party's answer to Henry Kissinger - i.e. a psychopath who added a pseudo-intellectual veneer to his imperial war crimes by writing books and journal articles in which he pontificated on grand chessboards and other clever literary devices used to render the deaths of millions and the destruction of whole societies resulting from his policies as mere abstractions. The human effects were deserving of little thought as he shuttled among writing sessions, high powered meetings in which lives were rearranged, and conferences where he got feted by various Washington sycophants.
The article is called "Toward a Global Realignment" and was published this past April in The American Interest. Zbig sets the tone in his opening paragraph by declaring:
Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East are signalling the coming of a new global realignment.
First of all, Zbig uses an interesting choice of words. Verities. The dictionary definition of this high-falutin term is:
The state or quality of being true; accordance with fact or reality.
I shall return to the irony inherent in Zbig's use of this term in a moment.
According to Zbig's article, Verity #1 is that the U.S. is still the most powerful "entity" in the world politically, economically and militarily. But he acknowledges it is no longer the global imperial power - or the lone superpower. However, no other major power (here he implicitly acknowledges that there exist a few others) is a global imperial or lone superpower either.
This is, indeed, a significant admission by Zbig - one that implies a more chastened outlook with respect to the U.S.'s penchant for acting like a bull in a China shop in the rest of the world since 1945 and, particularly, since the end of the Cold War when Zbig's ambitions for American hegemony seemed to be fueled by the equivalent of an eternal supply of cocaine and Viagra.
Verity #3 acknowledges China's steady rise on its way to being a "co-equal" and a potential rival with the U.S.:
...for the time being it [China] is careful not to pose an outright challenge to America. Militarily, it seems to be seeking a breakthrough in a new generation of weapons while patiently enhancing its still very limited naval power.
Fair enough. But its Verities #2, 4, and 5 that are problematic and reveal Zbig's deep-rooted prejudices and analytical blind spots.
Verity #2 postulates that Russia is in the final "convulsive" phase of its imperial devolution. It's unclear what this even means as the imperial devolution was pretty much completed when Gorbachev voluntarily withdrew Soviet forces from Eastern Europe and allowed the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Subsequently, Russia was plundered by a handful of elite bureaucrats who became the original oligarchs - as the blueprints for that plunder were largely provided by the ivy league "advisers" from the U.S., as detailed by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine and Janine Wedel inThe Nation magazine. Russia was on the verge of being a failed state when Vladimir Putin took over the presidency in 2000.
Russia is always portrayed by Zbig as a menacing threat that is uniquely evil and malicious, such as when it manages to get back onto its feet and dust itself off as it has done gradually under Putin's leadership, or as a potential one as Zbig feared in The Grand Chessboard, his ode to American imperialism published in 1997, when Russia was on its back and down for the count.
Zbig seems to be incapable of trying to understand Russia on its own terms - what the world, shaped by its unique geography and history, may look like to Russians and how that may contribute rationally to their actions and policy preferences. An analyst doesn't have to like or agree with the Russian mindset or policy, but a competent geopolitical analyst who specializes in Eurasia (much less one who fancies himself a great one as Zbig does) should be able to do this as it would add valuable insight and provide for more accurate predictions of Russia's behavior.