Cheney’s Terrorism Blunders: Should Take Lessons from Zbigniew Brzezinski

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Vice President Cheney was off in Missouri yesterday (coincidence?) at a rally for the B-2 bomber forces at Whiteman Air Force Base.
As usual, Cheney’s remarks reinforce mistaken notions about terrorism. He suggests to the bomber forces that only taking the fight to terrorists can turn the tide.
Cheney doesn’t talk about stealing the audience from terrorists or robbing from them the ability to exploit grievances that many in the Middle East feel.
Terrorists are performers on a stage — attempting to look legitimate in the eyes of people throughout the Middle East. If the grievances were reversed, terrorists would be marginalized. If America and Europe did more to connect to the aspirations of the broad public in the Middle East, then at least there would be real competition for legitimacy — and the acts of terrorists could be morally undermined in the eyes of Muslims.
One wonders if Cheney ever gives this sort of talk to the many NGOs who are in the Middle East trying to help people in the region construct better societies — or whether this plays only for the folks whose job it is to bomb.
Cheney stated in his speech at Whiteman Air Force Base (not yet posted on the White House website):

In this new era, Americans have learned that oceans do not protect us, and threats that gather thousands of miles away can now find us here at home. We have learned that there is a certain kind of enemy whose ambitions have no limits, whose cruelty is only fed by the grief of others. These enemies don’t assemble standing armies or navies to confront us. Instead they operate in small cells; they dwell in the shadows; and they hide in caves on the other side of the world. And yet they are driven by an ideology of violence, and they are absolutely determined to cause great harm to the United States of America.
The terrorists hate this country and everything we stand for — human freedom, democratic government, respect for life. They seek ever deadlier weapons, and they would use those weapons against us without hesitation. With the terrorists, there can be no negotiations, or appeals to reason or conscience. We have only one option, and that’s to take the fight to the enemy.

A sensible, enlightened treatment of what drives terrorism and how to confront it was written by Zbigniew Brzezinski in September 2002 in the New York Times, “Confronting Anti-American Grievances.” It’s worth reading every few months just as a benchmark of how poorly the Bush administration has done in curbing terrorists and their violence.
Here is a teaser from the Brzezinski essay, but read the whole thing:

Missing from much of the public debate is discussion of the simple fact that lurking behind every terroristic act is a specific political antecedent. That does not justify either the perpetrator or his political cause. Nonetheless, the fact is that almost all terrorist activity originates from some political conflict and is sustained by it as well. That is true of the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, the Basques in Spain, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the Muslims in Kashmir and so forth.
In the case of Sept. 11, it does not require deep analysis to note — given the identity of the perpetrators — that the Middle East’s political history has something to do with the hatred of Middle Eastern terrorists for America. The specifics of the region’s political history need not be dissected too closely because terrorists presumably do not delve deeply into archival research before embarking on a terrorist career. Rather, it is the emotional context of felt, observed or historically recounted political grievances that shapes the fanatical pathology of terrorists and eventually triggers their murderous actions.
American involvement in the Middle East is clearly the main impulse of the hatred that has been directed at America. There is no escaping the fact that Arab political emotions have been shaped by the region’s encounter with French and British colonialism, by the defeat of the Arab effort to prevent the existence of Israel and by the subsequent American support for Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians, as well as by the direct injection of American power into the region.

While there is a place for a military response to those who engage in violent attacks against innocent people, that alone worsens the problem — particularly when other innocent people are killed in the response.
But what Brzezinski reveals is the requirement of incorporating into any anti-terrorism strategy the operating methodologies behind terrorism.
Cheney’s pound the chest and thump the podium strategy alone assures that America will face more, not less, terrorism and insurgency problems in the future.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

15 comments on “Cheney’s Terrorism Blunders: Should Take Lessons from Zbigniew Brzezinski

  1. wow power leveling says:

    you’re going to dish dirt on me you’ll need to be original. I have already written a book about my felonious past. I outed myself, so to speak so there is nothing revelatory about these so-called factoids. The book is called News Junkie. It was published last week.
    http://www.wowgold-powerleveling.com

    Reply

  2. wow power leveling says:

    you’re going to dish dirt on me you’ll need to be original. I have already written a book about my felonious past. I outed myself, so to speak so there is nothing revelatory about these so-called factoids. The book is called News Junkie. It was published last week.
    http://www.wowgold-powerleveling.com

    Reply

  3. John Wilson says:

    Beliving as I do that I have been lied to
    by a interesting form of censorship I have changed my opinion of this blog.
    Deselecting,

    Reply

  4. JoMoHo says:

    The package.
    Wrapping paper: God, Guns and Guts.
    Package contents: marketing strategies to “win” elections, keep backers happy who provide tactical support in said strategy.
    It seems to me that the information age has widened the difference between truth (package contents) and advertising (wrapping paper); the more info out there, the more elaborate the scheme to control the message. When someone’s oral flatus can become a listing on a blog in a microsecond it creates the need in a politician’s mind to take even greater care for the packaging process.
    At some point there is complete divergence of message and reality. I would argue we have taken a quatum leap beyond that threshold.
    The continuous stream of bullshit that is excreted from the public channels of this administration has taken on a life of its own. What goes on in reality (slowly learned by data revealed by insiders) barely resembles what is discussed by the pathetic masses on issue entry.
    “Raise the gay marriage issue. That’ll keep them yackin’ for awhile. Meanwhile what can we do for Larry? he’s helped us on x,y and z.”
    “We need a war for the midterms (2002) and Dick and his crew think its right for our interests in the region. We’ll give ’em one. But they won’t buy the reasons why so tell ’em its about those WMDs; he had ’em before, right?”
    Does more sunlight just push these vile creatures further into the shadows? Are we cursed by our own blessings (i.e. too much info, too soon)?

    Reply

  5. John Wilson says:

    At first, depressed by the column, I go to comments
    and am heartened to be reminded that there IS
    intelligent discourse here in the the land
    of this bent and browning Zeitgeist
    Thanks for taking the time,all, and
    GO, ‘pissed-off-American !
    🙂

    Reply

  6. dano says:

    While I admire Dr. Brzinski’s positions, writings and statements of late, I often remember that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the result of an operation engineered by Brzinski in an effort to win the Cold War. The CIA under Carter and Dr. B then created and funded the training of the mujihadeen, the result of which was the training of an army of Islamic terrorists across not only the Muslim world, but also across any part of the world which contained some of the Muslim diaspora (e.g. Spain, France, England). The blowback of that plan is what we see now.
    I have not yet read or heard of Dr. Brzinski’s analysis of his own early role in modern events. It is easy to be critical of others when one is on the outs – not so easy to be critical of one’s own mistakes. Dr. Henry Kissinger is another of these who comes to mind, though his ideas these days seem not to have changed much since his glory years under Nixon.

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  7. Alex says:

    It’s a pretty good guess that 9/11/01 was an indirect result of Eisenhower’s administration in the overthrow of Iran’s democratically-elected Prime Minister Mossadeq courtesy of Kermit Roosevelt.
    The United States foreign policy of meddling in other countries internal matters has had its consequences.
    Think about how much further along the US would be if they stayed out of other countries matters.
    Oh well, that’s a wasted thought.

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  8. karenk says:

    Prof Marcus, nice post.
    Does anyone remember the cartoon Pinky and the Brain? That’s Bush/Cheney to a T. The catchphrase for the Brain(Cheney) was,”I want to take over the World!”, and Pinky(Bush) was his stupid sidekick who did all his bidding.
    It really would be much more amusing though if they weren’t in charge of the world’s most powerful military.

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  9. John says:

    I’m always amazed that people still think that administration policies have anything to do with terrorism, when in fact terrorism simply provides a convenient pretext for the real goal: energy security, gobbling up energy sources and protecting distribution routes. Of course people are going to be mad at us if we try to steal their oil–just ask Iraqis.
    The administration’s challenge is to continue to find a way to insert the US military between Asian oil sources (Caspian Sea & Persian Gulf) and markets (China, Japan, India, ASEAN). Terrorists are lurking all over Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan because we need them to be there to justify our military involvement. An alternative policy would encourage Asian nations to develop their own energy supply and distribution framework. Oops–that’s called the Shaghai Cooperation Organisation, which is a bad thing. Without terrorists, the US loses its reason for being in the region.

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  10. RichF says:

    I’ve been VERY impressed with Zbigniew Brzezinski. Nice post, Steve.
    Zbig’s clarity, his incisive reasoning, and his staunch, consistent assertion of verifiable fact–both historical fact & the basic pivotal fact that politics is both the root cause, and the solution for, the use of terrorism as a tactic.
    When all poltical routes to redress of grievances are closed off, when people are pressed to the edge of extinction, what outlet, what method are they supposed to turn to? What are they to do? (“We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”) Civil disobedience doesn’t work in fascist or totalitarian states.
    And when the Patriot Act defines free speech & political activity as terrorism–American a terrorist? What avenue for any American citizen is left to actually be heard? To insist upon responsive governance? To lobby for redress of grievances? Doesn’t it (try & fail to) define every legal, legitimate, and Constitutionally-protected exercise of our Creator-endowed Liberties–as terrorism?
    I say this because some of Bush’s laws erroneously define the activities of peace grannies and Greenpeace as “terrorism.” Say the wrong thing, say it too loudly, make somebody “feel intimidated,” or maybe even vandalize an SUV in your frustration–you’re at terrorist. Say the wrong thing to Dick Cheney in a suburban mall–and get arrested for “assault.” Hold a sign 3 feet too close to the road? Guess you got out of your “free-speech zone.” I say all of America is a free speech zone–and such a spatializing of free speech is illegal on the face of it. Any ill-considered precedent aside.
    We had an American Revolution because our own government quartered troops in our own homes (among other reasons). How could anyone think Iraqis would respond well to the violation of cultural taboos? Whether frisking wives, humiliating men, or just the friendly boots kicking down doors of Iraqi homes in the middle of the night?
    The British Crown ordering that British soldiers be quartered in the homes of Englishmen was violation enough, but it comes nowhere near the basic human violation–let alone the violation of cultural norms–involved in kicking down doors of people’s homes in the middle of the night. It’s their home. It’s their family. It’s their country. Sovereignty matters, democracy or no, precisely because sovereign nations and inexplicably other cultures can best manage their own affairs, rebuild their own country, bring to heel their own insurgents–oops–freedom fighters.
    Now I gotta read up again on Zbigniew . . . before commenting further!

    Reply

  11. Pissed Off American says:

    Anyone else miss Den Valdren’s posts??? Its a shame he flew the coop here, but I certainly recognize his reasoning. The subject material here has become somewhat schizophrenically inconsistent, from lamenting one politico’s subservience to AIPAC, to completely ignoring that same subservience displayed by 98% of our political body. But more often than not, Steve seems to teeter towards sanity when commenting on the actions and policies of this criminal Administration, so I kinda wish Den woulda hung around and continued to gift us with his enlightening commentary.
    But, be that as it may, Den certainly struck the nail on the head when he labeled Cheney and his Bush Administration ilk as “monsters”. Cheney is as near to satanical as one can be when existing as a mere mortal. If historical justice is served, Cheney will be placed in the same chapters that reference characters such as Idi Amin, Adolph Hitler, or even Dr. Mengele.
    I have always felt this Administration’s rhetoric bordered on insanity, particularly when comparing the rhetoric with the facts on the ground. This Administration does not present the American people with honest descriptions of policy or events. Instead, this Administration simply fashions rhetoric to fit circumstance or political need, with no loyalty to fact. Anyone that has seen clips of Cheney’s comments about “dunking” prisoners cannot help but be amazed at how those comments are now being presented to us. Never mind what you heard and saw, this Administration will deny that your perception is accurate or fact based. These bastards truly live in a separate reality than we do, and their disdain for the public’s intelligence and powers of observation is truly despicable. It is terrifying to observe Bush’s body language and tortured inability to form intelligent comment when one considers that the pathetic creature’s strings are firmly in Cheney’s grasp. Cheney has the power and the megalomaniacal drive to convince himself, (and this hapless puppet Bush), that ANY course of action is warranted when pursuing the course of their self-proclaimed “War On Terror”. We may yet see the day when we find ourselves under the oppression of martial law, all in the name of “security”. Never before in our nation’s history has such a thin thread connected the citizenry to our original tenets, and the Executive Branch is working feverishly to remove ALL limits to its powers prior to 2008.
    Don’t blink, kiddies. You might miss the demise of our democracy. Everyday this Administration remains in power we lose another aspect of the checks and balances that the founding fathers sought to install.
    Take a good look at Cheney. He is your children’s future.

    Reply

  12. JB (not John Bolton) says:

    Bush/Cheney would have us believe that it’s all because “they hate us for our freedoms”.
    The philosophy of American exceptionalism incorporates as a corollary “because America is good whatever it does must be right”.
    This in turn eliminates the need for practitioners of this philosophy to consider how others might react to actions that America(ns) think are great – for America. It also leads practitioners to complain that those who have American actions visited on them and subsequently complain (or resist) are ungrateful.
    More than ever, the delicious phrase “narcisstic jingoism” sums it up: it’s all about America.

    Reply

  13. Carroll says:

    We need a Carter-Brzezinski administration….or another Eisenhower for America right now.
    I totally agree with Brezezinski about the ME and terrorist groups.
    But I don’t have any hope for any changes in our policy. From what I have observed over the past year the war camp began infiltrating the Dem party when they saw the tide going against the GOP and Iraq..and now the GOP elders are trying to back the repubs out of the war empire camp. So basically we are right back where we were after 911.

    Reply

  14. PW says:

    Steve — FYI – I did another one of those lengthy transcriptions — this time with Harvard/Radcliffe terrorism expert, Louise Richardson, when she was interviewed by Diane Rehm about containing terrorism. Interesting bits and pieces — she has met with terrorist groups, has a good understanding of the goals and, well, moral constructs and what we need to do to deal with them.
    http://prairieweather.typepad.com/the_scribe/2006/10/91406nprcontain.html

    Reply

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